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Dinner at Dixon’s

Jill and I met Dixon a few years ago through a mutual friend, shortly before we opened the bakery.  We hung out a few times and kind of lost touch, as seems to happen in these crazy days of our lives.  Well guess who showed up at the bakery a few weeks ago, but none other than Dixon himself, with a few other friends.  We chatted for a few minutes and a few days later he came over to our house to share a beer on the picnic table outside on a hot summer evening.  Dinner plans were made for the following Sunday evening at his house, and that’s how I found out that Dixon was a amateur gourmand.

We arrived at his house, which sits right on the edge of Iona Lake, at around dusk.  He invited Jill and I inside, and we talked like it hadn’t been years since we really connected.  It’s funny how food and drink will induce that into happening.  It wasn’t long before Dixon started preparing dinner.  It was to be a multi-course affair, nothing too crazy, just a hot salad followed by filet mignon and dessert.  Simple and satisfying.

Romaine hearts were removed from the fridge and onto a cutting board, where they were cut into half the long way, stem to stern.  Like an accomplished dinner host, Dixon continued conversing as he prepared the first course, casually carrying on conversation as he heated up a cast iron pan and drizzled olive oil onto the cut sides of the lettuce.  Salt and pepper were sprinkled on top and when Dixon waved his hand over the pan to find the proper heat level, he gingerly placed the cut side of each head of lettuce down onto the surface of the pan.

I had never seen anything like this before, but Dixon said he had done it many times before and it had become a regular in his repertoire.  I was certainly curious to see how it would turn out.

As the romaine sizzled in the pan and Dixon got out plates and silverware, I sliced into a loaf of olive foccacia that I had brought from the bakery.  We each took a few slices and savored the olivey bouquet while we chewed hungrily on the yeasty pieces of Italian flatbread.

Before long, the romaine was picked up to inspect and the bottoms were determined to be a satisfactory caramelized color.  Dixon placed each half-head of lettuce on three plates with the cooked side up, where they teased us with their glistening caramelized color.  They smelled fantastic too, and as I inspected my salad, the dressing was brought out of the fridge… a spoonful of fresh blue cheese dressing from Pegasus Diner in Malaga (Dixon’s favorite) was drizzled on each salad.  Little bits of crispy bacon finished the dish, and I must say, it looked amazing.

Not only did it look amazing, it tasted it as well.  The lettuce was partially cooked (normally you cook heartier greens, but why not lettuce?) and the flavors of the blue cheese and bacon didn’t overpower.  It was surprisingly satisfying, and I’m going to have to follow suit and include this in my repertoire.  So easy and so delicious.

Next up was the steak, which Dixon had picked up earlier in the day.  The steaks were coated in black peppercorns (that Dixon had just crushed in a mortar and pestle) and were then placed into the hot pan.  They sizzled with abandon, and there they sat until being flipped a few minutes later.  After the rich smell of browning meat filled the kitchen, the filets were placed into the oven to finish cooking.  Dixon was not done yet though.

A shot of brandy appeared and with the flair of a professional, Dixon quickly poured the shot into the pan to deglaze the little crusty bits of goodness where it erupted in flames with a big ‘whoosh!’

A little cream, some stock and a few minutes of reducing created the perfect sauce to accompany the steaks.  Dixon was feeling a little adventurous though and had the desire to get out of his comfort zone, so he busted out a can of crabmeat.  He popped the lid and added a few large spoonfuls to the sauce to heat through.  As if this entrée couldn’t get more decadent, the crabmeat put it over the top.

The steaks were perfectly cooked, no kidding, and the crabmeat peppercorn sauce was ridiculously good.  I didn’t know he had it in him!  Some potato gratin and more bread finished off the dish and I couldn’t help but sop up the remaining sauce from the plate with my bread.  Yum…

Fresh homemade root beer that a friend had given us provided the libation for dinner, and the bubbly, sweet, herby soda countered the spicy, rich dinner.  It was lovely.  We looked out of the kitchen, out of the porch and over the lake, which by this time had the feel of a movie set with the full moon shimmering on the surface of the water.  Fresh pie made from local peaches, blackberries and blueberries completed our meal and we chatted for a while longer.

