If, after reading this post, you come to the conclusion that I come from a weird family, you'll be right. The soup I'm sharing today is a favorite of mine -- Dusty Noodle Soup -- and, like all family recipes -- there's a story behind it.
When my brother and I were really young we originally called this "Busia Soup" because our Busia (grandmother) made it for us. My mom was not a fan of this particular dish. In fact, she called it "Grease Soup" and told us she'd been subjected to it as a youngster during the Depression and she avoided it at all costs. Despite her personal disdain, my mom spent an afternoon with her Polish mother-in-law (our Busia) to learn how to make the broth and the thick homemade Kluski noodles so we could have it at home.
Even when my mom made it, we still called it Busia Soup. But pretty soon it earned a whole new nickname - Dusty Noodle Soup.
Family celebrations -- for the extended family on my Polish side -- were held at one particular local restaurant and this soup was always served first. It was my favorite part of the meal.
Okay, imagine this... my brother and I were the youngest cousins on this side of the family. Bored by these events, we wandered around the pre-set banquet tables while the adults cooed over new babies, chit-chatted, and drank highballs at the bar. Paul and I would find hide-and-go-seek places in the restaurant's corners and I remember an incident with decorative fake rubber grapes -- but that's a story for another time ;-)
In this pre-party playtime, Paul and I noticed that the restaurant, in an effort to be more efficient, had set up the soup bowls at each place setting. That wouldn't be so weird, except -- there was a handful of cold, sticky noodles sitting in every bowl. These noodles were waiting for the waitresses to come by with pitchers of steaming broth, which they poured after everybody finally sat down. Hmm. How long had the noodles been there? Overnight? When no one was looking, and before it was time for the waitresses to serve, Paul picked up a bowl and turned it upside down. You guessed it. The noodles didn't budge. That's when he and I came up with the moniker "Dusty Noodle" and from then on we referred to the restaurant as "The Dusty Noodle Restaurant."
We sat down to eat and Paul demonstrated his trick for our parents and older cousins - and it was good for a slightly horrified laugh. Years later, when I started bringing my then-boyfriend, now-husband to family events, we brought him in on the joke.
The extended family has grown and we don't get together that much anymore. And The Dusty Noodle burned down over a decade ago, so my own kids have never experienced the restaurant's version of this delicacy. But they think the story is hysterical. They know this recipe as "Dusty Noodle Soup" and despite the weirdness of it all, they love it (the vegetarian daughter won't have it, but it used to be one of her favorites). Just for the record - I keep my noodles in the refrigerator until it's time to serve. No dusty ones in my house!
I hesitate to call it Chicken Noodle Soup because that conjures up images of carrots and celery and other good-for-you veggies. This has none of that. This is simply chicken, broth, noodles. And I cheat by buying Kluski brand noodles. Almost as good as Busia's homemade ones, but way less time-consuming to prepare.
After reading this post, you may decide this one is *not* for you. Perfectly understandable. But it's a fast and perfect-for-a-cold-day soup and a major treat for me. I can understand why it was popular during the Depression. Except for the chicken bones, there's no waste and you get two meals out of less than $2 worth of chicken. Cheap, easy, delicious.
Dusty Noodle Soup
Chicken leg/thighs - about 2 - 3 lbs.
Place chicken legs/thighs in a deep pot, cover with water -- and then some. I used about 2.5 lbs and covered it with about four extra inches of water. Add bouillon. I used about 5 cubes. Although the legs/thighs have more flavor than breasts would, the bouillon helps a lot. Set to high and bring to a boil. Lower heat but keep it rolling a bit for at least an hour until the chicken is cooked through and the meat starts to fall off the bones. I always start with frozen chicken -- keeping a couple pounds of poultry on hand means I can whip this up any time.
While chicken is cooking, prepare Kluski noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Keep the noodles separate from the broth, even when both are done.
When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the broth and allow it to cool before separating the meat from the bones. I usually add a little meat back into the broth, but keep the bulk to make chicken salad.
That's it. Soup stays in one bowl, noodles in the other, and they keep in the fridge for at least a week. In the spirit of the original Dusty Noodle Restaurant, I usually heat up the broth super hot, then pour it over the chilled noodles to enjoy.
I have to admit, this is probably not good for the arteries. But back during the Depression, I'll bet it kept a lot of families from going hungry.
Thanks for letting me share a little family history with you. I'll bet you have some weird and interesting food stories to tell. Anything as wacky as Dusty Noodle?
Author of Eggsecutive Orders, third in the White House Chef Mystery series
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