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Chicken Noodle Soup From Scratch

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken soup — and especially chicken noodle soup — is one of those cross-cultural dishes that falls somewhere between comfort food and a prescription drug. It’s almost universal and while it may not actually have medicinal properties, it certainly is capable of making us all feel better on a bad day, whatever the reason for it.

The recipe below is made from scratch, including the egg noodles.  That said, as you read through it, you will no doubt see some opportunities to reduce the labor and shorten the process. Do what you must, but honestly, the results you’ll get by making this soup from scratch will probably convince you that there is no better way to do it, even if you tweak the ingredients here and there.

The key, of course, is the stock. I try to keep a supply of chicken stock, made from roasted chicken carcasses and scraps, on hand at all times. But that’s not always possible, so this recipe uses bone-in, skin-on, chicken thighs. That way, even if I find it necessary to use canned broth or stock, simmering the chicken pieces turns it into a rich bone stock almost like magic. 

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Home Made Egg Noodles

One of the high points of many Sundays when I was a child was when my grandmother, who did most of the cooking for our extended family, got out the flour and eggs early in the morning and made egg noodles. It always amazed me how simple ingredients and a simple recipe could turn into something that delicious.

The difficult thing was waiting for the rest of the dinner — almost always fried chicken — to be prepared, so I could dive into that monster bowl of noodles, which were usually served with just enough chicken broth to make them slippery and tasty. I liked them so much that when I was out on my own and began cooking my own meals, her recipe was one of the very first I asked for, and made.

I’ve written the recipe below, but one ting that is important to note here is that egg noodles are made as much by feel as by formula. Out of the mixing bowl, the dough is pretty sticky, but with your hands dusted in flour and a well-floured surface to work on, the kneading is the place where everything comes together. Knead the noodles the way you would knead bread or pizza dough. As you stretch, fold and knead the dough, it becomes less and less sticky and soon becomes so elastic that the kneading gets to be real work. After a couple of tries, you’ll know by feel when that happens.

I still roll out the noodles and cut them by hand most of the time, but lately I’ve found that a pasta roller gives me much more professional-looking noodles. Either way is just fine. These noodles are great served with a little butter or just enough broth to moisten them and they’re terrific in soups.

Home Made Egg Noodles
Home made egg noodles are so unlike packaged noodles, and so much better, that they're well worth the effort it takes to make them.
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Ingredients
  1. 2 large eggs
  2. 2 additional egg yolks
  3. 1/2 cup water
  4. 2 tsp. sea salt (use less if using refined salt)
  5. 2-3 cups all purpose flour
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, water and salt.
  2. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour a half cup at a time to make a heavy dough that is just a little sticky but easily pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. On a well floured surface, knead the dough, incorporating additional flour until it is no longer sticky and very elastic.
  4. Let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator. Then remove and cut into four equal pieces.
  5. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll as thin as you can with a rolling pin (you can also use a pasta extruder or similar device), cut into strips about 1/4 inch wide and then cut the long noodles to size.
  6. Spread the noodles on a cookie sheet to dry for at least 2 hours or better, overnight.
  7. Cook as you would any fresh noodles or pasta in plenty of salted water.
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Dessert for Our Small Thanksgiving — Apple Galettes

apple galette

So far, the small Thanksgiving has touched on many of the ingredients that are traditional (or perhaps should be) for the holiday. And since we’ve already incorporated pumpkin, I decided to offer up the traditional pie, but with a twist. The term galette is used for a number of recipes, including a kind of pancake in Belgium. Here we’re using the term to cover a rustic, free-form fruit tart. I settled on this because galettes can be made to any size you like, including individual servings. For this post I settled on a plate-size just perfect for four diners.

While you can use a typical pie dough to make a galette, the crust really should be a little sturdier than one that is baked in a traditional pan. The one in the recipe below manages to be both sturdy and flaky. The filling, on the other hand, is identical to one that I’ve used for a classic apple pie. Only the scale is different.

When you’re rolling out the dough and handling the galette(s), parchment paper is your friend. I tried doing without. Cleaning up a broken galette from the floor is not how you want to spend Thanksgiving. I’ll leave it at that.

Finally, if you happen to have a pizza stone, use that rather than a baking sheet for a very rustic look and feel. Any juice that leaks from the galette cooks on the hot stone into a crunchy, toffee-like candy that’s fund to break up and sprinkle over the galette. 

It is really important to serve the galette(s) warm. Top them with vanilla ice cream for a real treat.

