Sunday, August 21, 2011

North Dakota

I have to say, this one had us stumped for a while. We knew that North Dakota is a big producer of semolina wheat, but it seemed like cheating to just eat pasta and call it a North Dakota meal. There are large populations of people from both German and Scandinavian descent in North Dakota, and of course Native American influences. The Dakotas were named after the Dakota Sioux and and there are several bands of Sioux, as well as Chippewa and other tribes living in the Dakotas now.

One dish that came up on several google searches (you see how scientific we are here) was knoephla soup--a cream based chicken stew with dumplings. After our recent experience with Rhode Island Clam Chowder, however, no one was really up for another rich soup. The Norwegians in the area also contributed Lutefisk, but we live close enough to Minnesota to know to stay far away from such a thing.

Eventually, I found some information from North Dakota State University that had several German dishes, including Spaetzle. Strangely, the only time I've ever eaten spaetzle was in my college's dining hall. But, it seemed like a good place to start.

The focus on the German influence led us, eventually, to Schnitzel. Basically, fried meat--this is usually a good choice for us! I think, though, that Schnitzel is probably not the most authentic of North Dakota cuisine as it's actually a dish from Austria and most of the German immigrants in North Dakota were of Russian descent. So, apologies to all the German Americans out there for indiscriminately blending all of the regional variations into one large category!

For the Spaetzle, I found a recipe written by Arlene Isaak and submitted to the Bismark Tribune:

4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
3 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

Beat eggs until foamy and combine with milk. Mix flour, nutmeg and salt and add to egg mixture a little at a time. Makes a soft dough. While the soup is boiling, drizzle the dough into the soup or use a spaetzle maker. The tiny dumplings will rise to the surface when cooked.

Maia mixes the spaetzle dough

This was a completely new thing to prepare for me, and I think I kind of made a mess of it--the dumplings were not "tiny" as Arlene suggests, but rather spiky, messy blobs of dough. But, they were soft and satisfying so I hope Arlene will forgive me. I drizzled a little olive oil and sprinkled them with salt before serving. Lucy liked these a lot and requested them in her lunch tomorrow.

For the Schnitzel, I used pork tenderloins from our favorite local pork producer. These were seasoned with salt and pepper, then dredged in flour, egg, and bread crumbs before frying in peanut oil. Basically, you get a fried pork tenderloin--but you don't serve it as a sandwich!

There was lots of confusion in our house--which was the schnitzel and which was the spaetzle!? I'm pleased to say, that we all liked both of them, whatever they're called! (Well, except Marc, who was not fond of the rather bland spaetzle). We also served a kale salad, which has become a favorite in our house. The feta and pine nuts are far from traditional German fare, but it was a nice crisp and acidic complement to the rest of the meal.

This was our meal to draw the next four, coming up next: Minnesota, Hawaii, South Dakota and Michigan!

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