Homemade Noodles and Beef Tips
We are all so used to going to the store to buy the things we need for cooking. Things like bread, pasta, salsa, soup, are readily available and varying degrees of affordable from your local grocery store. But what do you do when you live life in a semi truck with limited storage space and fewer options for shopping, both in time and location? You learn to make the staples that you usually purchase.
I wanted beef tips over noodles, but we didn't have any noodles in the truck. Where we were, we didn't have the option of just “running up to the store”. I can make bread, so I thought “how difficult can noodles be?” Honestly, not that hard at all.
The recipe I found doesn't use eggs (we didn't have any on the truck, so that was an important factor). It also called for half Semolina Flour (which is what pasta is normally made from), and half all purpose flour.
Flour. It was the summer after my sixth-grade year. We had moved to a new town, I didn't know anyone and all my school friends were obviously back in the town we had just left. After lots of begging and pleading, my parents let me go stay several weeks with my best friend from school in our old hometown. I think I actually ended up staying most of the summer, because whenever it was time for me to come home, I'd beg and cry, so would my friend, and my parents would let me stay longer.
It was during one of these begging sessions several weeks into my stay at my friend's house that my mother, who had been a stay-at-home mom since I was about one, told me, rather excitedly, that she got a new job at a“Flour Shop”. She really meant FLOWER shop, but my brain didn't translate it that way. I imagined my mother working in a flour factory and thought, “Well, if she's happy...” It didn't make sense to me knowing how creative my mother was, but who was I to question. It wasn't until after I went home and she took me up to the shop to meet everyone that I finally realized my mistake. My mother wasn't making flour, she was making Flower arrangements!
See folks, this is the kind of thinking that happens when you grow up in a Latin household where quite literally everything from birth to death revolves around the kitchen and food.
But this post is about flour, or more specifically, making home-made pasta from flour. I didn't have any Semolina flour on hand, but the recipe did state you can use only all purpose flour if that's all you had on hand, just the texture would be a little different. OK, sounds reasonable.
2 cups all purpose flour (or half Semolina Flour) 1 tsp salt ¾ cup water
Add the flour to a large bowl, mix in the salt, then make a depression, a “well” in the middle of the flour. Add ¼ cup of water and mix well. Continue adding water a spoonful at a time and mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This will vary depending on the age of the flour, the temperature and altitude of your location, even how much humidity is in the air. I ended up using just a smidgen over ½ cup.
Spread some flour on a cutting board or counter top, then place the ball of dough on top to knead. Flex those arms girl, you're gonna get a 10 minute upper body workout! Flour your hands and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is well formed, not sticky, and bounces back after you press your fingers down on it. To knead, you're going to push down and away from you with the palms of your hands, fold the dough in half, press and push again. Imagine a kitten kneading for milk, same process.
Once the dough is ready, form into a ball, cover, and let rest for about 30 minutes. You can use this time to clean up the floury mess. I don't know about you, but I always manage to get flour everywhere! Plus, living in a semi truck, we are naturally limited on space. I have to clean as I go.
After the dough has rested, twist and tear off a piece about 1/3 of the total size. Flour your working space again, and flour your rolling pin.
Roll, roll, roll, flip, roll, roll, roll.
Rolling, rolling, rolling, keep that dough a rolling... oh, um, yeah. HI!
Keep rolling and flipping until you've stretched your piece of dough to about 1/8 of an inch. I don't think I got mine quite that thin this time around, but it was close enough. If you are home and have a dough roller, you can pick the proper setting.
Now comes the cutting. I just used a knife and sliced by hand. A pizza roller or a pasta machine would work too. But big truck, space, yeah... Use what we have on hand. Using a sharp knife, I sliced the pieces somewhere around ¼ inch wide. The sizes varied and my cuts weren't always perfectly straight. That's what happens when making things by hand. Once all the dough is sliced set the strips aside, lightly dust with flour (this keeps the pasta from sticking when you cook it) and let it rest again for about 15 minutes.
**An important note about homemade fresh pasta, it doesn't take as long to cook as store bought dried pasta.
**Note 2, you can freeze any unused pasta strips, bits, and pieces, to toss into a soup or stew later down the road.
After I prepared my beef tips (short description below), I filled my Aroma up with water, salted the water, added some rosemary, closed the lid, and on SMS setting brought the water to a boil. Then I added my fresh pasta. Let it boil for 3-5 minutes, drain, salt, and done. The texture was somewhere between store bought pasta and the doughy “dumplings” you get in restaurants that serve chicken and dumplings. Close enough for me. They tasted yummy. There were no artificial anything, nor preservatives. It took a little time to make, but was worth it. Besides, just sitting in the passenger seat of a truck all day can get boring. Having cooking to do, learning to make things from scratch, fills my day with purpose and is another side of indulging my creativity. And lets not forget the kneading, flexes my arms. OK, well, still have a ways to go on that one, lol.
For this dish I just used stew beef that was already cut up. Before starting anything I placed the beef tips in a baggie with some buttermilk (I made my own using 1 cup of milk and 1 TBSP of apple cider vinegar. Mix well, let sit until it starts to clot, usually about 15 minutes). Added some PHS and cracked pepper. Sealed the baggies, and squished it all around to coat the meat well. Then let sit while I made my pasta. This is a great tenderizer for any meat.
Next, I diced up some onion, several cloves of garlic, a rib of celery, and some carrots, tossed them in the Aroma on SMS setting with some salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil and let simmer until veggies were soft and aromatic. Drain off most of the buttermilk, add a cup or so of flour, seasoned to your liking, shake well to coat the pieces of meat. Add to the hot Aroma and cook until coating is browned. Add a little of the left over flour, stirring constantly until browned, then add some water, or stock if you have it. I also added some Worcestershire sauce for flavor and color.
Here is where I kind of ran out of energy. I felt like I hit a brick wall. Normally, I'd let the gravy cook down and thicken. But I just was done for the day. Come to find out I apparently picked up some sort of flu bug, and was yucky for several days. The beef tips still turned out flavorful, but the gravy was more like soup broth. The noodles, however, were just about perfect and the whole dish was delicious.
If you have a homemade pasta recipe or if you try this one, I'd love to hear from you.
Happy cooking and trucking everyone!