There’s nothing like the promise of good food and good company to bring old friends together again.  If you haven’t had an old friend over for dinner lately, I suggest you look up their number on your phone, give them a call and invite them over for a shared meal… it’s the best way to reconnect.

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Taco Day

I had the most luscious avocado today.  It was perfectly ripe and was the most vibrant shades of green.  I had picked it up at one of my favorite little stores on the Avenue, La Plaza.  La Plaza is a cute family-run Mexican grocery located at 520 E. Landis Avenue that is loaded with Mexican food finds.  I go there at least once a week to get an avocado or two because they almost always are beautifully ripe and delicious.  But there is more that just avocados at La Plaza, there are the fixings for some serious Mexican cooking.

In addition to the staples of any urban market, there is a decent selection of foods used to prepare comida Mexicana.  Past the front counter that has Latino CD’s, calling cards, sodas, and other knick-knacks, three rows split out of the main area.  To the right, there is a plethora of dried chilies… some in big opaque white plastic bins, some in clear plastic jars, some in bags.  Most are marked with the Spanish name of the chile, which makes since because I don’t think there is an equivalent word in English for ‘chipotle’ or ‘poblano;’ these are just the names of the chilies.  Most I didn’t recognize, but it was easy enough to take a peek and, more importantly, a big whiff.  The gentleman that owns the store has advised me in the past of how to use some of the chilies and has also been happy to inform me of the relative spiciness of each chile.

The chipotle, a smoke-dried jalapeño pepper, is my favorite and they are made in an interesting manner.  At the end of the peppers growing cycle, the ultra-ripe red jalapeños are selected to be made into chipotle.  They are placed onto metal racks and moved into a drying chamber where hot wood smoke is drafted over them.  Over the course of a couple days, the jalapeños are impregnated with the smoke and all of the moisture is removed, thus turning the jalapeño into chipotle.

At La Plaza, the aroma of the smoked peppers filled the air as I placed a handful of them into a plastic bag.  Along the same wall as the chilies, there was a tortilla press (my mother got one about a year ago from La Plaza and was instructed on how to use it… my family enjoys fresh tortillas to this day!).  At the end of the short aisle, there is an unassuming display case that holds fresh peppers, tomatillos (for making salsa verde), limes, and cabbages.  Next to that case is a small table that usually has someone cleaning cactus leaves for Cinco de Mayo, the restaurant next door which they also own.  In front of the case are stacks and stacks of fresh corn tortillas from a tortilla shop in Bridgeton, made from both regular corn and blue corn (which taste the same but look dramatically different.)  While I was there, I picked up a package of tortilla.

Also in the back, there is a fridge with sliding doors that houses the avocados as well as queso fresco (a fresh crumbly cheese), cilantro, plum tomatoes, chorizo sausage, and more goodies.  I grabbed an avocado and walked back to the front of the store, through the middle isle, and past the canned chipotle in adobo sauce, various beans, masa harina, and cornhusks.  After paying and bidding ‘adios’ I headed back to the bakery to make some tacos.

Now my tacos are more Mexican than American, since I use the soft corn tortillas and not the crunchy shells, but I do put my own spin on them.  The first task was to get the beans and rice cooking.  I chopped up an onion and a few cloves of garlic and threw them into a pan with hot oil.  One of the chipotles went in as well, which would provide a nice background of spice and smokiness.  It really does make a lovely addition to the rice and beans.  After the onion and garlic softened, I dropped and spoonful of tomato paste into the bottom of the pan and stirred it in along with a bit of cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper.  After a minute or so, a cup of brown rice, two cups of water and a can of black beans went into the pot.  While that simmered, I prepared the tortillas.  They needed to be cooked before eating, and the best way (I learned this from the Mexican line cooks in San Francisco) is to cook them right on the fire of the stovetop.  I turned the burners onto medium, and peeled back the first few tortillas, which are about six inches in diameter.  I placed them directly on the flames, and in a few seconds they began to puff and brown.  I quickly flipped them and toasted the other side.  They only took maybe 30 seconds each, and after toasting, they went into a bowl that I covered with a cloth.  They continued to steam and soften as I prepared the remaining sides.

