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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Indiana Noodles by way of Texas

One of the more startling things I learned when my husband and I were in our dating years was that he wanted homemade noodles for the holidays.  Noodles?  What for?  "We spoon them over our mashed potatoes - instead of gravy"...huh?  I was, however, game to try anything that would make my honey feel comfie in his new home of Texas (well, he'd been here for a while - so maybe just OUR newness together I guess).  He made the noodles, after consulting with his Mom...and I helped.  Of course, I didn't "do them right" so each year we went through the process of calling his Mom for directions. After the current teen was born, the Grandparents made the trek down from Hoosier Land from time to time and I asked the mother-in-law to show me how to make them.  It's stressful being in the kitchen for the first time with your mother-in-law...doesn't matter that you're 37 years old and quite an okay cook...I made the mistake of responding to her moving stuff on the counter to make room for the noodle making by saying "I usually make them at the table so there's more room - do you want to do it there?" And she responded "do YOU want to make them?" GULP

If you've ever met my spousal unit - you know he says anything that pops in his head around family - not much censoring of the tongue.  Well, he got it from his Mom!  Despite that heart-lurching moment, to which I replied "uh, no, I'll just keep quiet and watch"...I did watch and learn.  There is nothing like a hands on visual instruction to learn a cooking process.  Hers were sooo much better than ours had been.  Unfortunately, I was so discombobulated I didn't take notes.  So, the very next year, the first Christmas in our new home, I made asked the honey pot to please call his mom and write down the steps!  This is what he wrote:

Yeah, very thorough recipe...step by step. <yes Sheldon, that is sarcasm>  Anyway, I've grown to deeply love and appreciate my mother-in-law through the past 20 years.  As I've grown to love my hubby's irreverence, I have grown to enjoy the same thing in my mother-in-law.  She's a wonderful cook and has an amazing wit.  Now that I'm not so nervous about being around her, like I was in the beginning, I've enjoyed all of the visits.  I haven't seen her in several years.  They don't travel any longer - and the hubby just finished an assignment close to his roots, where he got to see his parents several times.  I didn't get to make the trip...somehow now that we live in vacation-land, our vacations have revolved around hubby's assignments...and I didn't make it this summer.  So, Kate, I miss you and I appreciate the noodles and all the goodies you've sent in the past when you canned - it helped me learn about John's gastronomical roots in a way that can't be duplicated (I still contend that what you guys call chili, just can't be...spaghetti in it???)

My husband's mother's family is of German descent - and the Amish were located nearby - both make noodles.  Whatever the source of their particular noodle's heritage - now my Texas family has embraced the noddle heritage as well.  We don't make giblet gravy...we make noodles and top our mashed potatoes.  It is to die for!  Carb overload - but we don't care - not on Thanksgiving!

So, today, I made the annual noodles (I make a batch and cut it in half - freeze them - some for Thanksgiving and some for Christmas).  I talked to our Thanksgiving host (my oldest son) who said "I got the potatoes Mom" and I said "I'm making the noodles"...so everyone is set.


It's a messy endeavor....  but so worth it.  This year, and last year, I used the stand mixer instead of doing it by hand...I couldn't tell the difference.  So, I mix up 4 eggs in the bottom of the stand mixer bowl, and put in 1/2 tsp or less of white vinegar...then I start adding flour with the mixer running (dough hook on) and keep adding flour until it comes together into a ball (it is still very tacky).  I plop it on the flour-dusted counter (yes, the counter) and work in some more flour until I get a good elastic dough...very stiff.  I cut the ball in half (because I only do half at a time) and start rolling and rolling and rolling, turn, roll, flip (flour counter some more, flour rolling pin some more) and roll, roll, roll.  It is verrrryyy elastic and needs to be quite thin...egg noodles.

The first batch drying - one is always wocky shaped


 
The second batch drying

I can't measure the flour - because every time is different - it depends on the humidity.  We are quite humid today...so it will take longer to dry to the "perfect stage" - not too dry and not too wet.  My husband always dries them on a paper sack, cut open and laid out...so that's what I do.  If they crack at the edge, they are too dry, so get a move on and finish them up...again, it can be all day...or it can be a few hours. 

Once no longer sticky, but still pliable, you roll the sheet of dough into a long log and get your sharpest knife and slice them as thin as you can.  After starting out WRONG in the cutting - I called my husband and said "they don't look right - are they supposed to be long?  I thought they were supposed to be short...I did this wrong last year".  My husband is the cutter - I don't do it right...and it all comes back to me when I see the long noodles :-)  He told me I have to cut them on an angle and then turn and angle the other way - alternating to get sort of "v" shaped noodles.  Ahhh...that looks right. 
The WRONG way to do it
The RIGHT way to do it

Now, I will, after they are cut...sprinkle them with flour (so the cut edges are coated) and let them dry for another "little bit".  Then, I will package them (with all the loose flour left on the paper bag) in a gallon Ziploc bag...and pop them in the freezer.


Ready to Ziploc and freeze!

When it's time to cook them, on Thanksgiving Day, I will grab the drippings from the turkey pan, and while the turkey is resting, add drippings to 1 quart of chicken broth and set it to boil (I will have more broth on hand in the event I need to add more to get the right consistency).  Salt and pepper to taste...I admit I add a pinch of poultry seasoning for flavoring, <yikes, dare I admit that?> I haven't heard any complaints - but it's not in the original heritage-approved version.  Once it hits a good boil, I add the FROZEN (do NOT thaw) noodles to the boiling broth a handful at a time so they don't clump together (dusting in the flour from the bag also)  and we cook them anywhere from 20-30 minutes.  My husband tastes for seasoning and doneness.  The  broth thickens from the noodles and the flour and it's similar to a gravy!  Sometimes it is less thick and sometimes it is more thick.  If it's too thick, add a little more broth if the noodles aren't done.  If the noodles are ready and it's too thin, scoop the noodles out, and reduce the broth a bit more at a big boil then add the noodles back in, stir and serve.  You know, I'm noticing I have lots of "fixes"...because without a standardized recipe...you get different results...and that is okay - 'cause I ain't messin' with this recipe!  This is how my man likes it...and by golly you just don't mess with heritage cooking!

There's nothing better than answering his "what are you up to?" when we talked - and I said "making noodles" and he said "REALLY?" with the happiest sound - like I'd just given him a wonderful gift.  It surely does make all the effort worthwhile!

So, let me know how they turn out if you decide to make some - Bon Appetit Y'all!








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