Friday, January 25, 2013

Fast Comfort Food: Chicken & Dumplings

Well, I'll tell you. *sigh* I was sure glad it was Friday when I woke up this morning.  Even though Monday was a holiday, the entire rest of the week was as slow as molasses in....well, this month.  It seemed like all my energy was sapped last night, and I was NOT interested in cooking anything.  I almost picked up the phone to order from my favorite hole-in-the-wall Wok Inn...but as I looked in my fridge, I realized I had too much food to go to waste.  The Mattman had pulled apart a rotisserie chicken for me a few nights ago and it was just sitting sadly in a freezer bag.  Waiting for the perfect recipe.  I went to the pantry and surveyed my domain.  Grabbed some stuff and put it on the counter.  I realized I had not made Chicken and Dumplings all winter long--kind of strange for me, but let's face it, it's been a strange winter. *eyeroll*

Chicken and Dumplings is something my fantastic Grandma, aka the Ole Biddy, taught me to make.  Making my own stock, cooking down the chicken, getting the spices just right--all leading to a frothy stew upon which to dunk some raw biscuit dough, waiting for those last few minutes until you bite into a light fluffy cloud...pure comfort...she was the master.

I didn't have time for all that.  It was close to 3:30.   I'm what you call a protagonist.  You might know what I'm talking about.  If not, you're probably shaking your head.  Like my sister is doing right now.  Hey.  Don't judge.

I was going to have to cheat, and it had to be good.  Good enough to pass the test: The Husband Test.  You know--you take some shortcuts, maybe with a meatloaf.  You find something quick and easy on Pinterest.  Not your usual, but hey, you use whatcha got.  He takes a bite, and gives a look.  Not disapproving, but not a-pproving, either.  You frown.  The gig is up.  He knows.  "I couldn't find veal at the market this time," you say, attempting to justify your choice, silently cursing The Frugally Frolicking Wife's Blog.  "Oh, well, it's still good..." he replies, eating it all.   You stare in disbelief.  He damn well better like that Crock-Pot Coca-Cola Cobbler you made.  The thing was re-pinned at least 11 times, for crying out loud.

So, if you don't want that to happen, DO THIS.  Okie dokie, then.

Go in your pantry.  Make an assessment.

Do you have a ton of chicken broth?  It's a good start, if you do. If not, get what you have and grab some chicken bullion.  I had 1 32 oz container of chicken broth, but I grabbed two bullion cubes.
I also got a can of cream of chicken out.
Black pepper.
A can of sliced carrots...
and minced garlic (you can use garlic powder, too).

Oh yeah...not in the picture: a bay leaf.

From the fridge, I took:

1 rotisserie chicken, cut/torn up
a little bacon fat, about a T. (you can use oil instead)
2 ribs of celery
1 small onion

In a large dutch oven (I have my mom's fantastic oval shaped one...which means more surface area for more dumplings...just sayin') heat up your butter/bacon fat/oil concoction over med-lo heat.  Here's the reason why you need some oil with your butter:  butter has a low smoke point.  This means that the milk solids in the butter will begin to burn at lower temps.  If you add a higher-smoke point oil (bacon fat is great, but safflower, grapeseed, or peanut oil is good too) it will raise the smoke point of the butter.  Why butter?  It gives great flavor, of course! Hello, butter?  Yes.  Hello, butter.

Dice up your onion and celery and throw it in the dutch oven.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Add garlic and about 1/4 tsp of black pepper (I eyeball it.).  Add the bay leaf.

Now add the broth, or water,  enough to equal about 1/3-1/2 of the way up the pot, or approximately a gallon and a half of liquid.  For every pint (16 oz) of water I added, I set aside one bullion cube.  The reason I did that is because you do not want to add a bullion cube to water that isn't boiling.  It won't dissolve, and there are few things grosser than taking a big ol' spoonful of chewy bullion in your mouth.  Blech.

Bring the stew to a boil over medium heat.  Now add the bullion.   Make sure it's dissolved.  Add the carrots.

Pick apart your chicken in chunks, big and small, throw 'em right in.

Cook it all as long as you want on low heat.  If you're ready to go ahead and put in your dumplings, then the soup needs to be simmering/low boiling.

Make drop dumplings using Bisquick or my favorite, Pioneer Baking Mix.  It's generally about 2 cups of mix to 2/3 c. milk.  I also add a little dried parsley, but that's mainly for my own personal touch.  Like sprinkles on a cupcake. lol.

Drop your dough by a large spoonful all over the top of the stew.  Put a lid on. Cook for 5-8 minutes, and everything should be ready to eat.  All in all, despite my ramblings here, it should take you 30-40 minutes from pantry to table.

I probably ought to proofread this; honestly, I'm so tired.  I've probably typed up something that will result in a combination of lasagna and pickled pig's feet.  My apologies if so.  But if it actually comes together like it did in my head, give me a shout and let me know how it works out.

Happy Friday!

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