Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Use Your Noodle

Way back when - say the 1940's - Mom was told by her boss to "use your noodle, Mary Catherine" - and I do believe, ever since, she has. She also regularly makes them.
Today, another cold and snowy day, while the wind is gusting into the 30's and the snow passes the window like white smoke, Mom is making dough, gazing out the window to the winter scene before her. Here in the kitchen all is warm and well.
Mom makes a recipe called "Shaker Noodles" from a cookbook entitled The Shaker Cook Book circa 1953. It's a pretty simple dough: flour, salt, margarine, water and an egg. After the dough is made and rolled thin on a pastry cloth, she gives it time to dry somewhat before she cuts it into think strips: noodles! [see the end of this entry for the recipe]

This noodle, I should say, was a great favorite of our Schnauzer's (Ginger). Mom would also make the dog a bowl and she would lap them up and then stand waiting for her beard to be washed. She knew you didn't eat and run! There she would stand, gobbling the noodles. Then we'd hear silence while she stood and waited for the dreaded wash.
But let it be said, Dad and I love the noodles as much as Ginger.

Mom cuts thin noodles with a large knife. Where that thing came from, I don't know, but
sure looks dangerous. I'd expect that knife to be a good prop should someone ever want to stage "Three Blind Mice".

Initially the dough looks like this. She rolls it quite thin and then lets it air dry for a couple of hours. The recipe calls for 15 minutes but Mom's never found that satisfactory. The house is cool and the dough looses its stickiness in that time frame.

And here are the final noodles which Mom holds aloft. The resultant noodle soup - vegetarian, of course - will be our meal tomorrow. Ah, to have something like this to look forward to. Isn't hope a prime ingredient in the best of recipes and the finest days?

Shaker Noodles [The Shaker Cook Book, Caroline Piercy, 1953]
1 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soft butter
1 egg
3 tablespoons water
Sift flour onto baking board. From a well in center of flour put in salt, butter, egg and water. Work into a stuff dough. Divide into three portions and roll each very thin. Place rolled dough on napkins and let dry about 15 minutes. Then stack one on top of the other and roll like jelly roll cake. Cut into very fine slices with sharp knife. Let dry a few minutes and boil in salted water. This makes a good substitute for potatoes. Serve with creamed meat or fish. They are also good when boiled or fried and smothered with onions.
Mary Whitcher's Shaker Housekeeper

Now that you've read the original, word for word, let me add some notes from Mom. She merely makes the dough as noted but on a pastry cloth (no napkins!) and generally as a single piece. If it's too wide, she may cut it in half but she doesn't layer the dough. The dough is allowed to rest before slicing into noodles (it would stick to the knife otherwise) and then she always allows the cut noodles to dry overnight, right on the pastry cloth. She never immediately cooks the noddles. The next day, the noodles can be placed in a plastic bag and frozen for use later. And of course we'd never serve the noodles with meat of any kind. The noodles can be seasoned just as well with a vegetarian bouillon (such as Knorr).