Everyone can doctor their tacos up however they choose, which is the fun part about them.  On the family table, I laid out a spread of shredded pepper jack cheese, dressed shredded cabbage, organic yogurt (which is more nutritious then sour cream), hot sauce, and lettuce leaves.  The tortillas were unmasked and the rich aroma of toasted corn tortillas floated into the air.  The beans and rice were then uncovered, and savory, smoky, and spicy scents wafted into the air.

We’re lucky to have such a selection of Mexican foods so close at hand.  I always head to La Plaza when I need some Mexican groceries, and I certainly head there to pick up my avocados.  And even though their English isn’t great, the folks that own it always have a smile on their faces and always make me feel welcome, and that’s all the communication I need.

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Farm Fresh Chicken

The feet were interesting.  The more closely I looked at the chicken’s feet, the more I could totally see them being related to dinosaurs, as is the current scientific thought.  They were smooth, scaly and very reptilian looking… much like our friends’ pet snake.  It was fascinating!

Why, you may ask, was I holding a chicken foot?  Well I came into the possession of a chicken recently, and not any supermarket chicken.  This was a chicken that was clucking around the yard that very morning, a chicken that had lived its little chicken life roosting and laying.  This chicken was a throwback to the days in the not-so-distant past when people raised their own animals in the farms that surrounded Vineland.

Sure there’s a nostalgic feeling that I get about eating farm food.  Maybe it’s because I appreciate the flavors of real food, foods that existed before the days of factory farms, red #40, and high fructose corn syrup.  I have heard from a lot of older folks about the way food used to be, not only the culture of eating, but the flavor.  It was different they said, the meat was more rich, but all I could find was the tender and flavorless chicken of today.  I longed to taste real meat; the taste of a chicken that developed flavor is its muscles from using them.  It’s the same idea with beef, as many cooks know.  Tenderloin is tender because it’s a muscle that isn’t used much.  You can cook it fast and hot, right on the grill or in a pan.  But the shank, which is part of the leg and is used extensively, must be cooked low and slow in order for it to become the amazing dish known as osso bucco.

A few weeks ago, my article on eggs was published and shortly thereafter came an offer for an older hen for me to cook.  It was on.  Because a friend of ours, Janice, and I had been talking about this very subject recently, she invited Jill and I, as well as Brittany and Kate, to her apartment for a dinner of roasted chicken.

As the day of our dinner plans approached though, I began to have thoughts that roasting the chicken would not be the ideal cooking method for the chicken that we would be getting.  Since, as I mentioned previously, the chicken was older and had a life lived moving and working the muscles, this hen would need to be slow cooked in a liquid. Stew, soup or something of that nature was in order here.

Two days before our dinner, I heard on The Splended Table (a lovely radio show devoted to good food that comes on at 4pm Saturdays on 89.3), about a gentleman in a similar situation.  He had an older, tougher bird that he didn’t know what to do with.  Coq au Vin was the reply that came from the hostesses mouth, ‘chicken in wine,’ a classic French dish that has been eaten for centuries.  Of course, I thought!

Janice Aseltine chillin'

For Christmas, Jill’s mother got her Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the classic Julia Child tome that helped bring French cooking into the homes of many Americans.  Sure enough, there was a recipe for coq au vin in the poultry section.  I looked it over, and it was nothing too crazy… an older chicken, red wine, tomato paste, garlic, etc.

