When I travel I find myself gravitating toward restaurants over museums and cafes over landmarks. After all, this is my best chance to sample some of the local cuisine in its finest form. While my family was in Vienna last summer one of my guidebooks pointed to an appealing traditional Austrian dish called schinkenfleckerln, a thick noodle casserole filled with ham. I stopped in a small cafe that served all sorts of dishes with local wines to give it a try. The schinkenfleckerln was served as a huge four inch square, piled high with packed noodles and ham. Once back home I dug up and combined some recipes to make this casserole. It's simple and delicious and makes a great family meal.


Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Cook the noodles by placing them in a large pot of boiling water for about 7 minutes. Drain the noodles and return them to the pot. Add the butter and onion, stirring to melt the butter. Mix in the beaten eggs, sour cream, ham and black pepper.

There are several different sized pans you can use to cook the casserole. I've used a 13 by 9 inch pan which yields thinner pieces, but you can use a 8 by 8 inch pan for thick slices. Grease the pan with a bit of butter and pour the bread crumbs into the pan, shaking the pan to coat the bottom and sides.

Pour the noodle mixture into the pan, spreading the noodles with a spoon to make an even layer. Sprinkle paprika over the top. Place the pan in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the casserole. During the cooking the top layer of noodles may become crispy. I like this crunch which contrasts with the soft noodles underneath, but if you don't want crunchy noodles then cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil.


This dish is traditionally served warm with green beans or fresh tomatoes, along with a rich dessert such as apfelstrudel. The noodles are also good cold, and make a great, easy picnic meal. You can also try adding cheese, such as parmesan or cheddar, to the noodle mixture before baking. This will give the casserole added flavor, but is not traditional.

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