Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Fall has been really hot here. September felt hardly different from August and it was almost 90 degrees in the middle of October, which seems crazy. But it did get a little bit cool at the beginning of the month and I decided to make chicken and dumplings, which is definitely not a summer meal. Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, that if I started making cold-weather meals the weather would get cold.
Chicken and dumplings is a pretty basic dish, but even so, there are different versions of the recipe. The one I like best is the plaid Better Homes and Gardens version, which I think is one of the simplest — just flour and milk and baking soda for the dumplings part, and chicken, carrots, celery, and onions for the chicken part. Others I’ve seen include onions and/or herbs with the dumplings and different spices with the chicken (e.g., tarragon), but I don’t think you need any of that. This is definitely a less is more kind of dish.
When I checked the recipe before heading to the store, I noted that the BH&G recipe calls for one stewing hen or two fryers to make 6 to 8 servings. Usually I get one fryer and I don’t always include the breasts, because I’d rather save those and use in a stir-fry or some other recipe, so I end up with sort of a mini version of chicken and dumplings. Which is usually plenty.
However on the day I decided to make chicken and dumplings, I was running errands over near King’s, so I decided I would stop there to pick up what I needed, and when I got back to the butcher counter I discovered that they actually sell stewing hens. And the stewing hens are big! I got the smallest one I could find, which was just about six pounds, for $8.33 ($1.39/lb).
So for probably the first time, I actually made the full recipe as given. (Or mostly — it calls for a quart of stock to make the gravy, but that’s about four times more than I need. I cut that part way down.)
And the reason I’m writing about it is because it was really good, and gave me an ongoing parade of meals, so it seemed worth mentioning. I’ll write about each of the meals in separate posts. (And I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures, but just managing my life is enough of a challenge these days, taking photos before eating is currently beyond my capacity. Hopefully things will get better soon.)
one 5- to 6-pound ready-to-cook stewing chicken, cut up, or 2 large broiler-fryer chickens, cut up
2 sprigs parsley (optional)
4 celery branches with leaves
1 carrot, pared and sliced
1 small onion, cut up
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Place chicken pieces in Dutch oven or large kettle with enough water to cover (about 2 quarts). Add remaining ingredients. Cover; bring to boiling and cook over low heat about 2-1/2 hours, or till tender. Leave chicken on bones in liquid for Chicken with Dumplings. Or, remove meat from bones. This will yield about 5 cups diced cooked chicken for salads or casseroles.
Chicken with Dumplings
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons salad oil
Prepare Stewed Chicken, above. When chicken is almost tender, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine milk and oil; add to dry ingredients; stir just to moisten. Drop from tablespoon directly onto chicken in boiling stock. (Do not let batter drop into liquid.) Cover tightly; return to boiling. Reduce heat (don’t lift cover); simmer 12 to 15 minutes or till done. Remove dumplings and chicken to hot platter; keep hot while preparing Chicken Gravy. Makes 10 dumplings.
To prepare Chicken Gravy: Strain broth from Stewed Chicken. Measure 1 quart into medium saucepan. Heat to boiling. Combine 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup cold water; gradually add to broth, mixing well. Cook, stirring constantly, till mixture is thick and bubbly. Season with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Pour over chicken and dumplings. Garnish with parsley. Makes 6 to 8 servings.