Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Midsummer's Chicken with Basil Dumplings

The heat and humidity of summer doesn’t put you in the mindset for comfort food such as chicken and dumplings. Lately, the heat has abated (somewhat) and the evenings have been pleasantly cool.
Plus there is all of that great summer produce to use.
If you have a personal aversion to birds (except perhaps to Skylark by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer), you could omit the chicken, cram it with local produce and it would be equally good.
Chicken and dumplings is usually a leftover meal. Here, I’m starting fresh. There are three parts to the recipe. First, you have to make the stock and cook the chicken. Next, you take the broth and simmer more vegetables. Lastly, you add the chicken to those simmering vegetables, make the dumplings and drop them into the pot. Cover the pot and let the dumplings cook in the simmering stock.

Chicken with Basil Dumplings
For four servings
Feel free to add any additional vegetables that you like.

3 ears corn
10 to 12 ounces boneless skinless chicken

1. Begin by making the stock. Husk the corn and remove the silk. Cut the kernels off the cob into a bowl. Save the cobs for the stock. Place the corn kernels into a container and refrigerate until needed.
Proceed with the recipe below.
2. While the stock is simmering, prepare the chicken. Fill a sauté pan with 2 cups chicken broth or 2 cups water seasoned with salt and ground black pepper. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the chicken, cover and immediately reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Turn the chicken after 5 minutes. Poach the chicken until cooked through. Set aside and let cool.

Vegetable Stock
Cobs from the corn
¼ to ½ of a large onion, cut into chunks
2 or 3 carrots, cut into chunks
8 to 10 sprigs flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
8 to 10 black peppercorns
8 cups cold water
1. Place all of the vegetables and seasonings into a large pot; break the corncobs in half if necessary. Cover with cold water. Place pot onto stove over high heat. When the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Skim the stock occasionally during cooking. Cook until reduced by half, about an hour. Remove pot from heat and let cool. Strain the stock, saving the liquid and discarding the solids.

Assembling the Chicken and Dumplings
If you are not using the chicken, feel free to add additional vegetables such as fresh beans, etc.

½ cup onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
½ cup sliced carrots
1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 ripe tomato, diced, about 1 ½ cups
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking
the reserved vegetable broth
the reserved corn kernels
the cooked chicken, shredded

1. Place a large pan over medium heat. Swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and bell pepper; season with salt and pepper and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes to begin softening the vegetables. Add the tomato and the corn kernels and stir to combine. Add the reserved vegetable stock and the shredded chicken (if using). Cover the pan and simmer on low while you prepare the dumplings.
2. When the dumpling dough is ready drop rounded spoonfuls of the dumpling dough into the pan; you should get eight dumplings. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked. Remove pan from heat. Divide between four bowls and serve.

Basil Dumplings
makes eight dumplings for this recipe

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup plain cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
dash freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons vegetable shortening
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
½ cup buttermilk (or ½ cup milk, “soured” with ¼ teaspoon white vinegar)

1. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. (You could also mix it with a fork; you want to remove any lumps from the cake flour).
2. Add the shortening to the bowl and mix until the shortening is incorporated into the dry mixture; you can use either a fork or a pastry cutter for this.
3. Stir in the chopped basil until evenly mixed; add the buttermilk (or milk) and mix until the buttermilk is evenly incorporated.

R. I. P.  Marian McPartland. You shared your love of your art and illuminated it for all of us all while bringing so many of our heroes closer.

Here is one of her best interviews, with Bill Evans. Evans presents a masterclass on the tune "The Touch of You Lips."

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