Everybody loves to eat. Especially during this season of the cool down when we all want to give in to those animal instincts telling us to stock up and hibernate.
Yes, everyone loves food. Even those of us who have been known to use our ovens for storage have a dish we try to re-create from our childhood—grandmother’s oatmeal cookies, aunt’s pickles, mother’s secret homemade mac and cheese that turned out was just Velveeta with a little milk over fancy noodles.
And out here, where the coyotes howl outside our window, the grocery store is a good thirty miles away and delivery is not an option unless you are planning on paying a serious fee, we count on those familiar favorite recipes to bring us together around a dinner table, in one room, under the vast prairie sky.
Hey, just because we get more dirt on our clothes and poop on our shoes than the rest of civilization doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy a fine dining experience.
So we make our own.
Well, “we” may not be the most honest term here.
Because, like my good friend Napoleon Dynamite, I have some sweet skills…cat scouting skills, Internet surfing skills, guitar skills, horse hairdressing skills, and the most practiced and honed skill of all…eating. Passionate eating.
I am good at eating.
But not so good at cooking…unless I have specific instructions and an entire day and a half to plan it out and execute a recipe. And by then I’m usually too tired from the effort of it all and too full from sampling each ingredient that I have no wish to eat again for another solid, well….ummm….thirty to forty minutes.
No, I have little patience for food that doesn’t come directly from a box.
So although I can’t provide you with life-changing recipes that you will pass on from generation to generation (unless you wish to pass down that mac and cheese recipe, then I’m all in), I can give you something better.
Yes, much, much better.
See I know someone who doesn’t say much. He’s skilled and handsome and very, very tolerant. An unlikely character who knows cooking because he honed his skills alongside a woman who honed her skills alongside a woman who put heart and flour and some of that wholesome German-Russian discipline into her food.
Yup, he knows cooking.
So I married him.
Oh, husband has recipes, secret recipes that he has sharpened and perfected and put his own, rugged twist on. He has them tucked up under his hat and they come out of him in all of this lovely, delicious and oh so soul warming, buttery and carbohydrate loaded food that makes me weak in the knees. And then I promptly lay down in bed, pull the covers over my head knowing that I could die in my sleep and my last meal would be the best meal of my life.
Ok, I’m a little dramatic perhaps, but he does cook….really, really well.
We can all thank his momma for this.
And you can thank me and number one skill—persuasion—for getting him to agree to let me follow him around our tiny kitchen and document his every move.
Yup, my mad skills come in handy.
So hold on to your ladles as I present to you the first installment of—
A Cowboy In the Kitchen: Recipes and philosophy from the epitome of man—the cowboy. Expect heartiness. Expect butter. Expect meat. Expect robust flavors. Expect bad grammar. Expect a mess.
But please, don’t expect diet food.
Homemade Knoephla Soup with Chicken (cause a cowboy’s gotta get his protein)
And before we go any further, the cowboy wants you to know that this doesn’t have to be pretty. And it ain’t gonna be quick. Soup is about the process; so hang in for the long haul and don’t get hung up on meticulous measuring. There will no measuring spoons or cups, but a lot of pinches, dashes and shakes.
The only spoon you need is your taste test spoon. Use it often for best results.
And last but not least…
The #1 rule of soup. You can always add to it, but you can’t take it back.
Mooooving right along.
Cast of characters:
- A Cowboy
- A good attitude (no bitchin’ in the kitchen)
- 3 to 5 ice cubes
- Your favorite whiskey
- Six chicken drumsticks or three chicken leg quarters, thawed
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 4 medium potatoes
- 6-8 green onions
- 4 large carrots
- Half and Half
- Chicken Base or Bouillon Cubes
- Bay leaves
- Celery Salt
(Yup, I know what you’re thinking, that’s a lot of spices. But, didn’t John Wayne say something about trust?) Anyway.
- One brother-in-law who will smell this from his camper in the yard and come over to see what’s cookin’
Step 1: Prepare
- Put the ice cubes in your favorite glass
- Pour desired amount of whiskey over the cubes
- Take a drink
(This is not optional)
Step 2: The Broth
- Put as much water in to the pot as you want soup broth. (Too much is better than not enough. A cowboy’s logic in the kitchen and in life. )
- Place chicken and bay leaves into the water
- Add a two fingered pinch of rosemary and a sprinkle of salt
- Bring to a gentle boil
- Continue boiling until the chicken is cooked through–approximately 1/2 hour, but the longer the better, as the point is to cook the flavor out of the chicken to create a tasty broth.
Now kick back in your favorite recliner, sip some more whiskey and wait.
- Once the chicken is cooked to your liking, remove it from the pot and skim the excess fat off the top of the water
- Season the broth with:
- A sprinkle of salt
- A pinch of minced garlic
- A couple shakes of basil
- A couple shakes of celery salt
- A pinch of thyme (Cowboy’s not sure what this is, but puts it in anyway ‘cause it sounds fancy)
- A generous couple shakes of parsley
- 3 tablespoons of chicken base (or several bullion cubes)
Waft the soup up to your nose to get a good whiff. Smells delicious. Add more seasoning if you wanna.
And while you’re at it why don’t you take another sip of whiskey
Step 3: Soup contents
- Remove the skin from the chicken and pull meat from the bone. Cut into bite sized pieces
- Peel and dice four medium sized potatoes
- Slice four large carrots
- Dice 6-8 green onions
- And…a half a stick of butter (optional. If you’re feeling diety, you can skip it, but it sure makes it tasty)
Add all above ingredients to the soup and continue cooking on low heat until the potatoes are tender. About 20 minutes.
mmmm…it smells good in here…I’m stttaaaarrrrvvvviiinnngggg…..
In the meantime…the best part…
Step 4: The knoephla
- Mix one egg with a cup of milk
- Add a dash of salt and stir
- Sprinkle flour on your counter or table to avoid stick
- Add flour (about 3 to 4 cups) to the mixture and then knead the dough on the table until it no longer sticks to your hands and the consistency reminds you of play dough
- Roll the dough out in to thin, round strips that look like small snakes
- When the potatoes are done, using a kitchen scissors, clip off about ½ inch pieces of the dough and drop into soup mix
(you don’t have to use all of the dough, just put in as many as you like. Cowboy usually needs to upgrade to a bigger pot)
- Cook kneophla until they float to the top of the soup mixture. About 10-15 minutes.
Step 5: The finale
- When the knoephla pieces pop to the top of the mixture, take a little taste of the broth to see if it needs anything. Add more seasoning if you wanna.
- Then, if you’re feeling too skinny, add to the mix a ½ pint of half and half. (c’mon you know you wanna) Heavy whipping cream also works, but we didn’t want to scare you off.
- Say, “mmm.mmm.mmmm.”
- Ladle into big boy sized bowls and serve with crackers and bread (because really, we need more carbs)
Then leave the dishes for tomorrow and tip your hat down over your face and turn in for the night.
Agh, I’m exhausted.
Cowboy says: “If it’s not the best soup you’ve ever eaten it’s because you missed the important ingredient…whiskey….or was that love? Yeah, love.
Repeat steps 1-5 adding more whiskey, which results, consequently, in more love.
Happy Kneophla to ya!