11.18.2007

Now don't be chicken....

Last week, as I was driving to work, it snowed.

Not much but still - brrrrrrrrr.

So it is now officially "that time of year" and I can start pulling out the stick to your ribs recipes.

While driving home, I was thinking about what to make for dinner. I had the remnants of a roast chicken - IE: broth I had made the night before plus some of the meat I had salvaged from the carcass prior to immersion in simmering water. I always have veggies like carrots, celery and onions in the veggie drawer. I had some once-fresh herbs I had stuck in the freezer (Thanks Lorence!!). Hmmmmmmm...

The it hit me - Chicken and Dumplings!

I had not made them in years. There is something about the light texture of dumplings that makes them fantastic comfort food.

Now here is a questions I am sure a lot of you are asking - If the dumplings are so damn good - why haven't you made them in years?

Good question!

The answer is - well -we'll cover that later.

However - before we proceed - let's talk a little bit about your recipe repertoire.

I can't remember where I read it - but someone somewhere mentioned that every cook should know how to make at least 40 different recipes. I am going to suppose that the person didn't mean that all those recipes had to come from memory - I would be S.O.L. in that department. That being said - I do have basic ways of making certain things that I can use as a base recipe. That recipe, with the addition of various items or others, allow me to come up with a variety of dishes from memory.

This is one of those recipes.

This also means - there are no written recipe for a big chunk of it.

To be truthful - it is also one of the reasons I have so much trouble blogging sometimes. I make the same recipes fairly frequently. No, I am not the "meatloaf every Tuesday" kinda gal - but my family will request my standards on a regular basis. Pot roast, fried chicken, Spaghetti Carbonara, Pasta Puntanesca (Or however it is spelled), stovetop mac and cheese, sauteed green beans, sauteed spinach, meatloaf, salmon patties plus quite a few other recipes. They live up in my head and at anytime, I will just pull out one of my "old faithfuls" and whipped together dinner from a combination of what I have in my pantry plus whatever is on sale that week.

I know some bloggers seem to spend a lot of time chronicling their food adventures - about how they try new recipes all the time, about how they got a new cookbook then ran out and bought a whole bunch of ingredients and tried new recipes out over the weekend. I tried that. I got tired of it real quick. The whole process is a waste of money and my time - both of which I have just too little of these days.

It doesn't mean that I don't try new things. I read cookbooks constantly. But my rules for trying a new recipe are more strict than a casting director weeding out the herd from a cattle call. I ask myself things like:

  • Do I already own most of the ingredients?
  • If I have to buy special ingredients, will they bust my household budget for the month? I allow some wiggle room in my food budget just in case, but is this recipe worth blowing my slush fund on?
  • If I am buying new food products, will my family be likely to eat them? Wasted food is wasted time and money.

Take my chicken and dumplings - a fine example.

Here is the base recipe:

12 cups homemade chicken broth

1/4 stick of butter or 3-4 T of veggie oil

3 large carrots halved then cut into 1/4 slices

3 - 4 stalks of celery sliced about the same size as the carrots

2 medium onions diced

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt, Pepper and various herbs (dried, frozen or fresh)

3-4 cups of pre-cooked diced chicken


Dumplings:

1 cup cake flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1 egg

milk

Base instructions

Heat butter or oil in heavy dutch oven. Saute onions and garlic until transparent. Add celery and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add carrots and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add broth and herbs. In this case I like to use thyme, sage, dill, black pepper, seasoned salt a dash of red pepper and a couple of bay leaves. I wanted a very herb-y flavorful broth to offset the blandness of the dumplings. Cook until the veggies are all soft but not mushy.

That's it! Easy Peasy!

Dumplings:

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Break egg into measuring cup and beat. Add enough milk to the egg to make a 1/2 cup of liquid. Add to flour mixture. You want the batter to be stiff. If the flour is not totally incorporated, add tiny bits of milk until you have the proper consistency.

Have your soup base at an even simmer and drop the dumpling batter into the pot. I use a big serving spoon - I like big dumplings. You can do them small as well. As soon as all of the batter is in the pot, put the lid on. Do no peek for about 8 minutes. You are steaming them done. To test for doneness, use a toothpick or skewer. The wooden item of choice should come out clean.

To serve:

Divide the cooked chicken evenly amount 4 bowls. Dish out the dumplings and stew over top of the chicken. (Please remember to remove all the bay leaves.) Give 'em lots of broth. The dumplings will soak it all up when you cut them open.

This is what the whole thing looks like when ready to serve.

It was tasty.
And the change of pace made the family happy.

So that's it for now - I have the 2007 Cookie Confab to head out to!! Gail, Debbie and I are making our big plans for the holidays - and a lot later than usual because of my frequent business trips this fall. Tune in later in the week for more about pantries, recipes and of course - cookies!

1 comment:

Ben said...

That sounds easy and yummy! Chicken and dumplings is one of those recipes I have never made (not being from this country) but that I always enjoy eating. I am bookmarking this recipe.
And I can't wait for more cookies recipes, you can never have enough.

Cheers!