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Noodling Around

Noodling Around

It's been a long time since I've given this blog any attention. Honestly, I hate to admit it, but the main reason was because I couldn't FIND the thing! I just converted the publishing tools from Blogger to Google+. I don't really know anyone who regularly uses Google+, but I'm tied into Android via my DROID phone and Kindle Fire, so at least it's an interface that I can access easily from several sources.

Okay, back to cooking: it's all about noodles around here right now. For the past several weeks, my husband Jeff and I have had the pleasure of having my best friend from childhood join us for dinner on Monday evenings. She lives almost 100 miles from us, so it was a real treat to get to see her so often during the past month. Her visits motivated us to clean our condo and to kick the cooking up a few notches.

On my friend's first Monday night visit, we had chicken and noodles made with canned chicken broth and leftover chicken that I had oven-roasted on a beer can (aka beer butt chicken) the day before. We also had some terrible, leftover, day-old Pillsbury biscuits that I was almost ashamed to serve, but they worked in a pinch. All criticism aside, however, it was a pretty tasty meal.

By the following Sunday, Jeff and I had seen at least two shows on the Food Network involving roasted chicken and/or homemade chicken stock, and even a couple with hand-rolled noodles. We expanded our guest list to include Jeff's long-time best friend, who hadn't seen my friend since the late 1990's, and I made a few tweaks that made the second attempt at the Monday same meal oh-so-much tastier! Here's what I did:

I set it, but I didn't forget it.

On Sunday, I dug our much-neglected Showtime Rotisserie oven out of my pantry and generously seasoned a 4+ pound chicken with Emeril's All Natural Chicken Rub. The chicken rub had been sitting unused and untried in my spice cabinet for I don't know how long. I then did a very amateur job of trussing the chicken with food-safe elastic bands (an absolute must if you're roasting poultry in a rotisserie - the bird moves around a lot on its own after a few spins in that hot oven), and I slid the chicken onto the roasting spit, praying for the best.

I set the timer on the rotisserie, and then waited for the magic to happen. Note that I did not say Ron Popeil's famous sales slogan, "set it and forget it." As the literature that comes with the oven warns throughout: Do not take set it and forget it literally! You really could burn your house down fairly easily, especially if you don't tie up your bird like it's going to star in a bondage video. Loose chicken fat making contact with hot heating elements is a recipe for disaster - and for flames shooting out of your nifty kitchen gadget.

Once the chicken was cooked to perfection, and the house smelled absolutely delicious, Jeff and I fought over and chowed down on the crisp, golden brown skin, the wings, and a little of the ample amount of breast meat. After it cooled down a little, we pulled all of the meat off of the bird and stored it in the 'fridge for the following day.

Next, I did something that I'm kind of embarrassed to say I've never done before: I emptied all of the rich, fatty, wonderful drippings from the rotisserie roasting pan into a stock pot, along with about 1 and a half gallons of water, some carrots, onions, garlic, two cubes of chicken bouillon, the carcass of our stripped, roasted bird, and the uncooked neck and giblets that I had pulled out of the bird and saved in the refrigerator for this occasion. I brought the concoction to a boil, then reduced the heat low, and simmered the it for about four hours, until it cooked down to a deep, rich stock that I strained and set stored in the 'fridge for the following day's feast.

I took advantage of the time I had on Sunday, to make time to share with my company on Monday.

Making noodles from scratch is easy; but, it's a messy, time-consuming pain in the rear. It's the last thing you want to be doing after working all day on a night that you have company coming. So, while the chicken stock was simmering nearby, I beat two eggs with three egg shells full of water and a couple of dashed of salt, then gradually added all purpose flour until it formed a dough that was no longer sticky. I divided the dough in half  and kneaded each half on my generously floured kitchen counter, and rolled the dough as flat as possible with my vintage, wood rolling pin. I paused at one point to wield the rolling pin over my head like a light sabre or battle axe and danced around the kitchen to entertain Jeff, but other than that, I was all business. With my hands, I rolled the flattened dough from end to end cut it into noodles, which I then unrolled and let dry for about 20 minutes before storing them loosely in a large zip-topped plastic bag.

While I had the flour out to make the noodles, I also measured and combined the following dry ingredients into a quart-sized zip-topped plastic bag for my grandma's recipe for homemade biscuits:
2 cups flour,
3/4 tsp. salt, and
3 tsp. baking powder.

Monday - Time to throw it all together and make a feast.

When I got off work on Monday my husband's friend was already at our house, but he was down in the basement "man cave" with Jeff playing video games, so it was like I had the house to myself. I did the following in the hour before my friend arrived for dinner:

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for the biscuits. I took the chicken and chicken stock out of the fridge and put the stock back in the stock pot, combined it with a can of chicken broth (next time I make my own stock, I'll use more water to try to make more finished stock), and turned the burner up to high to bring it to a boil.

I emptied the bag of dry biscuit ingredients I prepared the night before into a bowl and cut in 1/4 a cup of shortening until coarse in appearance, then I added 3/4 a cup of milk, stirring just enough to hold the ingredients together. Next, I turned the mixture out onto my floured kitchen counter, kneaded it gently, careful not to work the dough too much, and patted it to 1/2 inch thickness. I used a biscuit cutter to cut eight biscuits, and placed them edge to edge in an ungreased 9-inch cake pan and baked them for 15 minutes (Your oven might bake these just fine in as few as 12 minutes; my oven tends to run on the cool side.)

While the biscuits were baking, I emptied my bag of noodles into the boiling chicken broth/stock. After about five minutes, I added the pieces of chicken and brought the mixture back up to a boil for another 15 minutes before lowering down to the lowest setting. By this time, Jeff and his friend had emerged from the man cave and my friend had arrived.

The best part.

They all sat down at our kitchen table. I placed a basket full of hot biscuits on the table and served the chicken and noodles in bowls with a fork and spoon (there was quite a debate over which utensil was better for eating them with). To say this version was better than the one served the week before would be the biggest understatement ever! The starchy homemade feast was topped off with some brownies that prepared from a box mix that I'll spare you the details on, because there isn't much to say about it, except that it was sweet and did the trick.

The meal was followed by a couple of games of UNO. Yes, it was that wild of a night! There was a prolonged discussion over how our definition of partying has evolved (devolved?) since we all got together in our twenties about twenty years ago.



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