3rd Prize, Illinois State Fair, 2018

Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance


Illinois State Fair

August 10, 2018


Third Prize, 2018

Beef and Noodles
Amy Wertheim, Atlanta, Illinois


Family Heirloom Recipes….the things of legends, guarded with utmost secrecy and limitations.


The Family Heirloom Recipe Contest has been one of the longest continual contests at the IL State Fair for over 10 years now….long enough that I have begun to have a real dilemma on what to select for entry “this year”. I don’t want to repeat a recipe; and it’s hard to come up with tried and true family heirloom recipes that I haven’t used before. You see, most of our recipes that have been a part of our family for so long are quite honestly just family recipes that everyone has, not really “heirloom” in the true sense of the word.


So, as I pondered what to try and make this year, I had to really reflect on what does everyone ask for when we get together… And what I discovered was that it truly depended on the event or season. For instance, for Christmas my sister and I have specific cookies that we bake for everyone to snack on during present opening; and at Mother’s Day, we always have the 7-layer salad; and for birthdays, the birthday honoree gets to pick their favorite, so for Greg it’s the German Potato Salad, Julie likes s’mores at a wiener roast; and for Nic/Dad/Amy, who unfortunately had to share their birthdays with each other along with two other grandparents and Thanksgiving, they were always stuck with chicken ‘n noodles and beef ‘n noodles…. Which when it finally came down to just Nic & Amy left, everyone bulked at possibly changing the routine meal even though they could finally choose their own meal. But honestly, in the end, they did want the chicken and/or beef ‘n noodles….except they couldn’t decide which one, chicken or beef…. Which lead me to this year’s entry. Chicken ‘n Noodles vs Beef ‘n Noodles – which one is better, which one will reign supreme!
So, with the entry figured out for this year’s Heirloom contest, the quest for the recipes began. You know how you keep treasured recipes in a specific location….and anytime you want them, you just go to your special stash and pull it out and whip it up….well, gosh, that would have been soooo easy, IF the recipes had been where I KNOW I put them. But no, they weren’t there… hmmm….


Not to worry – for Christmas this last year, I had made four of my family groups homemade noodles & gave them handwritten copies of the recipes; just a simple phone call/text and I’d have the recipes and could pull the entry together. Best laid plans of mice and men…. I literally struck out with EV – E – RY -ONE!!! Yes, believe it or not, everyone went to their “special place” where they keep their treasured recipes and they COULD NOT FIND THE RECIPES\!! No joke, all four family units cannot find their copies. So, here I was, literally dealing with a true heirloom situation, where no one, not even a single person, holds the key to the long treasured recipes. So, without a copy, I now had to go on the great recipe treasure hunt through grandparent and great-grandparent cookbooks, handwritten notes, etc.


As you can see from the pictures, chickens and beef are long time agriculture commodities that both sides of my family has raised since the early 1900’s. My mother’s family, until the 1960’s still killed, boiled, plucked, and butchered chickens for their Sunday dinner. My mother can share countless stories of chickens chasing her and her sister as they collected eggs or her mother catching that unfortunate hen that was having trouble producing and snapping her neck with the flick of her wrist; it was so common place that the thought of buying a chicken at the supermarket was really never a passing thought. And my father’s family were long time producers of beef, winning local and state awards; even having a rather large disbursement of breeding stock that was considered one of the largest auctions of the time… so given all of this, surely there was a note, a cookbook, something that I could find that had a recipe, even remotely similar to the family’s version in it…


Two months later, yes, that is how long I had been working on the quest of the recipes; and after going through hundreds of cookbooks, handwritten notes, torn out newspaper and magazine articles, I was actually able to locate what I believe could have been the base recipes that belonged to my great-grandmothers on either side of my family. But…. were they the right versions….and so began the food trials! I mean, I needed to test the recipes out to make sure a) they were close to what we normally serve at the Thanksgiving/birthday dinner and b) they actually tasted good.
After some tweaking, I was able to give a nod to the beef ‘n noodle recipe found in the 1930 publication of “Mrs. Peterson’s Simplified Cooking” from Chicago. By tweaking I mean removing carrots, tomatoes & peppers from the recipe. No real color is ever present in our chicken or beef ‘n noodles – and I’m definitely NOT a fan of carrots, so out they went. As for the tomatoes, it’s an oddity in my family, but several of us are allergic to tomatoes, so out with them also. Peppers, well, they didn’t really add much flavor and let’s be honest, we’re eating this meal for the beef, not the veggies. We also stick pretty close to the “beef only” rule, but in our recipe, overtime, we’ve added some wine to give it some depth of flavor. Other than that, for the most part, this recipe is fairly close.


That only left the chicken ‘n noodle recipe to track down. This one is rather ambiguous. My dad and I had discussed the chicken ‘n noodle recipe when he became ill several years back and honestly, it was a “I cook up some chickens, throw some canned soup to thicken it up, add some seasonings and the noodles, there you have it…” no real leads there…. and I had made it for Thanksgiving a year ago based on that less than forthcoming conversation and everyone swore I had gotten it correct; but hey, Thanksgiving was a long time ago, and really, could no one not still find their recipes I wrote down for them?!?!?!? So back to the books I went….


