Monday, January 2, 2012

Home Cooking…Everyone’s Favorite Around the World!

By Phyllis Louise Harris
January 2012

When two chefs from Xi’an, China, came to Minnesota to teach at Hennepin Tech in 1995 they stayed with me for four weeks.  For the first few mornings, they suffered through my well-intended eggs and toast breakfast and then asked if they could fix their own.  So every evening before they went to bed, they went into the kitchen and made a batch of noodle dough.  They carefully covered the fresh dough with a cloth and the next morning cooked fresh noodles for their breakfast.  It was their way of bringing their own home cooking with them to this foreign land.  And, it gave them comfort each morning to eat cooking from home when during the day they were not sure if the Minnesota food they would be eating would be something they even liked.  Often it was not!

I thought of them on Christmas Day when my daughter and I were making one of our family’s favorite dishes, stewed chicken and homemade noodles.  It is a recipe that was handed down from my grandmother in Iowa to my dad, to me and my sister and brother.  After much trial and error we learned to make the delicate egg noodles that taste best made with homemade chicken broth, but even taste good with canned broth.  Here is the recipe….

Grandma Igo’s Homemade Noodles from Indianola, Iowa
Serves 8 (can be made in smaller or larger batches)

4 large or extra large eggs
2 – 4 cups white flour*
12 cups chicken broth
Salt to taste

1.  Break eggs into medium sized bowl and beat with a fork until well mixed, but not frothy.

2.  Begin adding flour 1/2 cup at a time mixing well with the egg.  Keeping adding flour 1/2 cup at a time and stirring until the eggs no longer absorb any flour.  As the mixture thickens, add less and less flour.  The mixture will form a ball and move around the bowl with the fork leaving a small amount of flour on the bowl.  Stop mixing!

3.  Cover a cutting board with 1 - 2 cups of flour.  Smooth out the flour to at least 1/2 inch thick and put 1/4 of the mixture on the board.  Cover the dough with some of the flour from the board and begin rolling out the dough with a rolling pin.  As needed add more flour on top of the dough and under the dough to keep it from sticking and continue rolling out to about 1/8 inch thick.  The dough may be any shape or size at this point.

4.  Gently pile more flour on top of the noodle sheet and starting with the edge nearest you, carefully roll the dough like a jelly roll.  With a clean, sharp knife, cut the roll into pieces 1/3 inch wide.  Carefully pick up noodles one at a time, uncurl, and shake off excess flour.  Place noodles on a wire rack spacing them out so they are not on top of each other.  They are still very wet and will stick together.  Continue until all the dough has been cut.

5.  In a large pot bring chicken broth to a boil and add salt to taste.  Add the noodles all at once or as quickly as possible and immediately gently stir into the broth.  Bring to a boil and add 1 cup cold water.**  Bring to a boil again and add another cup of cold water.  Bring mixture to a boil and turn heat down to simmer.  If necessary, add more broth or water one cup at a time as the mixture thickens and bring it to a simmer again after each addition.  Simmer noodles about 20 - 30 minutes gently stirring occasionally and cook noodles until they have lost the taste of raw flour and have absorbed the chicken broth flavor.  They will be tender and crinkly looking in all different sizes and shapes with a wonderful chicken flavor.  Serve hot with chicken and mashed potatoes.  It can’t be any more down home Iowa farm comfort food than this. . . and, not that much different from the Chinese chefs’ home cooking.

Noodles may be cooled and reheated on the stove.  They may also be frozen and reheated in the microwave, but will lose some of their texture.

*Though not as delicate in texture, gluten free flour also makes a very tasty noodle.
**For even "chickenier" flavor, experiment sometime by adding refrigerated broth rather than water.

Rich Chicken Broth
(Recipe may be doubled)

1/2 stewing hen, cut in half
8 fryer wings, whole or cut up
Salt to taste

1.  Rinse chicken pieces and wipe with a paper towel.  Set pieces into a large pot and add enough water to cover large chicken sections plus 1” more water.

2.  Heat pot over high heat until water starts to boil.  Skim off and discard the scum that has floated to the top of the water.  Turn heat down to low simmer, cover and cook until chicken is tender, 45 – 60 minutes.  Check wings, breast and thigh and remove each when tender….it may be at different times.  Remove the chicken when done and take cooked chicken off bones and place in shallow bowl.  Add bones and skin back into the pot.  Cover the cooked chicken with a little broth to keep moist.  Cover container and refrigerate.  Continue cooking chicken parts in covered pot for another hour or until it forms a rich broth.  Turn off heat and let broth cool down for at least 30 minutes.  Remove all chicken pieces and bones with a fine metal mesh skimmer to remove as many pieces as possible to eave a clear broth.  Discard bones, skin and any chicken meat pieces from the broth.

3.  Add about 2 cups of water to stock and bring broth to a boil.  Season broth with salt to taste.  It is now ready to cook homemade egg noodles.  If necessary, add canned broth to help enrich the chicken flavor.  The broth may be frozen for later use.

This should be enough broth to cook a 4-egg recipe of noodles that will produce 8 - 10 cups of cooked noodles and broth.