“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps, the end of the beginning.” — Winston Churchill
This quote has always stuck in my head. Going back over how Grandma lived her life, I think that this is how she greeted each day. We’re going to work through parts of one of the sacred dishes Grandma Furnish was known for: “Chicken and Noodles.” But we’re going to do this in small steps and you can hold my hand, and we’ll do this together. Everyone would wait in anticipation during holiday meals or family meals for Chicken and Noodles. I can remember this dish from way back when we’d have it at Grandma’s house…chicken fresh from the coup, noodles so fine they were like hair. One of my favorite memories is when an old laying hen would be used for dinner, the egg sack would get cooked along with the chicken and the tiny little egg yolks, now hard boiled, would be added to the dish.
When Grandma would make noodles, she would never measure flour…she’d mark the amount of noodles she was making by the number of eggs she’d use for the batch. Her trusty glass Kitchen-Aid mixing bowl would always be filled with the right amount of flour. Then a well would be made in the center and the lightly beaten eggs would be added. You’d mix the eggs with a fork pulling in the flour as you go until a perfect dough formed. After a bit of kneading out would come the rolling pin, and after cutting the dough ball into smaller portions you’d roll the dough, adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking to the table or the rolling pin. The secret of Grandma’s hand rolled noodles would be to roll them until you could read a newspaper through them.
In recent years my cousin Rick, my uncle Tom and I would join Grandma for the task. Occasionally other family members would stand in and help. She’d make the dough, Rick would roll and I would cut. Once Rick got each portion rolled thin into a huge sheet, we’d brush off the extra flour and cut it into four inch wide strips we could stack. Then I’d take a sharp knife starting on one end of the stacked noodle sheets and cut….no, really shave the noodles off into fine hair like strings. Don’t wait if you’ve stacked them…fresh noodles will stick if you wait too long to cut them.
Grandma never dried her noodles…they’d go from dough, to roll, to cut, tossed with a small amount of flour to keep them from sticking together and to help thicken the broth and then dropped into a boiling pot of stock. This grand production would be completed in a short amount time, usually just an hour or so before it was time to serve. You can choose to make these a day or two before and spread the cut noodles out on cookie sheets tossed with a little flour and let them dry. They store perfectly in the freezer for a couple months if you need to make them that far ahead or decide you’re going to make 9 eggs worth.
I realize the hardest part of an unwritten recipe is getting all the proportions right, so I’ve experimented so that I can give you measurements. You can certainly hand mix and roll your noodles, and you can choose to cut them fine or cut them wider as you prefer, just make sure that your roll them very thin. This is a production…not a quick Tuesday night dinner dish. But this will definitely show the love to those you serve this dish. Coming soon, we’ll go over getting the chicken and broth ready…followed by putting it all together.
Grandma Furnish’s Egg Noodles
- 2 cups flour
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 dash salt (Grandma never used salt…she said it made the noodles tough, so you can choose to add or not; Grandma will still love you if you do)
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add your flour and salt (Grandma…look away) to the bowl, mixing it just a few turns. Add the eggs and mix on stir until the dough starts to come together. It should look be mostly moistened and maybe a small amount of flour in the bottom of the bowl. At this point, you can turn it out on the table and continue to knead and mix by hand until the dough is smooth. If your mixer has a dough hook, switch to it and knead the dough for about five minutes until the dough is one ball, is smooth and the inside of the bowl is clean.
Lets stop here…if you don’t have a mixer with a paddle attachment, hand mix your dough as described above; don’t use beaters to mix this…most likely your stand mixer won’t be strong enough to handle the dough and its a big mess to get it out of all the beater tines. I won’t be responsible for killing your mixer…
When the dough is smooth either by hand or by machine, wrap it in cling film and let it rest for at least 15-30 minutes. This will make rolling the dough out much easier…unless you have my cousin Rick come roll them out for you, then you’re free to keep going.
Grandma Furnish’s kitchen table, after we’d finished rolling noodles.
