Well, I can hardly believe it. One year ago today, I wrote my first Shiksa in the Kitchen blog. I had no idea then how quickly this project would grow. Thanks to all of you wonderful readers, my hobby food blog has turned into a much bigger project than I ever could have dreamed!
Here are just a few of the amazing things that happened this year:
I converted to Judaism.
I toured Manhattan delis in search of the perfect knish.
Our first annual kosher recipe contest was a huge success.
I built a sukkah.
I traveled to Israel and learned about Biblical cuisine.
Wayne Brady ate my challah bread pudding.
Marley ate my birthday cake.
Many incredible Jewish families shared their family recipes and traditions with me, including Rabbi Kerry Olitsky, Etti and Bella Hadar and their Levin family memoirs, Sharone Dayan, Rachel Mandel, Farah, Rob Eshman, Gila Ronel, Dr. Tova Dickstein, Malka Clement, Talia Cohn, Bracha, Sandra Ashtamker, Susan Fedrow, Susan Yeager, and all of the other fabulous participants in my Kosher Recipe Contest. This blog couldn’t happen without the selfless generosity of those who share their timeless family recipes with me. I consider a family’s food heritage sacred; the fact that so many have been willing to share that heritage with me is a real honor and blessing.
To celebrate the first blog-iversary, I’d like to share with you my family’s recipe for Swedish Chicken and Noodles. This is a wonderfully simple (and kosher!) dish that can be made on a shoestring budget to feed a large group people. It’s sort of like a thicker and creamier version of chicken noodle soup (though it contains no cream). A pot of chicken and noodles will feed 8-10 hungry guests. You can stretch it even further by mashing up some potatoes and pouring the noodle mixture over the potatoes; doing this will nearly double the amount of servings. Chicken and Noodles is a delicious starchy carb-fest, the ultimate in comfort food. It’s been a staple in my family since I was born. In these tough financial times, when we’re all watching what we spend, it’s an economical and delicious dinner option. It’s also a fun excuse to meet with your friends or relatives and cook up something yummy together.
When I was growing up, it was an annual tradition for the women in our family to gather for a Chicken and Noodles party. It was a very social event that usually occurred during the holidays. The women would meet in the morning, make the dough and cut the noodles. As the noodle dough dried, they would go shopping at the local drugstore to check out the new Christmas decorations and displays. When they came back, the noodles would be dry and ready to cut. Then they would cook up a big batch of chicken and noodles, along with a pot of mashed potatoes to stretch out the dish. That way, there would be enough for the hungry men in the family, who would inevitably show up later in the day to feast on the finished product.
My Grandma Carolyn taught us this recipe; she learned it from her mother, who learned it from her mother, and so on as far back as we can remember. On that side of the family we descend from Swedish immigrants to Nebraska (you can learn more about my maternal ancestry here). This simple recipe has been handed down from the Swedish matriarchs in our family, so I call it Swedish Chicken and Noodles. I’m putting a picture of my grandma and great grandma here, because my mom’s a little camera shy. 😉
We make these noodles the old fashioned way—rolling, drying, and cutting them with a knife. You can use a pasta cutting tool, if you want, but my mom prefers cutting them by hand. In her words, “I like cutting the noodles. It takes time, but that’s the point. Making chicken and noodles is all about getting together with the girls and gabbing while you cook. If you used a pasta cutter, it would go too fast. Where’s the fun in that?”
One word of warning: this is a somewhat messy project. Flour will get everywhere. Your fingers will be coated in dough. You’ll want to wear an apron.
Some super exciting things are developing for 2011 on the blog. I’m looking forward to sharing more recipes and food history with you, b’li neder. Wishing you all a fabulous new year. May your wildest and most wonderful dreams be fulfilled!
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- 4 cups flour
- 6 eggs
- 1 chicken (about 4 lbs)
- 4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped including leaves
- 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Frozen green peas
- Mashed potatoes
You will also need
- Mixing bowl, sifter, rolling pin, parchment paper, large stockpot
- Beat 6 eggs in a small bowl till frothy. Reserve.
- Sift 2 cups of flour with 1 heaping tbsp of salt into your mixing bowl. Reserve 2 more cups of flour in another bowl.
- In your mixing bowl, make a “well” in the center of the sifted flour and pour the beaten eggs in. Use a fork to mix the eggs into the flour until it is evenly moistened.
- Sift more flour into the bowl, a couple of tablespoons at a time, and continue to stir until a soft dough forms.
- When the dough gets too thick to stir, use your hands to knead. Stop adding flour when the dough holds together and is only slightly sticky to the touch (it will be soft). Let the dough rest uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Coat your rolling surface generously with sifted flour. Scoop up a small handful of dough from the bowl (a little more than ½ cup of dough). Dip it in the flour on the board and pat it down to flatten it.
- Flour your rolling pin and roll out the dough till it’s very thin.
- Fold the rolled dough into quarters and move it to a sheet of parchment paper.
- Unfold it and leave it to dry.
- Repeat this process until all of the dough has been rolled out.
- Let the noodle dough dry for about 2 hours, flipping the dough pieces over once halfway through drying. This amount of time can vary based on the weather—if it’s hot outside, the drying may go faster. Check the dough’s texture periodically by touching it with clean fingers. The dough is ready to cut when it is dry to the touch, but not hard. If you’re in a hurry you can cut the dough when it is half-dry, but it won’t be as easy to cut or manage.
- Slice each flattened piece of dough into three long strips. Cut those strips into noodles. We usually cut them about a centimeter wide, but you can cut them thicker or thinner depending on your personal preference.
- Scoop up the noodles and scatter them on a piece of parchment paper to finish drying.
- Once you have cut the noodles, you can immediately proceed with making the chicken and noodles. If you’d rather store the noodles for future use, let them dry completely (this can take 24-48 hours depending on the weather). Once the noodles are totally dry, place them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag and store them in a dark, cool place. They will last about 1 month; discard them if they start to darken or turn black.
- Note: The chicken stock can actually be made while the noodles are drying, if you’re running short on time. My mom prefers to make the chicken stock after the noodles are cut, because the process is more fun when you have stretches of time to sit around and chat while things are cooking.
- Rinse your whole chicken (giblets removed) and place it into a large stockpot. Cover the chicken with water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Skim the foam that rises to the top. Add chopped celery, onions, and black pepper to the broth. You do not need to add any salt, the noodles contain a lot of salt so it’s best to hold off adding more at this point.
- Let the chicken simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours until the meat softens and begins to fall off the bone. Remove the chicken from the pot and place it on a roasting pan or platter. Strain the chicken broth, removing all the celery and onions. Return broth to the stockpot.
- If you want to cut down on fat, you can let the broth cool completely and skim the fat that collects on the surface. Pull meat from the chicken in bite-sized pieces and return it to the broth; discard bones. Bring broth back to a slow boil.
- Add noodles to the broth. Let them boil gently, stirring frequently, until tender. For an al dente texture, cook for 10-12 minutes. For a softer texture (which I prefer), cook 15-16 minutes. The noodles will soak up most of the broth and produce a thick, starchy, salty sauce.
- If you want to add some frozen green peas, put them in during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Taste the noodles when they are completely cooked and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
- Serve in bowls plain or over mashed potatoes (if you’re keeping kosher, make sure the mashed potatoes are pareve). This, as my mother says, is the ultimate comfort food. Yum!