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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Chicken and Dumplings, Oh! how nice!

I had my head all tied up in the London bombings last week and neglected to post this. It's great comfort food any time, though.

A fav memory from Me-Ma's kitchen or from Momma's. Being a kid and "getting" to clean the chicken off the bones or drop the dumplings in the stock is one of those priceless memories that warm my kitchen today from time to time. And then, of course, there was the eatin'.


Vary the ingredients, amounts, etc. in the chicken part freely. The dumplings are essentially drop biscuits. Fee free to substitute your fav recipe for drop buscuits there, too. Essentially, Chicken and Dumplings is just a decent chicken stock, chicken and drop biscuits. But if you want the guideline I mostly follow, here it is:


Chicken and Dumplings


Chicken:

  • 1 or 2 whole chickens (depends on size of bird, how much chicken meat you want, etc.)

  • 1 cup carrots, sliced

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 celery ribs, stripped and chopped

  • 1 teaspoon tarragon chopped

  • 1 teaspoon thyme

  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 12 whole peppercorns

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper sauce

  • 8 or more "grinds" of freshly ground pepper

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 1 yellow onion, diced

  • 1 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt


Note: in a pinch (also known as, “Ain't got 'em and can't get 'em right now” :-), the tarragon and thyme can be dropped, but at least add fresh chopped parsley or some other compatible herb(s) to the mix if you do. Freely substitute (or even eliminate for super tender palates or if you don't have any handy) for the red pepper sauce (or for robust palates use red jalapeño sauce as I intend to next time I make this), but DO NOT cut the black pepper. Also note below that for the just plain good eats recipe, you may not even need the ½ cuppa flour noted above.


Lotsa water. Figure and eight-quart or better stock pot, water, chicken, veggies, etc. You'll end up with a gallon or so of stock.


Wash the chickens (inside and out: you can also "brine" them ahead of time with coarse Kosher salt, then wash them again. If you do, eliminate all the other salt from the recipe) and put them in a stock pot with bay leaves, tarragon, thyme, peppercorns, and garlic, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes or until chicken is just short of done. Wash and prepare vegetables, putting trimmings into stock pot. Carefully remove the chickens from pot, leaving stock at a simmer. Note: a couple of large spoons works much better than trying to use tongs. Better: a collander. Simply pour the chickens out (passing the stock to another stock pot). Let the chickens cool slightly and remove the meat from the birds. Check the meat again carefully for bones. Again. heh (I always get the bones I miss in my plate, anyway. It's tradition. :-)


Dumplings:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 cup buttermilk (can make pseudo-buttermilk by adding a couple of tablespoons vinegar to the cup before measuring the milk)


Mix all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients & mix. Decision tree: prissy, obsessive-compulsive method or just plain good eats method?


Prissy, obsessive-compulsive method:


On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough 3 /8-inch to 1/2 inch thick. Cut it into 1 /2-inch squares and set it aside. Strain the stock and save the fat from the top. Use the 1/2 cup of flour I warned you about earlier and enough fat to make a light roux. In a large pot, put the vegetables and 1 gallon of stock. Bring to a boil,add dumplings and 6 tablespoons of roux. Reduce to a simmer, stirring to keep dumplings from sticking. Add chicken meat, red pepper sauce, freshly ground black pepper, and salt. Cook until dumplings are done, about 20 minutes.


Just plain good eats method:


Don't mess with all that. You have your stuff already. (Bring stock, chicken, etc. back to boil while assembling the dumpling batter.) Drop pinches--large or small, your choice: the large will take a lil linger to cook—into the boiling stock until it's all in. Back off to just barely above a simmer, cover lightly, not tightly, and cook for about 20 minutes or until the dumplings are done. The neat thing about this method (besides the fact that it's just plain easier and tastes just as good) is that there's really no need at all to make a roux to get the semi-gravy texture for the stock, cos the loose balls of dumpling will do that, anyway, and stirring is optional. If you drop your dumpling balls in while the stocks at a nice rolling boil, then back it off to simmer, all the dumplings will cook at the top and form a dumpling layer to dip through when serving. Sticking? Not hardly!


Both methods give the cook the fun of testing the dumplings at around 20 minutes. Just choose a representative sample and have at it. Watch it, though: it's not only plenty hot, but you also might decide not to share.


heh

Carnival of the Recipes "seekers after good eats" folks, welcome! Sample the recipe(s), mock my grammar, spelling and syntax in other posts, and in general feel free to make a mess of the place in comments.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?



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