This morning we woke up to a shockingly cold 7F! I had to take our dog to the vet for some shots and her annual prescription of doggie valium to calm her nerves on New Year’s Eve, and it was not pretty. It takes forever to get dressed in five layers of inner and outer wear when it’s this cold, not to mention putting on boots and gloves. The car was covered in ice, which I had to scrape off while my dog was sitting in the back shivering despite the fact that she has developed a very thick coat of fur, and that she weighs about 70lbs.

She also hates going to the vet and her barking and growling at tiny little dogs makes me feel like a bad mother who doesn’t have a handle on her unruly child. It’s particularly embarrassing when we get mean stares from people with rabbits and hamsters who she growls at like she is about to devour them. But all her wolf like behavior disappears when it comes to fire works. And fire works are BIG here. As soon as Christmas is over, the fire works and fire crackers start, culminating in a night of madness come New Year’s Eve. Based on the sound and the clouds of smoke hanging over the city, one would think Vienna was in the middle of a war. It’s beautiful to watch though, but nothing nice when you are a frightened dog. Which is where the doggie valium comes in very handy…

Cold weather calls for appropriate food, so I decided to make Tiroler Speckknödel (Tyrolean bacon dumplings) today. They are comforting and hearty, the kind of food that used to feed loggers and farmers back in the day. The original recipe calls for Tiroler Speck, which is a cured and salted ham that’s very popular in Austria and the northern Italian province of Alto Adige. Regular bacon will suffice though if you can’t find it. The Knödel are made with tiny cubes of dried white bread, which is sold here as Semmelwürfeln (Semmeln = a typical Austrian type of bread; Würfeln = cubes).

Tiroler Speckknödel (serves 4)
150g Semmelwürfel or tiny cubes of dried white bread
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
80g Tiroler Speck or any other bacon, finely diced
100ml milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt

1. Put bread cubes in a large bowl.
2. Melt butter and saute onion for one to two minutes, then mix into bread cubes.
3. Add flour and bacon to bread cubes.
4. Whisk together milk, eggs, parsley, and salt in a small bowl and pour over bread cubes.
5. Mix well and let sit for 15 minutes.
6. The resulting batter should be moist, but neither too dry nor too mushy. If the batter is too dry, add more milk. If it looks to mushy, add some extra flour.
7. Using about 2 tablespoons per dumpling, shape the batter into small balls between the palms of your hands. Make sure the dumplings are compact and smooth on the outside, otherwise they will fall apart during cooking.
8. Heat water in a large pot and add 1 tablespoon of salt.
9. When the water is lightly simmering, reduce heat and add the Knödel. Cover halfway with lid and simmer lightly for 15 minutes. Be careful not to let water simmer too rapidly as this will cause the dumplings to disintegrate.
10. Lift dumplings out of water with a slotted spoon and let rest on a plate for a few minutes before serving.

Sprinkle finely chopped chives over dumplings and serve with a simple green salad and thin slices of radish. Enjoy!

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year! I hope 2011 will bring good things to every one of you. See you next year. :-)

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