Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chicken And Dumplings

There may be no dinner more old fashioned than chicken and dumplings. Basically its's a thick soup or heavy gravy coating tender stock poached chicken and sometimes vegetables with -- hopefully -- fluffy airy dumplings floating on top. And yet among fans the chicken and dumplings controversy rages. Square cut or drop dumplings, boned chicken or whole pieces, serve the vegetables or just the clear thickened sauce.
I like vegetables so I leave them in, and sometimes add some peas at the end. I generally prefer meat on the bone so I like to leave the pieces whole. James prefers boned. I favor drop dumplings to save rolling out the dough and making more dishes to wash.
To make this nostalgic dish brown seasoned, dredged chicken parts in oil and butter. Remove the chicken and add in chopped carrots, celery and onion. Sauté the vegetables in the hot fat. Return the chicken to the pot along with 5 cups of hot water. Allow the chicken to simmer for about 45 minutes. Once again remove the chicken. Mix together about 3 TB flour and 1/4 cup milk, add in a bit of the hot chicken stock and after a good whisk add the flour mixture to the simmering stock and vegetables. After a few minutes the sauce -- your future gravy -- will thicken. At this point add the chicken back in -- boned and skinned if you like and bring the sauce to a boil.
For the dumplings -- really the best part of this recipe, mix together 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp of baking powder and about 1/2 tsp salt. Add in 3/4 cup of milk, 2 TB melted butter and a good sized handful of minced parsley. Mix just enough to bring the dough together. Like muffins or quick breads, mix too much and your dumplings will be heavy and tough.
Drop the dumpling dough by heaping teaspoons onto the boiled sauce and quickly cover the pot. Reduce the heat to keep the liquid at a simmer and allow the dumplings to steam for 15 - 18 minutes until cooked through and fluffy. Don't open the pot or the steam will escape and again you risk heavy dumplings. After the dumplings are cooked carefully stir in frozen peas and allow them to heat through in the simmering (uncovered) sauce.
It takes a little effort but the homey appeal and old fashioned deliciousness is worth a little time to preserve a dish from our history. Make chicken and dumplings at home, connect with our country's past.

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