“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.
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.