Comfort Food and Grandma’s Chicken & Noodles

Dear Joey,

I deserve an award for making it through the day yesterday on very little sleep, only one cup of coffee, three poopy diapers, one vomiting baby, an unexpected bout of loneliness, and facing one of my fears–all done without crying.

It all started when Mia got up super early and didn’t want to go back down until Addie woke up. I’m telling you–they’re out to get us, Joey. They’re testing our resilience, and some days, I’m convinced I’m failing.

But as I’ve told you many, many times (when you ask why in the world I start buzzing around the kitchen before finishing a proper cup of coffee), I wake up to the day much better if I just keep moving. Yesterday was no different. But boy, did I choose the wrong thing to keep me occupied. It seemed to curse me all day long, it’s fragrance mocking my efforts and making me come this close to declaring myself a vegetarian.

Grandma’s Chicken & Noodles. Sounds innocent enough, right? In some ways, it is. And my memory of it takes me back to more innocent times of my life when a simple bowl of those plump, juicy noodles set down in front of me made me feel that the world was an ok place to be.

Growing up, it was Grandma who was the master of Chicken & Noodles, although my mom made it for us on several occasions. Still, Grandma’s version always tasted a little bit better than Mom’s (I’m sure my mom would agree with me). But Grandma, when we asked for her secret on how to make it, would apologize for the way it always turned out, frustrated that the noodles soaked up all the broth. (Told you I come by it honestly.) But I digress.

The recipe was simple enough: boil a chicken, cook the noodles in the broth, shred the chicken, add it to the noodles and ta-da! You’ve got Chicken & Noodles. A simple, kid-friendly dish that fit right into my current plan for getting Addie to eat more than just chicken nuggets or PB&J. Yesterday was the perfect day to do it, too, since we  were up early and didn’t have plans to leave the house. (Simple as the dish is, it takes a bit of time.)

Perhaps it was my sleep-deprived state that made me stupid enough to think I could face my fear of chicken on the bone and tolerate working with a whole chicken. Then again, being sleep-deprived could be responsible making me more sensitive to working with a whole chicken. Maybe it was both.

In any case, touching a raw, whole chicken and putting it in the pot was hard, but it wasn’t anything compared to taking the meat off the bone. I’ll spare the grisly details, but let’s just say that when (if?) I make Chicken & Noodles again, I will not be doing it the way Grandma always did it.
Truth be told that when it came time for Addie to eat the finished product for dinner, I couldn’t blame her for not really wanting to eat it. After working with a chicken on the bone, I was so grossed out that I had a hard time even watching her eat it.  (Sorry, Grandma. I’m not made of the the same stuff you are.)

At first, I thought she liked it. After the first bite, she declared, “Good. More?” After just two more (small) bites, though, she refused to even look at the stuff anymore. And then, of course, she threw a fit when I took away her bowl. One of the many joys of having a toddler.

Oh well. There are worse things than a child not eating the meal you slaved over all day. Like having the sort of day that makes you realize how badly you need a friend around, the kind who is close enough (and willing) to come over and de-bone a chicken for you when you just don’t have the stomach to do so, or who would scrub baby vomit from the living room floor while you rocked the over-tired baby to sleep, or who would even just come over to bring you an Iced Soy Chai Tea Latte because she could hear it in your voice that you were desperate for one when she talked to you for the fourth time that day.

That’s why after both girls were in bed and the house was finally cleaned up and quiet, I told you that I didn’t know about you, but I was having popcorn for dinner.

Lucky for me, you said that sounded good to you, too.


Grandma’s Chicken & Noodles

This dish is really a simple chicken noodle soup in which the noodles have absorbed all the broth. Apparently Grandma didn’t intend for the noodles to do so the first time she made it, but it was a happy accident that resulted in one of her classic recipes. There aren’t any veggies in the original, but you could easily add some if you wanted to (I added peas to ours, and it turned out quite good).

Although not the way Grandma did it, you could really use about four chicken breasts if you don’t have the stomach for working with a whole chicken. It won’t have the same amount of fat in it (and thus, it will change the richness of flavor), but on the upside, it would be lower in fat.

1 whole chicken
1 pkg. egg noodles
Put the chicken in a large pot; cover with water. Give the water a good bit of salt, and bring it to a boil. Simmer the chicken for at least 1 1/2 hours. When it’s done, remove the chicken and strain the liquid, reserving the broth. Do not skim off the fat.
Return about 4 cups of broth to the pot. Bring to a boil and add the noodles. Boil for about 10 minutes, then turn down the heat and let the noodles simmer until they absorb all the liquid. 
Meanwhile, once the chicken has cooled, shred the meat. Add all of it to the noodles. Add salt & pepper to taste. Add frozen peas (or other vegetables) if desired.