The day arrived and I went to get the chicken.  I was informed that she was about eight months old as of that day, and had been alive and well only that morning.  This was as fresh as it gets.  I was glad to hear that my intuition was right, and the path that had led me to coq au vin was the right one.  I was told that she wouldn’t be suitable for roasting.  Chicken of this nature was different, not as tender as I was used to, but full of flavor in cooked the right way.

At Janice’s the chicken came out of the bag, and that was when the aforementioned feet came in.  I don’t think I’d ever really seen chicken feet before, which seemed weird because I’d eaten chicken my whole life.  Was I that disconnected to my food that this was the first chicken foot I’d held?

Fortunately, the feet were not attached, and the animal was cleaned out.  Janice got to work breaking it down into the various parts that we would be eating.  She said that she hadn’t broken down a chicken in a while, but it was bringing back memories of her childhood when her family used to raise chicken and her father would do all the intense and precise cuts.

As the recipe required, Kate cut a few strips of bacon into chunks and I rendered the fat out of them in my big stainless steel pot that I don’t use as often as I’d like.  Once the fat was out of the bacon and that unmistakable smell filled the kitchen, I removed the crunchy meaty bits, added a tablespoon of butter (it’s Julia’s recipe, and she does not skimp on the fat!), and added the chicken pieces.  They browned beautifully and I was surprised at the dark color of the meat, another sign of a well-exercised fowl.

I added the bacon pieces back into the pot, covered, and let steam for about ten minutes.  Then into the pot was a splash on whisky (recipe called for cognac…) to deglaze followed by leftover red wine and chicken stock to cover the meat.  Seasoned with a spoonful of tomato paste, thyme, pepper, a bay leaf along with some carrots and celery (not a French addition, but I took a little liberty there).  It came up to a simmer (where it would stay, covered) and it smelled good, although very winey.

After about an hour of simmering, we were hungry!

The coq au vin

The alcohol had cooked off and the winey smell had mellowed into a rich, unctuous aroma.  The chicken pieces had taken on a red wine stained hue, and the sauce had thickened slightly.  I dipped a spoon in to taste, and… it was hot, but oh wow did it taste good.

The potatoes were mashed, the mushrooms and onions were done sautéing, the French bread was sliced, the wine was poured, and the salad was tossed.  I gently took the chicken out of the pot and placed it into a platter.  The braising liquid was strained and thickened with a little roux, and it was then spooned over the chicken.  It smelled so good; we were salivating at the thought of eating. We thanked the chicken for giving its life to us, and we dug in.  Dinner was ready…

Kate Fellows portioning out dessert

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There’s a point in the late fall or early winter that the weather dictates that I change my breakfast routine to one that nixes cold cereal for one that includes hot cereal.  My hot cereal of choice is oatmeal, but not the usual rolled oatmeal. I find the texture of cooked rolled oats to be rather mushy and not very pleasant.  In fact, I believe that this is the main reason why people turn their noses up at the thought of eating oats for breakfast.  What I enjoy is steel-cut oats.

Steel-cut oats are whole oats that are cut, unsurprisingly, with steel blades, which cut them into two or three pieces.  When cooked, they provide a lovely chewy texture that I find much more enjoyable that rolled oats, which are whole oat grains that are steamed and pressed through rollers.  The steaming of the grains pre-cooks them, making the oats easier and faster to cook.

Pre-cooking them though, means that some of the nutrition is lost during that first cooking process.  Any sort of industrial processing generally reducesthenutritive qualities of any food.  Since steel-cut oats are not pre-cooked, the nutritive aspects are preserved.  And the nutritive aspects are plentiful!  Oats are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, many different vitamins and minerals, and they are surprisingly high in protein.  In recent years, oats have gotten a lot of attention for their propensity for lowering cholesterol levels.  Jill’s grandmother claims that one of the reasons for her longevity is the bowl of oatmeal that she eats every morning.  There is no doubt in the health community that eating oats for breakfast is a great way to start the day (assuming of course, that you don’t drown it in too much fat and sugar).

