Friday, October 26, 2012

Roast Chicken, the Aftermath, Part 2: Chicken and Dumplings

            “and we’ll all have chicken and dumplings
                                         when she comes, when she comes*…”

listening: Joni Mitchell: Night Ride Home

While I was writing this I saw that one of the TV shopping channels was selling chicken and dumplings. You get four 2 pound bags for $52.46, which works out to $6.50/pound for something you can toss together with leftovers and a couple of fresh ingredients. So if you want to skip this, you can log on and order your chicken and dumpling kits.
Still here? Good. This is classic comfort food that can be personalized to your taste. Down south, I understand that the base is creamier than this one. Feel free to add some light or heavy cream to the chicken and vegetables if you wish. Peas are a classic addition, except in our house where my wife views peas suspiciously as a result of childhood “pea trauma.” Despite being egged on by my daughters to use them, I substitute shelled edamame. They’re not a classic addition to chicken and dumplings but they are just as good and they keep everyone happy. And since my wife loves pearl onions, they are tossed in, too. You can pick and choose which vegetables to use.
You could use vegetable stock, skip the chicken and have a vegetarian option.
If you lived down south, you would have a variety of biscuit flours to choose from when making dumplings. As a Yankee, I found the combination of all-purpose and cake flours makes a softer textured dumpling. The dumpling recipe could also be used for biscuits or, with added sugar, shortcakes. You could add thyme to the dumplings, or chopped parsley, chives, or even chopped celery leaves. On a recent night I used cornmeal in the dumpling. That variation is below.

This is a meal that can be increased to serve more people but is simple enough to make for two.

For two servings:
(and this is two servings, plus seconds, mind you).
Olive oil, for cooking
3 cups chicken stock                                                            
1 carrot, sliced
½ rib celery, sliced
¼ c chopped onion
salt and ground black pepper
1 cup chicken, from leftovers
additional options: ½ cup pearl onions, ½ cup peas or edamame

Dumplings, for two
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup cake flour (plain, not self-rising)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
½ cup buttermilk (or ½ cup milk mixed with ½ teaspoon white vinegar)

1. Place a medium-sized wide pot over medium heat. Swirl in 1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the carrots, celery, and onion and sweat the vegetables for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock. Cover and simmer over low heat to soften the vegetables for about five minutes.
2. Prepare the dumplings by mixing all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut in the shortening until small lumps of dough form. Add the herbs, if using.  Mix in the buttermilk/soured milk, stirring until the dough comes together. Set aside.
3. Add the shredded chicken and additional vegetables to the pot. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Bring the pot to a simmer and drop rounded spoonfuls of the dumpling dough into the pot. You should get six dumplings. Cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook covered for 15 minutes. After fifteen minutes, turn off the heat and crack the lid to cool the chicken and dumplings before serving. Ladle the chicken, vegetables, and broth into bowls and divide the dumplings between the servings.

Cornmeal dumpling variation:
Substitute ½ cup cornmeal for the ½ cup cake flour and omit the thyme leaves.

*A meal so good they had to mention it in “She’ll be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.” Whoever “she” was.

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