I've written many times about Mamaw, my mom’s mom, who was a wonderful cook but hated the process. On the flip side is Grandma, my dad’s mom, who loved to cook. She passed that love on to my dad, who also loves to cook, and she's where my cooking gene originated.
If Grandma knew you were coming to visit, she always had something for you to eat, such as cookies, pie or cake. If she didn't know you were coming, one of the first things she would say was, “Let me make you something to eat.”
Grandma loved feeding people. And since my dad is the oldest of six, there were always a lot of people to feed. This sign that was in her kitchen offers the perfect explanation.
I remember the tub of lard that sat in Grandma’s kitchen. She was a country cook. Most of the meals I remember featured fried chicken or pork chops…sometimes both…mashed potatoes and pan gravy, and lots of desserts.
But Grandma was best known for her homemade noodles. They were thicker than the egg noodles you buy in the store, which my research suggests is thanks to her German ancestry. To this day family members will close their eyes in reverence at the memory of those delicious noodles cooked in chicken broth. They were a staple at every family meal. The noodles were so coated in flour that the chicken broth became thick gravy while they cooked.
I watched Grandma make them from time to time, but of course I never wrote down her recipe. When she died years ago, the recipe went with her. My Aunt Mary told me she had one particular spoon she used to measure the flour, and the only ingredients were flour, eggs and water.
A few years ago, my sister challenged me to recreate the noodles for Thanksgiving. I did! When I bit into the noodles, all of the memories of Grandma’s kitchen came flooding back.
This time I decided to add chicken and vegetables to the mix to make a complete meal. The Picky Eater liked it, and even ate the leftovers!
I think Grandma would be happy.
1 teaspoon salt
1 whole large egg
4 egg yolks
In a large bowl, or on the counter top, measure out the flour and salt. In a small bowl, beat together the egg and yolks. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg mixture in the center. Using a fork or your fingers, start gradually bringing in the flour from the edges and mix until the dough comes together. If necessary, add water, a tablespoon at a time, to help the mixture form a ball of dough.
Turn the dough ball out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and soft, about 5 minutes. (One recipe said this dough benefits from a good long kneading.) Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough ball in half. Roll out each half on a floured surface until the dough is about 1/8-inch thick. If the dough is difficult to roll out that thinly, just cover the flattened dough with plastic and let it sit for a few minutes to relax, and then continue rolling.
Roll the flattened noodle dough up into a loose log. Slice the log into 1/8 to 1/4-inch strips to create the noodles. All the noodles to sit and dry until you are ready to cook, or allow them to dry completely before storing. (I keep them in the freezer.)
Chicken and Noodles
4 boneless chicken breasts
2 32-ounce containers low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 large onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
Vegetables of choice.
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place the chicken, broth, onion, thyme, and bay leaf into a large pot. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the chicken is done, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring back to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the noodles are tender, about 30 minutes. (The time will vary depending on the thickness of the noodles.) Meanwhile, dice up the cooked chicken. When the noodles are ready, add the chicken back to the pot. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
For a thicker broth, mix 3 tablespoons of flour with water until smooth. Pour it into the pot, a little at a time, and stir until you reach the desired thickness. It needs to come to a boil to become thick, so just add a little at a time, bring to a boil, and if it’s not thick enough, add a little more.