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Yet More Small Thanksgiving — Wild Rice Stuffed Pumpkin

Wild Rice Stuffed Pumpkin

As I did with the turkey roulade a few posts ago, I wanted a side dish for my scaled down Thanksgiving that was a twist on the foods traditionally served for the holiday. I confess that I’m not a fan of pumpkin, in general, but hey, you can’t have Thanksgiving without it, right. That’s where this stuffed pumpkin enters the picture.

Wild Rice Stuffed Pumpkin

Wild Rice Stuffed Pumpkin

The inspiration for this goes back quite a few years, to one of my first trips to Napa Valley. I was part of a group invited to preview a new San Francisco hotel and as part of the trip, the hotel bused us out to wine country and treated us to some winery tours and lunch at what was then the RMS Distillery, which made brandy from Napa wines. I remember sitting in the distilling room at a table set in front of a wall of gleaming copper stills and there on the table, where the salad would normally be, was this little pumpkin, filled with wild and brown rice. I hadn’t seen anything like that and was surprised to find that the entire thing was edible. It didn’t change my mind about pumpkins, but it obviously was enjoyable and memorable, and OK, sometimes pumpkins are fine.

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Still More Small Thanksgiving — Brussels Sprouts Gratin

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

One of the difficult things about our small-scale Thanksgiving is that I want to offer a variety of side dishes that are both seasonal or local, but can work well reheated among the inevitable leftovers. One of my favorites for that role is this Brussels sprouts gratin, which combines the mild cabbage-like flavors of the sprouts with the nutty flavors of Compte or Gruyère  and Parmesan cheeses and a little crunch from panko bread crumbs. If you’re like me, and hate the idea of dumping a can of mushroom soup on some green beans, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this one.

The only requirements for this side dish are good fresh sprouts (get them from a farmer’s market if you can still do that) and good quality cheese. Compte is my choice, when I can get it. If you don’t want to click the link, the scoop is that only the best cheese, from a particular region in France, and made from the milk of a particular kind of cow can be called Compte. Cheese that doesn’t meet the strict standards is called Gruyère. What I find interesting is that a small amount of Parmesan actually makes both cheeses taste a little better. Go figure. 

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More Small Thanksgiving — Crab and Corn Dip

Crab and Corn Dip

So here’s something that always struck me as odd. As a Virginian, I’ll argue that the first Thanksgiving feast was held in my adopted commonwealth, but even if you subscribe to the idea that the feast took place in Massachusetts, why on earth is it that seafood and corn are not typically part of the tradition? I can’t imagine that somewhere very early on, the colonists on the east coast didn’t learn from the native Americans about growing corn and harvesting the abundant crabs, oysters, mussels, clams and fish from the readily accessible waters around them. Doesn’t make much sense to me, so when the holiday rolls around, I like to try to incorporate both into the meal somehow. That’s where this crab and corn dip comes into play. It can serve as a great appetizer for guests to enjoy while you’re getting the rest of the meal on the table, or a terrific snack while you’re watching the Packers and the Bears.

This version of the dip is scaled for a small group — three or four diners — but is easy to scale up if you have a larger dinner in the works. Crabs and corn are a truly awesome flavor combination. Add in the silky textures of  cream and melted cheese and, well, I can’t imagine a better way to get the most important foodie holiday off to a delicious start. It’s perfect.

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A Small Thanksgiving — Sous Vide Turkey Breast Roulade

Turkey Breast Roulade

Thanksgiving is the most foodcentric American holiday on the calendar, by far. And the typical Thanksgiving meal is large. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, two or three sides, pumpkin pie and on and on. Fine if you’re having a large group of friends/family for dinner, but what if circumstances find you planning a meal for just two or three people? 

roulade-1That’s just where I happen to be this year, so I’ve decided to create a Thanksgiving menu that is traditional but scaled down for a very small group — say two to four diners.  The next several posts here will be dedicated to this theme. 

I’ll start with the star of the show, which is, of course, the turkey. Turkeys are big birds, of course, so if you’re going to make even a small, 12-lb. whole turkey for 2-4 people, you’re going to find yourself with a ton of leftovers and a desperate need for storage space in the fridge. For that reason, I decided to work with a turkey breast. The one I used was frozen,  but it came from one of my favorite vendors at the local farm market (yep, it’s still going). Having to thaw the turkey breast was a reasonable trade-off for getting one that was locally raised in the right way. And to make up for the lack of a big, impressive bird on the table, I decided to try my hand at a turkey breast roulade, which is very elegant and just as impressive in its own way. After checking out various ways to accomplish this, I decided to do it sous vide, as well. The sous vide approach made sure the roulade was moist and tender and yet cooked perfectly. Yes, I had to make the gravy from turkey stock and without pan drippings. Small price to pay.

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