Of all the many uses for stale bread, napkin dumplings rank near the top. I remember the first time I was served these in a Bohemian restaurant in Berwyn, Illinois. I thought: where have these been all my life? Then immediately after that: please pass the gravy. Napkin dumplings are called napkin dumplings because they’re traditionally boiled in napkins. Here’s I’m using plastic wrap and foil, but honestly I think the traditional napkin method may be superior for reasons you’ll soon see.
Assemble all your ingredients and set a pot of water on the boil. Here I have about nine ounces of completely stale wheat bread, cubed with most of the crusts trimmed off. You can dry fresh bread cubes out in a 200-250-degree Fahrenheit oven if you wish. It takes about 40 minutes. Try not to let them brown if you can help it. Anyway, pour them into a large bowl.
Next combine the mined onion and butter in a sauté pan. Sweat the onions over medium-low heat until they’re soft and translucent, but again, not browned.
Add the parsley and cook another 30 seconds or so.
Pour that mixture over the bread cubes, then add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Now combine the eggs and milk in a bowl.
Pour that into the bowl.
And begin to toss.
It’ll take about two minutes of tossing for the bread to soak up the egg mixture. Set that aside.
Now then, lay down a linen napkin or two sheets of plastic slightly overlapped.
Spoon on half the bread mixture.
Roll it up.
Twist one end and tie it.
Squeeze the filling a bit so it compacts some, and tie it. My mistake here was tying this too tight and not allowing for expansion. Ah well, when it comes to being a Bohemian housewife I’m a rookie.
A layer of foil is important here to help keep the shape should the plastic burst (and it did). Plop the whole thing into boiling water for about 40 minutes.
Here you can see mine plumped quite a bit as it cooked. That plumping caused it to burst the plastic, which was no big deal except I had to make sure I got all the little shreds of plastic off before I served them. Convenient as this was, next time I think I’ll do it the old-fashioned way.
Slice and serve warm.
You know I’m glad I did these today. Because if the world is going to end, I can’t think of a better way to go out than with a mouthful of Czech bread dumplings and gravy. Can you?