Now comes the decision time…hand roll or machine. I’m not going to pick one technique over the other. I have a great rolling pin that makes perfect noodles. I also have the attachments to roll the noodles out by machine. If I’m making 3 eggs worth by myself, I’ll hand roll the dough. If I’m making 9 eggs or more, most likely I’ll choose to roll them out by machine. Same goes for cutting, small batches I’m OK with whipping out the chef’s knife and shaving my noodles the way I was taught. If I’m making noodles for a crowd, I’m going to cut by machine. Grandma loves me either way.
After resting (you and the dough), cut the dough into four equal portions. Put the waiting portions back under the plastic to keep them from drying out. Flatten the portion you’re working with into a disk and lightly flour it. Also, lightly flour the work space you’re rolling on and your rolling pin. We’ll brush off the extra later if you get too much, but not enough and you’ll glue the noodles to the table. Begin rolling the dough out, turning the dough a 1/4 of a turn each roll until it get thin, dusting under and over the dough as needed to keep the dough free from the table and pin.
Brush the extra flour off and using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 3-4 inch wide strips. Stack the strips up on a cutting board, layering in the small pieces as you go. Using a very sharp knife start at one end of the dough cut across the short end, cutting the desired width…extra fine like Grandma’s or as wide as you like. The noodles will grow a bit as they are cooked, so err on the side of thinner until you get making these under your belt a few times. Toss the cut strips almost immediately with a little extra flour to separate the noodles. Either dry them as described above or work them into your pot of broth (more on this to come). Repeat this process until all the dough is rolled out and cut.
Next post is preparing the chicken and broth for the dish.
The potato in the back looks on in jealousy…as his bag mate was made into delicious mashed potato candy.
No one takes me serious when I tell them about this candy. My Grandma made this every year for me and my brother. And yes, it really is made with a potato. This is one of Grandma’s unwritten recipes, although I’m sure someone out there has a written down version. Its extremely easy, and always starts a conversation. You should try it, I’m betting it’ll be a favorite of yours too.
Mashed Potato Candy
- 1 medium potato, baked in the microwave
- 1 tablespoon butter
- dash salt
- 2 pounds powdered sugar (this is an estimate, you’ll add the sugar till the texture is right. A wet potato will take more)
- 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
- 1/4 cup pecans (I like to crush mine, Grandma always left hers whole)
- 1 package of chocolate coating
Cut the baked potato open and scoop out the flesh into a mixer bowl. Add butter and salt. Mash until smooth. Begin adding powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time. At the beginning the potato will liquefy; but as you add more sugar the mixture will form a soft dough. The final dough texture should be soft but not sticky or gooey. Add the coconut and pecans and mix until blended. Form the dough into two logs and tightly wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator until completely cold and firm.
Melt the chocolate coating. At this point, you can coat the logs whole, but I like to cut them in half because the little logs coated in chocolate look just like it’s namesake…the potato. Coat them in steps, starting with the bottom, placing the candy logs on a parchment lined cookie sheet to slip into the freezer to firm up (takes just a couple minutes) and then trimming extra chocolate along the way before dipping the next part. Next, coat the ends, place back on the sheet and pop it back in the freezer. And finally coat the top and sides, returning to the freezer for one last quick chill and set.
Wrap the chilled and firm logs in plastic wrap, then in foil and store in the refrigerator. Because the candy coating is brittle when it’s cold, the logs cut best at room temperature, so pull them an hour or so before you plan to cut them.
Some of Grandma’s favorite dishes are recipes that weren’t written down, or that were so well known that no recipe was needed. I’ll toss in a few of those as I can, starting with one of her favorite make ahead dishes. This one is incredibly simple but does requires a little bit of planning. A few weeks before any holiday meal, Grandma would fix this up in a Tupperware storage container and stash it in the back of the fridge to wait out the event. Occasionally, we’d forget they were there and they’d not make an appearance at the meal, but Grandma didn’t care…these were her favorites, she loved to eat them anytime.
