Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to Use Leftover Meat and Charcuterie

This is the single most useful preparation that I learned in Austria.  It's invaluable to establishments that use a lot of cured meat, but also a good trick to have in the home kitchen.

It's called fleischknoedl (approximately: "FL-EYE-SH KNUH-dl").  Fleisch just means meat, while knoedl is a type of dumpling that is popular in Austria and Bavaria.  Fleischknoedl is a fantastic way to use up leftover meat, whether cooked or cured.

Most cooks are familiar with how to use scraps of raw meat.  When butchering a side of pork, for instance, you reserve the miscellaneous bits of meat and fat so they can be ground and used in sausages and forcemeat.

There's also leftover trim when cutting cooked and cured meat.  Whether you're using a commercial meat-slicer or just a knife, there is usually an end piece that is not served.  This might be the slightly over-cooked end of a roast, or a dry end of salami.  Or perhaps the meat is just a few days old and you want to bring in fresh product.

Thankfully the Austrians have developed a way to use these leftovers.  They will keep the nubbins from roasts like schweinsbraten and kuemmelbraten, fresh sausages, and even dried sausages like kantwurst or hauswurstel. The meat is mixed with cooked onions, then ground, shaped into balls, surrounded with dumpling dough, and cooked.

While most North American homes will not go through as much cooked and cured meat as an Austrian bed and breakfast, there are still times when this preparation can be a life-saver.  I'm thinking especially of ham leftover from Christmas or Easter.

I recently made fleischknoedl from the roasts leftover after the Button Soup Canning Bee: a cured, roast pork shoulder, roast pork belly, and roast beef.  The recipe follows.

Fleischknoedl (Meat Dumplings)

adapted from Looshaus
  • 1 kg leftover meat (see Note 1, below), cut into 1" cubes
  • 250 g onion, small dice, cooked in a little oil until transluscent
  • 2 kg cooked potatoes, milled and chilled
  • 100 g all purpse flour
  • 330 g rice flour (see Note 2, below)
  • 4 eggs
  • 400 g melted butter
Note 1: A good mixture would be 3/4 cured, cooked meat such as ham, and 1/4 dry-cured sausages.  Fresh (un-cured) cooked meat like pork chops and roast beef give the mixture a mushy texture and should be used in moderation.

Note 2: The actual ingredient here is grieß, which most German-English dictionaries translate as "semolina."  The grieß they use at Looshaus is made from corn, though it doesn't have nearly as strong a corn flavour as the corn flour available in North America.  Any mild-tasting, low-gluten flour will suffice as a grieß substitute.


Combine the meat and onions and grind using a small die.

Shape the meat and onion mixture into little balls about an inch across.  Put the balls on a sheet pan lined with parchment and freeze.

Combine all remaining ingredients and knead until a soft, tacky dough forms.  Do not over-knead.  Shape the dough into a log.

Remove the frozen meat balls from the freezer.  Cut a round from the dough and press a meat ball into it.  Work the dough around the ball to cover it evenly.  Repeat until all the balls are covered in dough.

You can now freeze these dumplings.

Traditionally fleischknoedl are boiled and served with warm cabbage salad.  They can also be breaded and fried for some textural contrast that (to speak like Guy Fieri) puts the dish over the top.


  1. Looks like wonderful comfort food. A couple of fleischknoedl would also be nice on top of a contrasting crisp cold frisee salad.

  2. Oh, we're speaking like Guy fieri on the blog now? Well then, you better apply to the city of flavortown for a permit because these fleishknoedel are so good they might be dangerous . . . or something like that.

  3. Those look like they would be amazing even though I wouldn't be able to eat them because of the onions. Perhaps they appeal to me so much because I know you used that amazing ham like pork shoulder in it.

  4. We can get Allan to make onion-free fleischknoedel sometime for you.

  5. Martin - I could totally see that: a little acidity to cut through the meat and potatoes, a little crispiness to contrast the pillowy dumplings...

    Lisa - Did I mention that I'm thinking of bleaching and spiking my hair?

    Judy - We'll get you a bag of fleischknoedl without onions.

  6. Are you really thinking of bleaching and spiking your hair? Are you going to do one of those spikes like I see everywhere now? The kind that is like I used to do with the kids hair when they were babies down a little row in the middle of the head?