While the disadvantage of rolled oats is the deterioration of nutrition and (at least in my opinion) the undesirable texture, the advantage is the quick cooking time.  That can certainly be helpful in these busy times that we live in.  How is one supposed to eat steel-cut oats for breakfast when they take up to 30 minutes to cook?

Well I’ve got a trick for you, and it’s very easy.  I cook a big pot in the beginning of the week, and heat up a bowlful every morning.  This past weekend, I cooked my first pot of the season.  I put three cups of water on the stove, in a small saucepan.  When it came up to a boil, I put a large pinch of salt and a cinnamon stick in the water and then poured a cup of steel cut oats in the water.  With one the large silver spoons in the drawer, I gave the oats a stir and waited until it came back up to a boil.  While I waited, I sealed up the uncooked oats and put them back into the freezer.  Like other whole grains, they tend to spoil more quickly that refined grains, so freezing them keeps them fresher for longer.

After a few minutes, the oats came back to a rolling boil and thick clouds of steam began to fill the kitchen.  The earthy smell of boiling grains, spiked with the sharp scent of cinnamon rose into my nose and I knew that winter was here.  I put a lid on the pot of oats, turned the flame down to low and set the timer for twenty minutes.  Typically, you can cook steel-cut oats for as little as fifteen minutes all the way up to thirty, but I find that the texture that I prefer cooks in twenty.

The beeping of the timer drew me back into the kitchen, where the oats were spitting thick bubbles onto the lid of the pot.  I gave them a stir; a little had stuck to the bottom of the pot, but they usually do just a bit so there was no cause for concern.  The smell of the oats had changed from a raw grain aroma to a more of a porridge, and it felt thick and filling as I stirred it.  I put the lid back on and let the pot of steel-cut oats cool overnight on the stovetop.  The next morning, I simply scooped all the oatmeal into a container, put a label and date on it (always a good idea and something that has become a habit from my years of working in the restaurant business).

Every morning this week, I will spoon out what oatmeal I want to eat into a bowl.  I personally like soymilk, a touch of butter and a tablespoon or so of maple syrup.  A quick trip to the microwave for a little radar love, and I’ve got a wholesome, healthy breakfast.  Sometimes I’ll put dried fruit or chopped almonds in it; they can be doctored up any way you’d like.

Some say that breakfast in the most important meal of the day, and in the winter, I like to start my day with a bowl of steel-cut oats.  It gives me a nutritious, energy-filled and delicious beginning to my day.  You can find steel-cut oats at your local grocery or health-food store.  Pick some up this week, and give them a chance to become a regular addition to your winter breakfast routine.  You may find that you love them as much as I do!

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Caldo Verde (“Poor Soup”)

Caldo Verde 03Right now, I’m sitting in the kitchen, typing and listening to the spattering of the soup that is bubbling on the stove.  Perhaps I love this time of year so much because I really enjoy cooking and making soup.  There is something so satisfying about eating a warm bowl of soup on a cool evening, especially when it’s made with the last of the fresh local veggies of the season.

It seems as though the stars have aligned for me to cook this particular soup, not only because of the brisk air outside, but because a) I recently got a bag of fresh veggies from our CSA group (community supported agriculture) that Jill and I joined this year and b) I had two of my wisdom teeth out this morning and just about all I can eat is soup!  But the most important reason for my being compelled to cook this soup was because of a chance encounter at the bakery.

Jill and I had been closed for a few hours on Saturday evening when a very nice older woman, Maria I believe was her name, came in with her granddaughter.  I saw them walking towards us from across the street, and as soon as they entered the doorway, the woman asked what I would be doing with the collard greens that were sitting out.  I had just gotten them from the farm that day and, since I don’t have much experience cooking collards, I had been wondering myself how I would prepare them.  She then began to tell me what called, ‘poor soup.’

