North Dakota's European-American population has contributed many Scandinavian, German and Russian recipes to the state's culinary background. Take the Russo-German population: Germans from Russia and Ukraine who immigrated to the Great White North starting in the 1870's after Alexander III's "Russification" of ethnic German areas of the country [Germans from Russia Heritage Collection 2011] - see more at the North Dakota State University's section on Russo-German Heritage, noted above. As North Dakota "Ambassador" Sandy McMurty points out, many of North Dakota's favorite foods come from this specifically Russo-German background: the custardy Kuchen cake, the fried Fleischküchle fruit pie, sausages, Spaetzle and of course favorite soups such as borscht and knoepfla. This last one I haven't heard of, but apparently everyone in the Roughrider State has.
Official Name: State of North Dakota
State Nicknames: The Roughrider State, The Peace Garden State, the Flickertail State
Admission to the US: November 2, 1889 (#39)
Capital: Bismarck (2nd largest)
Other Important Cities: Fargo (largest), Grand Forks (3rd largest), Minot (4th largest)
Region: Midwest, Great Plains; West North Central (US Census)
RAFT Nations: Bison; Wild Rice
Bordered by: Manitoba, Saskatchewan (Canada) (north); Montana (west); South Dakota (south); Minnesota (east)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: milk (beverage), northern pike (fish), chokecherry (fruit), Western wheatgrass (grass)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: wheat & milk (a leading producer of each), Native American (such as Lakota Sioux) foods (including fry bread, pemmican, foods using buffalo, etc.); buffalo, wild rice, chokecherries and other native foods; German, Scandinavian and Russo-German foods (including borscht and knoepfla soup, etc) [McMurty 2011].
Knoepfla (pronounced "NIF-la") soup - a creamy chicken soup with potatoes and homemade dumplings - is a common one in North Dakota: there seem to be quite a few recipes for the stuff. The ones I found came in two varieties: those made from scratch, and those that used condensed cream of chicken soup as a shortcut. Guess which one I went with? Nope, I went with the shortcut.
There were a few family recipes I found online using cream of chicken soup as an ingredient, usually from some intrepid food blogger writing about the soup that his or her North Dakota-born grandfather or fiancé had remembered so fondly growing up. Megan, author of the Diary of a Recipe Addict blog, is one such food blogger, discussing the knoepfla soup she grew up eating as a child:
I grew up eating this, often with premade "knoephla dumplings" that a local company called Baker Boy makes. We always made the recipe on the back of that package. Recently, I started wondering how hard it would really be to do it entirely from scratch. I came up with this recipe and I am really happy with it. I also like the fact that it contains much less than the entire stick of butter the Baker Boy recipe calls for. [Diary of a Recipe Addict 2011]As much as I love butter, I couldn't bring myself to add any either. And here in Maryland, we've never heard of Baker Boy (must be a Midwestern thing?), so I went with Megan's recipe. Mind you, she's making the dumplings from scratch. The soup part still has a can of cream of chicken soup. I'm fine with that, just like Adam "Amateur Gourmet" Roberts and his chicken broth-infused matzah ball soup a few posts back.
The Recipe: Knoepfla Soup
The recipe I used is Megan's recipe [Diary of a Recipe Addict 2011], and I probably should have halved it. It's a lot of soup.
For the soup part you will need:
*butter (okay there was some butter in the recipe, but only for frying up the next three ingredients)
* celery (a few stalks. It's too bad one can't just buy "a few stalks" of celery because $3 for a whole head of celery that will just sit in my fridge mostly unused seems like a waste of about $2.47)
* carrots (these I will use - bought a small bunch for about $1.50 at Harris Teeter)
* onions (or in this case, a shallot for about 75¢ at Harris Teeter)
* bay leaves (had them)
* dill weed (optional - also had some)
* potatoes (had quite a few from the Waverly Farmer's Market - a pint of small ones for $3)
* chicken base (had none; I used some frozen duck broth left over from Christmas)
* cream of chicken soup concentrate (the whole can goes into one recipe)
* heavy whipping cream (about $2.50 for a pint; you will not need that much)
* and lots of water (had it on tap, natch)
And for the dumplings:
* flour (yes I used White Lily - not exactly a Midwestern tradition but still. Perhaps a harder flour would have been better for this recipe)
Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a large pot.
Add to this your celery, carrots and onions - all chopped. Cook until the onion starts to become translucent.
Next add a few quarts of water (exact measurements in the original recipe linked above)...
...then add the bay leaves...
...the dill if you feel the need...
a few shakes of pepper (yes I forgot to include this in the photo above. It is very optional and I only added it at the last minute)...
...and of course, the potatoes and soup base / broth
While the soup is simmering, make the dumplings. Mix all the dumpling ingredients together.
I tried to get some use out of this new - okay, old and used - stand mixer I bought a few weeks ago. It doesn't have a kneading attachment, so I didn't find it terribly useful.
I eventually used a spoon, and then finally kneaded it in the bowl with my hands.
It never quite completely firmed up, so I had to add a good bit more flour (up to 1/3 of a cup, not all at once).
Once firmed up, roll into a log about 1" in width, and cut more or less into 1" pieces with a pizza cutter.
Drop the dumplings into the soup and boil for several minutes. This part reminded me of the matzah ball soup I mentioned earlier, except for the "not kosher because it mixes meat and dairy" part.
For the final touch, mix the cream of chicken concentrate with the cream.
Whisk together until blended.
And add to the rest of the soup. Cook for just a few minutes and serve.
It is a lovely soup, However, I might add a little more salt or - what!? - butter to it the next time I eat it. My guess is that this is almost certainly not how people would eat it in North Dakota, but that's how I like it I suppose. I wish I had not assumed I had chicken base or bouillon: the duck stock probably wasn't the same. And I don't know if my dumplings turned out the way they should have - I have no gauge for these things since I don't make too many of them.
- - - - -
We're not done with the Midwest yet. On we go to the Buckeye State, where brats, buckeyes and big ol' plates of chili await: destination Ohio.
Deer With Horns, Wendell and Nancy. "Buffalo Recipes". Deer With Horns Web Site, date unknown. Copyright 1998-2012 Deer With Horns Web Site.
Diary of a Recipe Addict (Megan, blogger). "Knoephla Soup". Posted March 10, 2011. Copyright 2011-2012 Diary of a Recipe Addict.
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. "History and Culture". Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, 2011. Copyright 2012 North Dakota State University Libraries.
"HLakota51" (username). "Grandma Connie's Buffalo Feast". NativeTech.org: Indigenous Food and Traditional Recipes. Date posted unknown. Copyright 2012 NativeTech.
McMurty, Sandy. "Foods of North Dakota". Thoughts from a North Dakota Ambassador. Posted March 3, 2011.
Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "North Dakota" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "North Dakota".