Saturday, February 11, 2017

Chicken and Dumplings

My jaw is slowly recovering from the dental work, emphasis on the slowly part.  I made the mistake of eating medium-rare steak, which was just painful.  I'm also losing weight that I can't afford to lose.  The first pound was fun, but the couple after that made me realize that I needed to eat more.  The problem is that I look at anything with texture and get a nutrition shake instead.

Then I remembered that, when I was recovering from jaw surgery years ago, I ate a whole Baker's Square pot pie without chewing.  Moment of pride that I hadn't choked on it; I was really hungry.  I've already posted a pot pie here, but chicken and dumplings is similar and I've never made that.

A quick search found that you don't normally put veggies in the stew.  If you do, it's more like a pot pie filling.  Since I can't really chew crisp veggies right now, I decided to skip tradition and simmer them in the pot and serve the whole thing kind of like a stew/soup.

I'm starting with this recipe as one being on the Southern side.  I'm changing up a couple of things.  By cooking the chicken in the final water, you can cut the amount of broth in half, which cuts the added salt in half.  It's just the difference between using roasted versus braised chicken.  If you simmer with the bones and skin, it won't have that dry and pasty texture.  Or, you could go the quickie route and use canned chicken.  I can guarantee you that's what places like Cracker Barrel use.

1 quart unsalted chicken stock
2 lbs skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces
*1/2 C diced onion
*1/2 C diced celery
1 Tb margarine, plus 2 more Tb later
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
*1 C frozen peas
2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 C milk
salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a large saucepan or stock pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Sauté onions and celery until softened.  Place chicken pieces skin-side down and cook until slightly browned, about 3 minutes.

2.  Add stock to the pot.  If it doesn't almost cover the chicken pieces, the pot's too big.  Add water until pieces are barely submerged.  Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cover.  Cook until pieces are done, turning over after half an hour to make sure they are thoroughly cooked.  It should take about 40-50 minutes.
3.  While the chicken is simmering, make the dumplings.  Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl.  Cut in butter like you were making biscuits.  Slowly add milk.  You may not need it all.  One tablespoon is the difference between too dry and mushy.  Turn out dough on a well-floured board and roll 1/8" thick.  Cut small pieces, about 1" square, with a knife or pizza cutter.  I suggest using the rest of the 45 minutes to wash some dishes.  I waited until the end, and they accumulated much more than I was expecting.
4.  Remove chicken to a cutting board, leaving the pot on the stove.  Once cool enough to handle, take off skin and bones and discard.  Chop or shred the meat and return to the pot with the peas and carrots.  Taste the broth and add salt and pepper as needed.

5.  Bring pot back up to a low boil and start adding the dumplings.  Stir after every layer goes in to distribute them.  Once all of them are in, lower the heat, cover, and simmer another 15 minutes, until everything is thickened.  You can wash the cutting board and bowl, so the dishes will be almost done before dinner.

6.  Ladle into bowls while hot and serve immediately.  If you have leftovers, they're going to look like condensed soup the next day.  A little water and a couple of minutes in the microwave will turn it back into a stew state.

Difficulty rating  :)

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