You’ve all heard about my Pennsylvania German grandmother, who, as the song Billy Boy goes, could “bake a cherry pie quick as a cat can blink her eye.” It is hard not to think of her at this time of year, or anytime, really, when cooking or digging into a whole lot of traditional but high-quality food.
Beyond the endless baking and holiday foods, one thing I always associate with my grandmother is egg noodles—with gravy. This is what we usually had growing up as an accompaniment to goulash (meat stew) or pot roast. The pot roast or goulash had lots of rich, beefy, tomato-tinged gravy that would be ladled out of the pot onto the noodles. It was great with the meat. But what I really loved was the next day, when the meat was all gone, but there was leftover gravy, and you could have a meal of the noodles and gravy all alone. This held true for leftover gravy from a chicken or, of course, turkey. You see where I’m going.
I will not be cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, or any part of it. I tried to calculate back how long it has been since I’ve not prepared the entire Thanksgiving meal or, on the rare occasion, a major contribution to it. I think it is 30 years.
So I am not going to have turkey gravy. But you probably will, and I encourage you to have some of it over some tender egg noodles. And even though I won’t have gravy, I do have some excellent chicken stock in the freezer. So when I saw some homemade egg noodles at the farmer’s market, made by a Tennessee Amish community, I bought them, partly from wonder that they existed here. Who knew? Apparently, the Amish have been migrating from strongholds like Pennsylvania to the South, with Kentucky, Tennessee, and even Texas among their final destinations. Seeing their stand of baked goods, eggs, butter, and these noodles at the farmer’s market was like seeing a mini version of my beloved Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. And of course, reminded me of my grandmother’s food.
I made some of these noodles for my dinner last night, very plain. Instead of thickening with flour into a gravy, I just made a light sauce by caramelizing some onions and reducing good homemade stock down until it thickened a bit. Not like good gravy, but good.
Noodles and apples go nicely together. I happened to have some gravensteins and a local variety, Arkansas Black, on hand, and made some apple sauce and a crisp with the extras—a fitting dessert for the plain noodles. Grandma would have approved.
These noodles were about the size of fettucine. For true noodles and gravy, I like a broad egg noodle. Two reliable brands are Mueller’s and Pennsylvania Dutch. Of course, you can make your own, too. Just cook til tender, and pour the hot gravy over.
For a lighter facsimile:
Heat until bubbling 1 tea olive oil and 1 T butter
Add ¼ cup good homemade chicken stock, reduce heat to medium and cook til most of it is absorbed. Repeat twice more (another ½ cup), each time reducing a little less, then add a final ¼ cup stock, for a total of 1 cup, reducing just a little; you should have enough sauce to toss with 6-7 oz of noodles, or for two servings. Garnish with chopped parsley.