Thursday, August 19, 2010

Comfort food

Everyone knows what "comfort food" is, though your comfort food is likely different from mine. I think what most comfort foods have in common is that they are warm, rich, but not highly seasoned and probably involve childhood memories and family recipes. Also they seem to be largely white. (I have a friend whose favorite comfort food is noodles in cream sauce over mashed potatoes!)   Mashed potatoes with lots of butter is comfort food for me. Also tapioca pudding and banana milkshakes. But probably my favorite is chicken with homemade noodles. My mother made this when anyone was sick, injured, blue or was coming home from the hospital. I made it yesterday to take to my daughter's. She brought baby Marco home yesterday.

Why homemade noodles, you ask? Well, because they are so good. Nothing you can buy in a store is remotely the same. As noodles go, they are probably not what gourmet noodle makers strive for. They are big, thick, doughy and chewy. Maybe part dumpling, part noodle. What you see above doesn't look like much, but it is plenty for a large pot of chicken soup. They swell when they cook.

When Ray and I got married we discovered that our mothers did not cook the same at all. My mother was an adventurous, enthusiastic cook. Ray's mother did not enjoy cooking much and had a small and basic repertoire. What they had in common, we discovered, was homemade noodles and chicken. They made it exactly the same way, and for each of us it was one of our favorite comfort meals. Yesterday when I took it to my daughter's her husband said, "my mother used to make this!" So I guess even in South America comfort food is comfort food. Maybe everyone's mother made chicken and homemade noodles—?

In the event that your mother was the exception, here's how you do it:
Mix enough flour into two raw eggs, along with about a tsp of salt, to make a very stiff dough. If you end up with too much flour and the dough doesn't hold together, add a few drops of water. Otherwise, no water. On a floured board or pastry cloth, pat the dough down as flat as you can, then roll with a rolling pin to get it as thin as you can. It will not want to get very thin, but persevere until it is about 1/16th inch thick. Cut it into strips, separate the strips and leave them on the board or cloth for a couple hours to dry. They don't have to be completely dry when you cook them. Ray's mom had a way of rolling the dough, like a cinnamon roll and slicing it to make the noodle strips. My mother just ran the tip of a knife through the dough to make strips. That's what I did until I discovered how slick a pizza cutter works to cut the noodles—not unlike cutting fabric strips with a rotary cutter.

While the noodles are drying boil a whole chicken in a large pan of water, with a bay leaf if you have it, until the legs start to fall off and the meat is tender—probably a couple of hours. Remove the chicken from the broth to cool. Skim most of the fat and debris from the broth—sometimes I strain it if it has a lot of foamy gunk in it. Add carrots, celery and onions. Any or all, as much as you like. Simmer. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove it from the bone and return to the broth. I like large chunks. Add herbs if you like. I like basil in mine. When the vegetables are tender toss the noodles into the pot and cook for about 15 minutes or until they seem cooked and no longer taste like raw flour. That's it. That's the way my mother made chicken and noodles, which is the way her grandmother made them.

P.S. Peach pie is good for dessert.


  1. Now, the peach pie would be my comfort food!

  2. Can't wait for the weather to cool and the chicken soup to boil...

  3. My mom used to make chicken and noodles too, but in a very different way. Next time I do it, I'll post it on my blog.

  4. Everyone I know makes chicken and dumplings. And the stock gets very thick.

    my mother made the most god awful, grey scummy soup. I hated it. I make deconstructed soup. I simmer everything together and then separate it all into bowls of carrot, chicken, noodles etc. All the members of my family like soup "different" from the next.

    I have never made the noodles for soup but have made dumplings. I have to try your recipe.

  5. Not my mom, but every time my Great Gramma came for a visit, we had chicken and noodles. GG did the homemade noodles and used a broom handle between chairs to dry them on. *S*

    We lived on a farm so it was a very fresh chicken......never tasted anything that even came close.

  6. Oh, YUM! Makes me hungry for my Mamaw's chicken-and-dumplings, which she basically made the same way. I love the pizza-cutter idea!

  7. For me, the comfort food is hash browns. Stress at work? Lunch at IHOP!

    I'm definitely holding onto your recipe, though - Mr. W & I usually end up cooking 3-5 large turkeys during the fall & winter, but we rarely turn the 'bits' into soup. 2010 may just be The Year Of The Floating Turkey!

  8. I chuckled when I read "white food" as that in fact is my crutch. I always say "I've never met a white food I haven't liked" Or monochromatic food such as Thanksgiving dinner. I doubt I would ever be able to make noodles but this looks do-able! Thanks
    We want Baby pictures!

  9. My mother was more like Ray's; she had a limited repertoire. But when it came to chicken noodle soup, she opened a can of Campbell's.

    I love that the Ecuadorian side of the family makes chicken and noodles, too!

  10. Oh that does sound very good and comforting! I'm going to have to try it this winter....I'm wondering if we'll ever have cool enough weather that I'll want to stew a chicken in a pot inside the house again? The gas grill is my best friend these days! have the best recipes!


  11. congrats on the newest addition to the family!
    And thanks for the comfort food. Mine is home made mac and cheese, or chicken and dumplings, I'll have to try your noodles next time. My mother did not cook well but I do and so does M. Real food trumps all.\p.s. you write so well... color me green.

  12. That sounds wonderful. My mom is like Ray's mom only she didn't do noodles. I LOVE cooking but haven't made homemade noodles, so thank you for sharing.

  13. Anonymous7:14 PM

    I am making these as soon as it cools off! It is great to have a vouched-for version. One of my mom's friends always made these when we visited their family-- I looked forward to it and would always beg to have them. They were dumpling-like compared to store-bought, so I can't wait to try this!


  14. funny, I don't like any kind of traditional comfort food. Mine is a burrito. And I'm just a white girl, so no cultural connotations. But a burrito will cure a headache, pms, anger/upset and depression. And it helps with lack of sleep. It's a wonder food...for me.