One of southern Germany's cherished comfort foods, spaetzle represent an easy-to-make cross between boiled dumplings and hand-pressed egg noodles; they turn up in a variety of forms, from tight, twisted dough nuggets to thin, smooth noodles. Eat them on their own with a little oil; douse them in gravy or meat stew; or cook them further in a frying pan or in the oven for a crisper version that goes well with sausages. While the batter does not present many challenges, you might want to experiment with utensils to achieve the required shape.
Whisk together the eggs and milk, with a couple of tablespoons of mustard, if you like, in a bowl. Add these liquid ingredients to a second bowl containing the flour and continue whisking to make a batter. To achieve the sticky batter that you need, use a 3-to-1 ratio of flour to milk, and at least 3 eggs.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate the batter for an hour, or overnight.
Heat a large pan of salted water and bring it to a boil.
Separate a portion of the batter, no more than sits comfortably on a rubber spatula, and press it through the holes of a coarse grater into the boiling water. It should pass easily through the holes, emerging as small, curled nuggets. Germans use a dedicated spaetzle press that resembles a garlic crusher, some of which produce a longer, smoother noodle, but any utensil with ¼-inch or larger holes -- including a slotted spoon or colander -- will work.
Stir the spaetzle gently and allow them to cook for about 2 minutes, until they rise to the surface. Working quickly to ensure even cooking, repeat with the remaining batter.
Fill a separate bowl halfway with cold water and ice cubes.
Leave the spaetzle to simmer for 30 seconds once they have all risen to the surface, then remove with a sieve or slotted spoon and transfer to a colander to drain.
Place the hot, drained spaetzle immediately into the bowl of iced water, stirring them until the ice melts. This will firm up the consistency of the spaetzle. Drain them once more through a colander and toss with olive oil.
Heat oil or butter in a heavy skillet and lightly sauté some onion.
Add the cooked spaetzle and sauté for up to 10 minutes, stirring continuously, until they are crisp and brown on the outside.
Add a cup of chicken broth and allow to simmer until the broth is absorbed. Remove from the heat and serve.
Heat an oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Transfer the cooked spaetzle to a gratin dish and cover with grated cheese, such as Gruyere.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cheese has started to bubble and the spaetzle are crispy. Remove from the oven and serve.
Season the batter if desired with a fresh herb assortment including thyme, rosemary and parsley.
Wear oven mitts if holding a colander over boiling water when pressing through the spaetzle batter, as the steam can burn you.