There's a prize for anyone who can pronounce today's post's title correctly! Okay, not really, but it made you try, didn't it? "Käsknöpfle", also called "Kässpätzle", is a local Vorarlberg specialty which can also be found in parts of Germany and Switzerland. Translated literally, the words mean "little cheesy buttons" or "little sparrows". There really is no English equivalent, and in Europe, English speakers refer to them as noodles, pasta or dumplings. I consider them to be a high-class, Austrian version of macaroni and cheese.
The "knöpfle" or "spätzle" themselves are made quite simply with flour, eggs, salt and water. They can be made with regular flour or a special "spätzle" flour, which is what we tend to use. You mix the ingredients to form a batter and in the meantime boil some water. There are different kinds of utensils you can use to form the "spätzle". We have what looks like a flat strainer with holes about 1/4 of an inch in diameter. You place the strainer on top of the pot of boiling water, pour the batter onto the strainer then use a knife or other flat-edged utensil to spread out the batter, pushing it through the holes so that it falls into the water. As with pasta, you should leave the "spätzle" in the water for 3-5 minutes until they have the right consistency, then drain. They can be served as a side dish and are the perfect complement to wild game.
Even better than eating them plain, however, is to combine them with cheese, bake for a few minutes and serve topped with roasted oninons. Of course in Vorarlberg, it is absolutely vital to combine at least 3 different types of cheese, each adding its own special flavor. These "käsknöpfle" are, without a doubt, my favorite Austrian food, and are especially popular in the fall and winter. Those of you who have visited me have certainly had the chance to enjoy this wonderful specialty. And those of you who haven't, well, here's one more reason to cross the pond.