When I told God, “I’m all yours today,” his plan surprised me. Now I had a kitchen counter covered with flour, a sink full of carrot peelings, a bubbling pot of chicken soup on the burner, and friends for lunch.
It started with a surprise visit from my friend Jeff. He was in the neighborhood while his wife attended a Bible study for a few hours.
“Stop by,” I said. “But you’ll have to go with me to the grocery store.”
Jeff pushed the cart through the produce aisle. I tossed him some colorful bell peppers, which he barely caught in his big paws and placed in the cart.
Jeff often calls me “wascally”—like Elmer Fudd to Bugs Bunny—and I aim to live up to it. Now on the lookout for further shenanigans, Jeff expertly fielded my next pass: a bag of Brussel sprouts.
As Jeff and I traipsed up and down the aisles, we brainstormed for something we could make for lunch when his wife joined us later. Chicken soup won.
I almost tossed a bag of store-brand egg noodles into the grocery cart when Jeff remarked, “I’ve always wanted to make homemade noodles. I’ll have to get to it someday.”
“Why not today?” I asked.
And that is why we were currently covered in laughter and flour.
Making noodles with Jeff reminded me of my own kids sitting at the counter. Giggles and clouds of flour filled the kitchen as little hands created “pierogis” from leftover noodle dough and little cinnamon-sugar pies from pie crust scraps. As the kids grew, they enjoyed inventing new recipes in competition with their cousins, letting the adults decide whose dish was the most extravagantly delicious.
Today, Jeff and I were experimenting like kids.
Jeff is brilliant. He used to drive a 33,000 pound truck with 10 forward speeds and 2 in reverse. He contemplates the mysteries of the universe. He reads avidly and is building a harp from scrap lumber. Jeff’s hands instinctively move along the frets of a bass guitar, picking out new songs by ear. Back in the day, he even scored 1300 on his SATs!
Today, Jeff’s very capable hands were kneading noodle dough.
“I tell my wife, ‘Don’t leave me alone in the kitchen,’” Jeff joked. “She is living dangerously when she does that.”
Approaching something new, like a child, is not foreign to this man. He reminds me often to relax and be a kid—especially a kid in my heavenly Father’s arms.
“Whoops! It’s sticking together!” Jeff exclaimed as sticky squares of dough attached themselves to each other and then to his hands. His laugh sounds a little like a child and makes me feel a lot happy.
And so we washed, peeled, chopped, dumped, stirred, tasted, and reveled in the beauty of that pot of chicken soup with fresh noodles. His wife loved it! So did my husband. And in the process, Jeff learned how to make noodles.
You’re never too old. Do something new.
Jeff’s Chicken Soup
(Serves 6 to 8)
Note: It’s convenient to make noodle dough in a food processor or pasta machine. But sometimes you just need to get your hands messy. Here is our recipe, in case you are having one of those times.
For the soup:
- 1 ½ lb. boneless chicken thighs
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 leek
- 3 large carrots (We used orange and purple!)
- 4 stalks celery
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 c. fresh parsley
- 1 T. herbs de Provence
- ½ t. sage
- 1 t. rosemary
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 2 c. water
- 1 c. frozen corn
For the noodles:
- 2 c. flour, plus extra for kneading
- ½ t. salt
- 3 T. water
- 2 eggs
- Salt, pepper to taste
Warm olive oil in a 5-quart (or larger) soup pot over medium heat. Cut chicken thighs into chunks. Add to the pot, stirring chicken to cook on all sides.
Wash and dice the leek, trimming off the woody, dark green portion of the stem. Peel and slice the carrots. Wash and slice the celery. Peel and mince garlic. Add all vegetables to the pot, along with the chicken. Stir and sauté for five minutes more.
Chop parsley and add to the pot, along with dried herbs. Pour in both quarts of stock plus 2 cups water. Add frozen corn. Bring soup to a simmer. Turn heat down to low and cook for 20-30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, make noodles. Mound two cups of flour and salt on a clean counter. Make a 3-inch well in the center. Crack eggs into the well and add the water.
Whisk eggs and water with a fork. Begin to work little bits of flour into the egg mixture. Pull the flour into the well with your fork. Continue until mixture begins to resemble a soft, spongy dough.
Now work with your hands. Knead the dough to incorporate most if not all of the flour. Dough will be smooth and soft, like children’s Play-Doh! Shape pasta dough into a disk. Allow dough to rest for about 15 minutes.
Dust counter with flour. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Score the dough vertically and horizontally with a pastry wheel or knife, making 1-inch “pot pie” noodles. Gently lift noodles from the counter—watch that they don’t stick together!—and drop them into the bubbling soup pot.
Boil soup for about 10 minutes more, until noodles are tender. Taste soup and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve up a steaming bowl for yourself, your family, or some grateful guests.
Introducing: Herbs de Provence
Originating in the Provencal region of France, herbs de Provence are a mixture of fresh or dried herbs. The blend may vary; however, the most popular ingredients tend to be thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, tarragon, mint, chervil, fennel seed, savory, rosemary, and lavender. The complex, herbaceous flavor of herbs de Provence is delicious with grilled, roasted, or stewed meats and vegetables.