The nice woman, who had a sharp Portuguese accent, told me about using collard greens in her ‘poor soup.’  She told me that it’s very simple, and at it’s most basic, the soup is simply pureed potato soup with thin slices of collards in it.  Caldo Verde is the proper name for it, and I saw later online that it could be considered a national dish of both Portuguese and Brazilian cuisines!

I could also see she why called it ‘poor soup,’ since it was nothing put cheap ingredients, bulked up with water to stretch the number of people it could feed.  Borcht would be the ‘poor soup’ of Jill’s Grandmom, since beets, cabbage and potatoes are featured prominently (and cheaply) in Ukrainian cooking.

Vegies1Caldo Verde is farm food, which I love so much!  Maria told me how she doctors up the basic soup, maybe a carrot and onion with the potatoes, and always with pieces of a good Portuguese sausage for a little meaty richness and salty boost.

After a few minutes of chatting, Maria’s daughter showed up and after telling me how to properly clean and prepare the collards and feeding me a few stories of ‘poor soup’ she pulled from her memory, the three women purchased the last of the pastries we had left in the case and took off into the evening.

Today though, I’m not feeling well on account of my now-removed wisdom teeth, but Grandmom made me a pot of lentil soup to help me recover.  When I returned from the surgeon’s office this afternoon, I enjoyed the hearty vegetarian lentil soup down to my soul.  Real soul food… Thank you Grandmom!

But then as it got closer to dinnertime, I wanted to make a pot of soup for myself, and ‘poor soup’ seemed the rational choice of what to prepare.  The cool thing about a basic recipe (like Maria’s ‘poor soup’) is that you can add endless amount of variety.  The recipe is so simple, it’s essentially a method and with practice one can prepare all sorts of new dishes.  This is on reason why I love learning about new foods, the foods of different cultures, because once you learn the basics of that cuisine, you can tweak it to make it your own.

Caldo Verde 02Caldo Verde 04In my CSA bag, besides the collards, were a few sweet potatoes and a sweet pepper.  I thought I could chop those up and add them to the potatoes as they simmered, as well as a carrot, an onion, a few cloves of garlic and about a cup of leftover white wine that I had in the fridge.  I also added to a bay leaf, for flavor and to aid in digestion, as well as some salt and pepper.  While that simmered, I prepared the collards by cutting the stems out (too tough), rolling the large deep green leaves into tight bundles like a cigar and then cutting them into thin strips (which is called a chiffonade cut).  I then washed them in the salad spinner and they were ready to be cooked.

The soup was ready at that point, the bubbling had slowed a bit and sounded like the aromatic vegetable broth was thickening.  I quickly and carefully poured the soup into the blender to puree and back into the pot, where I added the collards and let it all simmer for another few minutes (not too long, I was instructed by Maria).  I didn’t have any sausage (I could have used a nice Italian pepperoni or Spanish chorizo if I had either) so it was a vegan soup.  A little EVOO drizzled on top to give it an extra layer of richness, done.  Wholesome, healthy, satisfying and, from the smell coming from the bowl in front of me, very tasty.  Perfect on a cool, fall evening…

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Aunt Joan's Famous Chicken & Dumplings

Aunt Joan's Famous Chicken & Dumplings

My recent article about family recipes being lost to the ages struck a nerve with Jill’s godmother, Aunt Joan. We’d been talking about her chicken and noodles for what seemed like ages, but for whatever reason, we had never made concrete plans to get together over her signature dish. That all changed after the aforementioned article, and so we made plans to get together on a Sunday morning to make her chicken and noodles.