I still wasn’t having much luck when it dawned on me, I needed to check with Molly; Molly Goldberg that is, as in “the Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook”. Whenever I needed a “go to” recipe, this is where I always found it; why I didn’t just start with her, I do not know….wait, yes I did I didn’t start with her because like the handwritten recipes, this cookbook was MIA also. Oh for pity sake, were the gods of conspiracy trying to keep me from the Heirloom Recipe contest?? Maybe so, I was not to be thwarted!


After tearing literally the entire house apart, I finally stumbled upon Molly sitting in a stack of cookbooks that I had pulled to look for recipes to enter in the Blue Ribbon Competition back in April. No wonder she wasn’t where she was supposed to be -1 hadn’t put her back yet just in case there was another competition/contest that I might need check it for reference – who knew how right I was!


I quickly turned to the index…no chicken ‘n noodle recipe. Hmm. OK, I perused the meat section, nope. No chicken ‘n noodle recipe. Really?? I checked in the bread section – I mean the noodles technically are kinda a quick bread…. SCORE!! A recipe for Mandlen….ok, not exactly the noodle recipe I was looking for, but the process sounded familiar and I vaguely remembered Dad making noodles this way a time or two; maybe I was on to something. But the footnote said to add them to consommes or beef soups at the last minute before serving. Yep, that sounded right; but where is the actual chicken recipe…. Off to the soup section I went!


Unbelievable….here (minus those hideous carrots again) was the recipe I was seeking. And the ending comment mentioned the noodles. Finally, the long lost chicken ‘n noodle recipe had been found.


So why give you two options?? Because at our family gatherings, whenever one is served the other is also. Some like the chicken, some like the beef, some take a little of both. But to serve one without the other is unheard of and would cause such a ruckus, the time/effort saved wouldn’t be worth the effort. So enjoy, and decide which side of the barnyard you fall into, Chicken or Beef or both. And never fear, the recipes are now typed, saved and preserved as a true heirloom recipe should be.



Third Prize, 2018

Beef and Noodles
Amy Wertheim, Atlanta, Illinois


Updated Version Beef & Noodles


1 tablespoon oil – I prefer grape seed oil, but olive or vegetable oil is fine
1-1/2 lbs beef stew meat, cubed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup diced celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
4-1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine
1-1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
16 oz homemade noodles


Add oil to a large dutch oven over medium heat.


Place the meat in a medium mixing bowl and sprinkle the flour over the meat and toss to evenly coat cubes. Brown half of the coated meat in the hot oil. Remove from pan. Brown the remaining meat and remove. Cover & set aside.


In the same pan, brown the onion and garlic, adding more oil, if necessary. Drain off any excess fat and return all the meat to the pot. Stir in the broth, wine, marjoram, and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is tender. When meat is tender, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool briefly. If the chucks are too big, shred them with a fork. Retain the broth for cooking the noodles in….


In the meantime, make your noodles ….


1-1/3 to 1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons olive or other vegetable oil


Pour the flour and salt onto your working surface – make a mound and then a well in the middle. Break the eggs and place in the well area. Using a fork, slowly work the egg into the flour; when almost completely absorbed, add the oil and continue until completely combined. If the mixture seems overly moist, add a little more flour until you can easily handle the dough.


Let the dough rest a few minutes, then slowly knead it until the dough I s silky and smooth. Add some more flour if still a little moist. It should take about 6-8 minutes of kneading to get the right consistency. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 10 minutes, or up to 30 minutes if you have time. This allows the flour to mellow the dough making it easier to roll out into your pasta shapes.


When you remove the damp cloth, the dough may seem moist – do not add more flour. Just lightly dust your work surface and hands and flatten out the dough ball. At this point, work quickly so the dough doesn’t dry out…. Roll the dough til almost translucent about 24 x 30 inches – the thinner the better.


After rolling out the dough, let it sit for about 10 minutes, uncovered, or until the edges begin to dry, but not yet brittle. Then cut them into 1/4-inch strips, hanging them to dry for at least 30 minutes before cooking in your beef mixture.


In a large stew pot place the beef broth and bring to a rapid boil. Add the pasta strands and give a quick stir. Pasta should be thoroughly cooked with 5 minutes; add meat and turn down to simmer. Let the beef and noodles cook down a bit as the noodles and meat absorb the broth. Serve immediately. Enjoy.



Old Version – Beef ‘n Noodles Page 64,
Mrs. Peterson’s Simplified Cooking


2 lbs beef
2 cups tomatoes
1 stalk of celery
1 green pepper
4 cloves


Wipe beef; cut into 1-inch pieces and roll in flour. Put diced salt pork in iron frying pan and cook until light brown. Add beef and continue cooking until meat is well browned, stirring constantly. Pour over enough water over to prevent burning and cook slowly for 2 hours. In another dish cook tomatoes with minced onion, chopped celery, carrots parsley, green pepper and cloves for 30 minutes. Add to meat, season with salt and pepper and serve with noodles, which have been cooked separately in boiling water for 30 minutes.