She’d have her own canned pickled beets ready when she needed them; but if you’re not gardening or canning, store bought are just as nice. And from experience…don’t wear a white shirt when you dish these up…as much as you might try, you’re bound to get a splash somewhere. And now would be the time to stash these beauties in the fridge, and they’ll be ready for Christmas dinner. You’ll be able to tell how long they soaked by how far into the interior of the eggs the beet juice has worked itself.
Pickled Beets and Eggs
- 6 hardboiled eggs, peeled
- 2-3 cans of pickled beets (about a quart of beets and juice)
Layer the beets and eggs in a tight lidded container, beginning and ending with beets. Don’t drain the beets, adding all the juice is important to get the eggs to turn a brilliant scarlet color. Mix the container on a daily basis, because any eggs touching the sides of the container won’t completely be colored. I discovered a shortcut if you’re using a glass container. Using a fork slide a slice of beet down between the glass and eggs so that they are well hidden and submerged.
Serve in a lovely open dish (Grandma always had a pretty cut glass dish for hers) along side all the rest of your cold holiday salads. You can leave the eggs whole, or slice them open for sharing. The color and taste are amazing, this is a simple but colorful holiday dish.
I can’t wait…
This recipe was another you could always count on seeing at any holiday gathering. It is really easy to make and very delicious. Make sure you follow the directions and put the icing on the cake while it’s still hot. The icing melts down into the top of the cake and makes it extra moist. Once its cool, you can cut it into squares or bars.
Grandma Furnish’s Texas Sheet Cake
Prepare one jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides) by greasing and flouring, set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- 2 cups sifted flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp baking soda
Bring to boil:
- 2 sticks margarine or butter
- 2 tablespoons cocoa
- 1 cup water
Pour into the dry ingredients and mix. Then add:
Mix well and add:
Mix the batter well (about two minutes) and pour into prepared jelly roll pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until cake springs back in the center.
Prepare the following icing while the cake is baking and pour over the top of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Bring to a boil:
- 1 stick of margarine or butter
- 4 tablespoons cocoa
- 6 tablespoons buttermilk
Add 1 pound of confectioners sugar and one cup of chopped nuts, stirring until smooth.
Another Holiday favorite of mine was Grandma’s Divinity. Fluffy white clouds of sweet goodness, its truely divine. This one is a little tricky to make, the humidity has to be low, and I’m assuming this is why we only enjoyed it during Christmas. You can add any kind of nuts you like to the candy. My favorite is pecan, but I can remember Grandma used walnuts in hers.
Grandma Furnish’s Divinity
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup white corn syrup
- 1/2 cup hot water
- dash salt
Cook this to a hard ball stage. While the syrup is coming to temperature beat 2 egg whites until foamy. When your syrup is to temperature, turn the mixer back on (this is definately one for a stand mixer unless you’re ultra coordinated) and slowly add the syrup to the egg white foam. Beat until dry looking (stiff peaks). Then add:
- 1 tsp vanilla
- nuts, chopped
Spoon onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and allow to dry in open air, turning over once to make sure the bottom is also dry. Once dry, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate.
Nothing says fall like carmel corn. Another one of Grandma’s great recipes, this one is part fun and part science. Here’s a clue to get started: You’ll need 1 1/8 cup of unpopped corn to make 9 quarts. Read through the recipe and get all your ingredients ready before you start because candy making runs on its own schedule. When you have the sugar to the right temperature, you have no time to run to the cabinet and get the rest of what you’ll need. Also, a tip from Grandma is that you run your baking soda through a sieve to get rid of any lumps (you can measure it into a bowl and mash it good with a spoon to do the same thing). Enjoy!
Grandma Furnish’s Oven Carmel Corn
Pop enough corn to measure 9 quarts. Place on two cookie sheets in the oven set to 275 degrees to dry and heat.
Boil to hard ball the following ingredients:
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup or 2 sticks of oleo (that’s margarine for us younger folks)
- pinch of Cream of Tartar
- 3/4 tsp salt
Turn off heat and add:
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
Stir well and quickly and add to warm popped corn. Stir until well covered and put back on two cookie sheets in oven at 275 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove and cool. As it cools it will crisp.
Love you, Grandma!