Recipes passed from one generation to the next are treasures

Recipes passed from one generation to the next are treasures

Jill and I arrived in the morning to see that the kitchen was all set up for us. The table was laid out with a large glass top, ready for rolling dough, as well as flour, eggs, salt, baking powder, a big green plastic bowl and a whisk. It was like we walked onto the set of a TV show, since everything was ready for us to cook!
We got right to work making the dough. Joan’s rule of thumb is that the recipe starts with one egg per person, and everything else is based on that. Into the bowl went seven cracked eggs, where each landed with a plop, and a half-teaspoon of baking powder and salt per egg. Joan picked up the large whisk and vigorously but steadily mixed the eggs, baking powder and salt together.
All-purpose flour was then added, roughly a half cup per egg, and this was then mixed by hand into a tight, but fairly moist dough. Unlike grandmom’s pierogi dough from a few weeks ago, Joan did not rest the noodle dough before she rolled it out.
A softball-sized piece of dough was torn from the large mass and a handful of flour was sprinkled onto the glass. The dough ball was placed in the middle of the sprinkled flour, and with the rolling pin, Joan began to flatten the dough into a larger and thinner mass. She seemed to roll it with relative ease, sprinkling more flour when needed, and in a minute or two, the dough was roughly the size of a sheet of newspaper and was just about as thin. Joan then rolled the dough over the rolling pin, transferred it onto a sheet of newspaper on the kitchen counter, and covered it with another sheet.

Stephen learning the art of dumpling making from Aunt Joan

Stephen learning the art of dumpling making from Aunt Joan

After repeating a few times, I asked if I could roll some dough to try it out for myself. That’s the best way to learn after all, to just give it a try! I pulled out a piece of dough and rolled it into a circle, dusting with a surprisingly large amount of flour. When I thought I was done, I was told that it was too thick. I rolled it thinner, and was told, once again… too thick! So I pressed harder and rolled the dough about as thin as it would go, and that ended up being the perfect thickness. That was the key to great noodles, to roll the dough paper-thin.

Jill prepares dumpling dough

Jill prepares dumpling dough

Jill gave it a shot too, and pretty soon we had blown through all the dough, making six or seven large amoeba looking shapes. Now they would rest for the remainder of the morning and into the afternoon before being cut. Now was the time to start the broth.
Out of the fridge came a decent sized whole chicken, which was rinsed off and cleaned out. Aunt Joan then pulled out a huge stockpot into which went the chicken (along with all the innards, aside from the liver). One onion, peeled and cut in half, along with several stalks of celery that were rinsed and cut in half went into the pot. She then added a lot of water, enough to cover the chicken with several inches, as well as parsley, bay leaves, black pepper and salt. She made it a point to tell me that no carrots were added, because she feels that they make the broth too sweet. The fire was turned on under the pot and we went out onto the porch for delicious cafe con leche.
We made plans to return later in the evening, after the noodles had rested for a while and the broth simmered long enough to cook the chicken. Uncle Bill had yard work to do, Joan had errands to run, and Jill and I had a wedding cake to deliver. This is where the story turns interesting!
Jill ended up breaking her pinkie toe in a freak accident and so we had to go to the emergency room. I told Aunt Joan to complete the chicken and noodles without us, so she described to me how she finished everything. The dough was cut in half and then rolled into a tube. She then cut the tubes into inch thick slices, and fluffed the noodles together with flour so they didn’t stick. The chicken came out of the broth, as did any large pieces of celery or onion, and the chicken was shredded and put aside. To the broth, she added a jar of brown gravy (for body), and then she slowly added the noodles, stirring as they fell into the steaming broth. She then cooked the noodles for about twenty minutes.

Aunt Joan puts the finishing touches on the broth

Aunt Joan puts the finishing touches on the broth

Since Jill and I had been saving ourselves for dinner, and our time in the emergency room dragged on and on, we were incredibly hungry by the time we got home. We were relieved and thankful that a small pot of chicken and noodles was waiting for us on the stove. My mother-in-law had brought them from Aunt Joans for us, and dinner never tasted so good! The noodles and puffed up and thickened the broth. Pieces of shredded chicken gave it a little texture. It was comfort food at it’s finest, and I’m glad that this family tradition was been passed onto us, the next generation.

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