“You can’t eat this food standing up, your knees buckle.” Jerry Seinfeld
German comfort food
I don’t often make German food, but when I do, I knock it out of the park.
Thanksgiving and Christmas at my grandma and two aunts’ house always included chicken, noodle, and butterball soup. The butterballs were the best part for me. I’ve always been a shameful carb-lover. Their version included canned chicken (not something I would ever buy today), canned chicken stock, frozen Grandma’s egg noodles, and frozen butterballs. I’ve only seen butterballs for sale in Nebraska grocery stores (good German folks there!). I decided that my Saturday night dinner party called for the Real Deal – yep, the Cyndi Gets Fresh version. Completely homemade. Serving my husband and friends a large hearty pot of soup on a cold night was priceless for me. This is what I live for.
This recipe will take a good portion of your afternoon. To me, it’s an ideal day; for others, I get that you may not want that. If I can make one suggestion on the one thing you SHOULD make homemade, it would be the chicken stock. It’s amazing and easy, I promise. The rest of the ingredients, I’ve probably substitutes that will still making amazing homemade soup.
Chicken, Noodles, and Butterball Soup – German Comfort Food
Makes a huge, hearty pot of soup that can probably serve 10-12
Making Chicken Stock
I have a very large pressure canner, 21 quarts. I didn’t use the pressure part, but appreciated the large size for this stock. The below ingredients are what I used yesterday, but you can use any blend of vegetables you like. You can save the ends of vegetables and freeze them, and then turn them into tasty stock later – limited waste! I used some of the stock for the soup, froze several quarts, and sent my friends home with two quarts so they could make soup later. It’s a generous recipe that will yield a great flavor for little effort and money.
4 tablespoons butter
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped (I scrub them but leave the skin on)
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic
3+ teaspoons salt (if you are making a large pot, you can add even more to taste)
1 tablespoon black peppercorns (no need to grind)
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns (no need to grind)
1 whole chicken (gizzards and other weird parts removed); mine was about 3 pounds
16 quarts of water (Note: If you do not have a pot big enough, use the biggest one you have. The less water you add, the more concentrated the flavors will be).
Melt the butter in the stock pot and add all the vegetables, salt, and pepper. I cook it for about 10 minutes, so the vegetables just start to caramelize (you can skip this step if you want to save time, though). Then make room for the chicken. I liberally salt and pepper the skin of the chicken for an added layer of flavor. Cover with lots of water – I probably had a good 16 quarts of water in there. Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium heat, and walk away for an hour or so.
Really Rich Chicken Stock
Make sure the chicken is fully cooked, and remove it carefully from the stock. Shred all the meat (it should be very tender and juicy), add about 1/2 cup of the stock to it, and refrigerate until ready to assemble the soup. Return the chicken carcass to the stock. Seriously. There is so much flavor that comes from the bones. I simmered in another 2 hours. Once you taste it, you will know why! Carefully remove the carcass (it will likely be in pieces at this point), and use a skimmer to remove the vegetables. You discard the vegetables at this point; I know this seems like a waste, but if you are saving the bits and pieces from previous meals, it really isn’t.
Homemade Egg Noodles
You can skip this recipe and add Grandma’s egg noodles (from the freezer section), or dried egg noodles, but the real ones are really tasty, and not that difficult.
Homemade Egg Noodles
Makes enough for one big pot of chicken noodle soup
2-3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 2/3 cup milk (I used whole milk)
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
I used my KitchenAid mixer, and it was super easy, but you can also mix by hand. Stir together the flour and salt, then add in the eggs, milk and butter, and mix until a soft dough forms. Go by touch on this one. The dough should not be sticky. Add more flour or milk to achieve the right consistency. You can then knead the dough for a few minutes, to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated, or give it 3 minutes in the KitchenAid to come together. Let the dough rest about 15 minutes on the counter. Split the dough into two smaller balls. Add about 1/4 cup of flour to your surface (I used a large cutting board for easier clean-up), and then roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness. I used a pizza cutter to cut it into strips, maybe 3-4 inches long, your preference. Repeat for the other ball of dough. Let the pasta dry slightly (I kept it on a cookie sheet), maybe 2 hours, until you add to the soup. The wonderful thing about egg noodles is that they will naturally thicken your soup.
Cutting the Egg Noodles
There is something so deeply alluring to me about bread pieces soaked in liquid; stuffing, butterballs, bread pudding, I love it all. This recipe is a little time consuming, but completely worth it.
12 slices of bread (I used sourdough and wheat, about half and half, don’t forget to use the end pieces) – ideally you should let the bread dry on the counter for 2 days so most of the moisture evaporates, but you can also toast it, as well.
SUBSTITUTION HINT: You can also use 4-5 cups of dried bread crumbs, which I might recommend, since I don’t have a food processor and had trouble getting the bread into fine crumbs
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup cream (you can omit and use just chicken stock, but the cream adds a lovely flavor and consistency)
1-2 cups chicken stock (you can take it directly from the stock you are already simmering, like I did)
Make sure the bread is in fine crumbs. Add the allspice and mix well. Beat the eggs separately and then add to the bread mixture, along with the melted butter and cream. Add 1 cup of chicken stock, and stir to combine. You really have to use your judgment here. You want a really tight dough that still retains a lot of moisture. Don’t be afraid to add another cup or more of stock. You should be able to form into a tight ball, I like them golf-ball size. You can test this in your simmering stock and make sure it doesn’t fall apart. If it does fall apart, add another egg to the mixture and try again.
Homemade German Butterballs
When you are ready to add to the soup, make sure the soup is hot. The butterballs with take maybe 10 minutes to cook. You don’t want them to cook much longer, as they may fall apart. This is the part I love – taste-test as you go!
Chicken, Noodle, and Butterball Soup
In a large stockpot (I love my Creuset), add the following:
4-6 quarts of chicken stock (more or less, depending on your thickness preference)
Reserved, shredded chicken
Let the mixture come to a boil, and then turn to medium heat.
Ten minutes before you are ready to serve, add the butterballs (they tend to break down if you cook them too long). Add salt and pepper to taste.
Be prepared to fall in love with this soup. It’s real, and it’s spectacular.
German comfort food