German Bread Dumplings on ‘Top Chef’

Semmelknödel, a childhood favorite, on TV culinary competition

In Episode 6 of this season’s “Top Chef,” the ‘Cheftestants’ were asked to make a sweet and savory holiday dish that reflected their heritage. Imagine my surprise when Stefan Richter came up with a multi-component dish that included Semmelknödel, tennis ball-sized dumplings made from dried-out rolls. I have made them. My mother made them. My grandmothers made them, and I’m sure that previous generations of family cooks made them too. They not only are delicious, but they address our new sensibilities about avoiding waste.

When I moved into my first apartment and was starting to cook, my mother went through tattered, well-used recipes written in old-fashioned German handwriting that I was unable to decipher. She neatly transcribed them onto index cards and lovingly découpaged a small wooden box to hold them.

  One card is for Semmelknödel,not just a favorite in Austria but in much of the Germanic world. Stefan, it turns out, was born and Finland but grew up in Germany.  I don’t know how Stefan made his Semmelknödel but I do know they were telegenic. Here’s  my mother’s version:


12 dry rolls (or equivalent in bread), diced
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp. chopped onions
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 egg
2 cups water
Salt to taste
2½ cups flour

Melt butter in a frying pan and sauté diced rolls, onion and parsley until bread is crisply toasted. Beat egg and water until frothy and add to mixture. Gradually blend with flour and mix thoroughly. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Boil salted water in a large soup pot. With floured hands, shape mixture into dumplings the size or medium oranges or tennis balls. Lower carefully into water and cover. Boil gently for 10 minutes. Lift from water and drain.

Makes 8 dumplings. Serve with goulash or other meat-and-gravy dishes, in a clear soup or a hearty beef broth– or chill, slice and sauté in butter until hot, brown and slightly crisp (my favorite way).

Back to the show: So far, Stefan is still in the running to become Season 10’s Top Chef, but some chefs have ben eliminated — or sort  of eliminated.  “Sort of” because a new wrinkle is the opportunity to  give new life to eliminate chefs via the Save A Chef feature, when viewers have the opportunity to give a favorite another chance.

3 thoughts on “German Bread Dumplings on ‘Top Chef’”

  1. Claire I’m overdue to comment. I subscribe and read every one of your posts in the wee hours on my phone, composing comments in my head! This is the first season of Top Chef I have not watched religiously as its recording somehow escaped my TiVo. I’m hoping for a marathon catch up soon. I remember Stefan from the season with Hosea Rosenberg. Sharp wit, fast chef if I recall. Love the recipe. I’ve been meandering through my old recipes of late with some great finds! Happy holidays!

  2. Thanks, Toni. Coming from you, this is a special compliment. This is the first season SINCE #5 with Stefan and Hosea, the evenutal winner that I HAVE watched faithfully. I start watching when there’s a Colorado chef in the starting gate (two during season 5, three this year). I watched the former to the end because Hosea won it all, and I find myself watching even tho’ all three Colorado chefs have packed up their knives.

  3. Interesting, I never ever used flour in a dumpling mass, I
    don´t know the size of a roll, but one egg is never enough. I use milk a little bit warm or a tasty warm Beefstock, Nutmeg, Pepper only a very little, no butter, oil will do it for the onions and if you want you can add some roasted bacon dices. As I don´t know the taste of rolls in the US, I know rolls from RSA and they tasted a little sweet, so you have to check the amount of salt by yourself. Did you ever use French Bread or Brezel. And ! when doing my little test dumpling and the mass is too soft, I add a handful of breadcrumbs. About the consistency you may discuss, I prefer meanwhile a Dumpling without slices of water bread at the surface. And if you don´t like the oil, just put the glazed onions on a strainer.

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