My Grandmommy Dubill wrote out a few of her favorite recipes by hand in a black-and-white marble covered school composition book that has been handed down to me. The rest she kept in her head, pulling them out only to teach her daughter -- my mother, who later taught me -- all of the tricks to her tasty meals.
Most of the time she cooked on autopilot, in a dance-like fashion, repeating the steps she had taken many times before. Stirring here and there, adding a little bit of this and a lot of that.
I always think of my grandmother’s foods in January. With a lull after the holidays, new winter snow and a drop to frigid temperatures, comfort food is one of the staples that keeps us going until we see spring again. It’s not only the delicious taste of our family favorites, but the memories of eating those foods in our childhood that keep us warm.
Grandmommy’s chicken soup, imitated perfectly by my mom, is my favorite chicken soup. And I am a real fan of all chicken soups.
One of the things I love about our family’s version is eating the boiled chicken on the side instead of in the soup. I also like that the onion and parsley are not chopped, used only for flavor while cooking and then removed later, leaving a very clear broth.
Today, I love to make this treasure as much as I love to eat it. As it simmers on the stove, it fills our kitchen with an aroma of home and family through the years.
This recipe is not in Grandmommy’s famous notebook, or written down anywhere. But here is my recollection:
Chicken parts, white and dark meat, or small whole chicken
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 lb. whole, fresh
1 medium onion
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. bag egg noodles, pasta or rice
Rinse chicken and put into large soup pot, uncovered. Fill pot with water. Bring water to a slow boil and skim off the chicken fat several times until water is clear.
Peel carrots and onion and add to water, whole. Sprinkle water and vegetables with salt and pepper. Add bunch of uncut parsley.
Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer about 3 hours until chicken is no longer pink. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Boil noodles, pasta or rice and drain.
Serve chicken on the side or in soup.
Makes about 6-8 medium bowls of soup.
Another family favorite is our version of babalki, Slovak/Russian dough balls, similar to the Italian Gnocchi, tossed in a butter-and-onion sauce. Our babalki is one of the main entrees at our Christmas Eve supper but it’s a hearty food that tastes great for any winter meal.
Here is a rough recipe:
3 lbs. white potatoes
½ lb. salted butter
1 small onion
Salt, to taste
Boil potatoes and drain. Mash with milk, ¼ lb. butter and salt to taste and desired consistency. Cool mashed potatoes for at least one hour. When potatoes are cool, add flour to make dough.
Meanwhile, chop onion finely and brown in the rest of the butter. Take teaspoon-size pieces of the dough, roll into tubular shapes (babalki) and place on a floured towel.
Boil for a few minutes until Babalki rises to the top, about 8-10 at a time so they don’t stick together. Drain and toss with the butter-and-onion sauce.
Teri Lyon is a mom, grandmom and freelance writer who
lives in Glenburn Township
with her cat.