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Welcome to my blog. This is a place where, as time allows, I will post comments, inspirational words, favorite things and short essays about daily life. I get to meet and interview interesting people through my job, so why not share some of it with all of you? If you like what you see, please forward a link to your friends and family.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Just noodling around

Eldora Cleland, the matriarch of my husband's family, died this year, but the many traditions she created will live on. Anyone who knows her knows these things: her family always came first, nothing but made-from-scratch food ever made it to her table, and there wasn't a card game you could beat her at.

This post is about one of her food traditions: homemade egg noodles, which were present at a majority of meals she made. Not a holiday or family reunion passed without a pot of her noodles laced with chunks of chicken. (Just as an aside, every time she made noodles she also made an angel food cake because the egg noodles are made with egg yolks only and she refused to throw away the whites. So, the egg whites were always turned into an angel food cake which she slathered with homemade white frosting.)

For years I've said that I wanted Eldora to teach me to eat her egg noodles. But every visit to Indiana (spring or summer) or Florida (fall or winter) passed without her teaching me this Cleland-Cowen family tradition.

So when my in-laws, Peggy and Dick Cowen, visited at Thanksgiving, I asked my mother-in-law to finally teach me the zen of noodles. It wasn't hard, and we made 3 or 4 batches, cooking one for dinner one night and saving the rest for me to make for Christmas Day.

Here's the recipe:

5 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
A few drops of yellow food coloring (optional)
2 tablespoons milk
2/3 cup flour

Rather than give you straight instructions, I'll embellish a bit with family lore.

Start by beating together the egg yolks, salt, food coloring and milk. The food coloring is totally optional; it won't really change the flavor of the noodles at all. Eldora bought yellow food coloring by the quart and used it in many dishes. Her theory was that it made foods look rich and buttery and -- in addition to the fact that she was a wonderful cook -- she claimed that it was the secret to everyone thinking her cooking was the richest they'd ever tasted.

As a nod to this wonderful woman, I'll always add food coloring to any noodles I make. You, however, can consider them optional.

After you beat these ingredients together with a fork, start adding the flour a little at a time until it forms a ball. It should come together quickly into a ball that isn't sticky. Work it with your hands, folding the dough underneat, tucked in until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough no longer has an elastic feel.

Lay out waxed paper to cover a broad area of your kitchen counter and dust with flour. Roll out the dough, working from the center out, until the sheet of dough is very thin. Allow it to dry for 90 minutes to two hours, flipping it over occasionally so it will dry evenly.

Then cut the dough into strips about one inch wide. Stack the strops and slice into very thin noodles.

When you're ready to cook them, cook in chicken broth and add chicken to suit your family's tastes. Many families prefer beef with noodles, like mine did. But the Cleland-Cowen family always had chicken in their noodles, and since this is about Eldora's famous noodles, we'll just leave it at that.

You can make several batches at once and freeze them; they'll last several weeks in a resealable bag in the freezer.


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