Friday, January 28, 2011

Gramma's Noodles

Chicken Soup has always been one of the staples of my family.  I suppose every family has their own version of the worlds greatest chicken soup, but seriously, the one I grew up on is the best. Along with the soup (which I promise I will make a post all on its own, it's on the list) the home made noodles were always the best part.  I still remember my Grandma putting the noodles in everybody's bowl before dishing up the soup and she was lucky if anybody had any of them left in the short time it took for her to grab the kettle.

However, like a lot of food that is nostalgic to my childhood, its not just the taste or the smell that makes them so great. It's making them that made these noodles so special.  Getting your 8 year old hands full of flour and "fluffing" uncooked noodles on Grandmas stainless steel work counter is something I'll never forget. Did i mention raw noodles taste even better than the cooked ones?

So who said to make something great it needs to have a ton of ingredients? This is far more about the process than whats in it.  Either way, here is what you'll need:

3 cups flour
3 eggs + 1 more egg yolk (discard the white)
1/3 cup water (approx)
A pot of boiling water, with approx 1 tsp of salt added

Yep, that really is all there is to it. To start off, put the flour and eggs into a bowl.

Take a fork and start to stir/mix the eggs and flour together. You'll have to work it for a little while, but eventually you should be able to get it to look something like this:

Now is the toughest part of the whole process, and frankly one that my Grandma always took care of. Add about 1/4 cup of water to this mixture and stir it in. After you do that, it should start to form somewhat into dough. As you stir the dough will naturally start to form into a ball.  However, there will be bits of egg/flour mixture that will still be at the bottom of the bowl not getting absorbed by the ball. add water just a little bit at a time to those areas so it gets absorbed into the rest of the dough.  It doesn't have to all get to that point, just most of it.  It's very important not to use too much water here. When you think you have it pretty close, dump it all out onto a very lightly floured cutting board. It will look like this: 
As you can see, its not all together at this point.  Not to worry though, it will all come together when you start to knead the dough.  Tip: use the heel of your hands to press into the dough, turn the ball 90 degrees and repeat.  Keep working it until it is a very even consistency, then roll it into a log. It should look like this after a lot of kneading. 
Tip: if you're hands are really sticking to the dough during the kneading process, use a little flour. But just like the water, use it very sparingly. After you have a nice looking log of dough just like the one above you'll want to cut it into about 2 inch pieces. The purpose of this is to turn the dough into manageable sized pieces. Make sure you have a VERY sharp knife for this process (and the rest of the process). Heres what it should look like at this point: 
When I was a little kid, this is where I came in.  To make noodles you need to now press the dough into very thin sheets.  This can be done with either a hand crank press or if you have a Kitchen Aid Mixer, you can just purchase this attachment. Luckily, my mom has the Kitchen Aid and the attachment so I got to use that. Actually, I have to give my mom a lot of credit for this post, she did all of the cutting, as you will see. 

Rub some flour on a piece of the dough and feed it through the press on #1.
After you run it through on #1, re-flour the piece of dough (again, lightly) and then run it through the press on #2. After that, you don't need to flour it anymore as you run it through #3, #4 and #5 on the press.  After you run it through on #5, you should have a nice long thin piece of dough. 
Re-flour the cutting board and place the long sheet of dough on it. Cut the sheet in half, then cut the two resulting pieces again the long way so you have 4 workable pieces of dough.  Stack these sheets on top of each other, but generously flour in between the layers. If you don't, the dough will stick together as you try to cut it. Place your left hand on the sheets of dough as you cut thin strips with the knife. Make sure not to push down with your hand, but more or less just use it as a guide. 
 This is where the most fun begins for an 8 year old (or a 21 year old that still loves this stuff). Take the cut pieces of noodles, pick them up and just "fluff" them a little bit. This is to make sure nothing is sticking together. After you fluff the noodles, you can put them into a bowl.  If you don't get what I mean by fluffing the noodles, they'll end up looking like this:
 Now, after you get all the noodles cut, fluffed and placed into the bowl, hurry up and get them into the pot of boiling water you prepared. Why? because if you don't, they may never make it.  As I said before, these taste so good, which makes no sense looking at the ingredients. I remember as a kid Grandma saying "If you keep eating those your stomach will stick together!" Looking back now, I imagine this was just a clever deterrent from me eating the whole bowl. 
 Sprinkle the noodles in a handful at a time, stirring constantly so nothing sticks together.  Cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until tender.  Pour them out into a colander and rinse.  After they have been well drained place them in a bag and refrigerate, or dump them right into a nice warm bowl of home made chicken soup. If you ever run into the issue of running out of soup before you run out of noodles, put them in a pan with some butter, salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes. No matter how you eat these, whether it be raw, just rinsed, in soup or buttered, you'll never buy store bought noodles again. 

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