Chicken & Dumplings: The Return of Comfort Food

There’s nothing left to say but this…it was going to snow…in March…just days before spring. So I had to make chicken and dumplings. Plus my biggest guy was already sick, meaning I’d already put together chicken soup (possibly my best ever! I used a pre-brined organic chicken. OMG delicious. Thanks Trader Joe’s – you’ve redeemed yourself from the twice bad cream incident.) It's a twist of sorts on the last time I visited this great comfort food with you. Both delicious. Both easy. Here is this week's approach.

I had cooked chicken and stock, and every intention of jamming the dish full of vegetables and not so much fat. Veggies are easy, carrots, onions and celery all count towards the daily servings. Don’t be afraid to use the less than perfect specimens from the bin. Like my mom, I throw them in wherever I can. To make a “creamy” sauce sans cream – use vegetable oil, a little flour and flavorful stock. The oil and flour make a roux, the stock sets it into sauce. Works every time.

The dumplings are lighter with all purpose white flour, but I subbed cornmeal for some of it. Honestly, even I don’t think it would count as whole grain serving…unless I sold them in the freezer section, with a picture of a field slapped on the box after paying a company to measure the fiber.

With chicken that’s already cooked, this dish didn’t take more than 20 minutes to assemble. The next 15 allows the dumplings to rise.

Stew Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped

3 smallish stalks of celery, chopped

½ bag whittled carrots or 3 carrots sliced

2 big pinches dried thyme

¼ cup vegetable oil plus more for melting veggies in pan

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 quart chicken stock

1 mug frozen peas defrosted

3-ish cups of chopped up chicken already cooked

Salt & pepper if desired

Dumpling ingredients:

1 ½ cups flour

½ cup cornmeal

¾ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 pinches thyme

¾ cup milk

2 tablespoons melted butter or oil

Add a tablespoon of oil to heavy bottom pan that has a lid. Melt onion, carrots & celery with a pinch or two of salt over medium heat. Add the thyme. Add ¼ veg oil and whisk/stir in 1/3 cup flour. It will look gloopy, especially with the vegetables already in there. Cook a minute or two, then slowly add stock. I used mine straight from the fridge – I don’t recommend that, I just forgot to take it out. Anyways it still worked.

When it starts to bubble and thicken, turn down the heat. Let it cook for 5 or so minutes. Then add chicken and peas. Taste and adjust seasonings.

While the stew is cooking, combine the dry ingredients for the dumplings. Add the milk and butter making sure the butter isn’t super hot and the milk isn’t icy cold. Stir until combined – mine needed a touch more moisture, I chose to delete some flour. Still, the dough should be sticky. Drop by tablespoon on top of hot stew. Put the lid on it and wait. In 15 minutes – comfort. As the cook, eat a dumpling before the rest of the family to check for “doneness”.

Enjoy the dumplings – B

 

BTW – this dish can be kosher!

BTW2-if you don’t feel like making dumplings, serve over noodles, with rice or spaetzle or simply cut up 3 large russet potatoes into half inch chunks and add to the pot.

 

Old Bones, New Soup

I will never be confused with Le Bernardin's Eric Ripert, but then again I never claimed to be a restaurant. I will tell you I can make chicken soup with one hand tied behind my back, and so can you!

Here is a no fail “recipe”.

Stock

2 roasted chicken carcasses, or the equivalent in bones, raw or roasted, or a whole chicken plus necks and wings

A couple onions, halved or not

A couple carrots, chunked or not

A couple celery stalks, leaves too if possible, chunked or not

A couple garlic cloves, whole & peeled

A parsnip, chunked or not

A turnip, halved or not

A hunk of ginger, optional*

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns (not ground)

Fresh dill if you have, or not

Throw it all in a heavy bottom pot, whatever you have of the above list, and cover with water. Chicken is obviously required. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer. A whole 3-4 pound chicken will cook in about an hour fifteen to thirty. If it's all bones, I let it simmer for hours. I prefer the bones.

Sieve out the lumps and bumps. Cool and refrigerate.

Soup

When ready to make soup, add fresh carrots, noodles, herbs if desired, salt & pepper to taste.

Do laundry at the same time, doubly productive – B

Note: proven to be effective for fighting colds.

Tip for cooling. Saw this one in Vegas. Fill a bin, pot or your sink with tons of ice and water. Insert zip top bags or plastic containers of stock in bin, pot or sink until cool. Alternatively snow banks work too.

 

A Mostly Meat Free Monday

Let’s preface this by saying, I really did not feel like cooking tonight. I didn’t want to make the planned stir fry. I didn’t want to celebrate meatless Monday. I didn’t want to leave the sofa or the bodice ripper that got delivered to the office among the cookbooks.

That said, I got up and did it anyway. I skipped the prep and chop of stir fry, going Mexican instead. Lighter chicken enchiladas are a fam fave. I borrowed the sauce from Martha Stewart, but made veggie stuffed corn tortillas all on my own. This sauce uses chicken stock. Meat free sticklers feel free to use vegetable stock.
Don’t tell anyone south of the border, but I used last night’s leftover rice pilaf as a base. I sliced and sautéed another giant onion, a bell pepper, and let a few handfuls of spinach steam with the whole kit and caboodle. Salt & pepper to taste. Use a little sauce to bind the filling. Wrap 8 corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and zap in the microwave for 30-ish seconds. Stuff the tortillas, lay in an 8 inch casserole with more sauce top and bottom, and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven until bubbly.

Dig in, B

Sweet Potato Cottage Pie

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Some are born guilty, some achieve guiltiness, and some have guiltiness thrust upon ’em.
In my case, the guilt is a casualty of genetics, exacerbated by years of parenting. So when I read the latest stats on food waste, the mantle of responsibility weighed heavy upon me. We toss 40% of our food annually. That’s $2,275 for the average foursome family, totaling a whopping $165 billion overall. And yes, it’s way more than the 70’s.
So, guilty and frugal, I refused to dump the leftover “candied” sweet potatoes that no one liked and that didn’t really candy.
Here’s the re-do…Sweet Potato Cottage Pie
Actually it was sort of, kind of Cottage Pie as I only had leftover chicken and not enough of that to make what would be a traditional meat pie with a potato crust. In all honesty, I loved it! Still, I was accused of using the wrong topping (i.e. sweet, not white potato) which is what happens when you cook too often and take too many requests! On the plus side, not one word about the ratio of meat to veg!!
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Ingredients:
2 small onion, or 1 medium, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 slim stalks celery, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
large handful green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch lengths
1 tablespoon veggie oil
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
heaping tablespoon corn starch
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken, if you have it
leftover candied sweet potatoes from 3 large ones that no one ate
butter to taste
milk to texture
cayenne for fun
Step 1
Soften the first 4 ingredients in oil, about 5 min in 12 inch skillet, then add garlic for a minute. Toss in zucchini and green beans, cook a few minutes, and give the whole thing a stir or two. Blend in the chicken. Dissolve corn starch in chicken stock. Add stock to pan, swirl a couple of minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stop here if you’re ready to eat, tastes like chicken pot pie. Goes with rice, pasta or pototoes.
Step 2
 
Reheat sweet potatoes in microwave. Mash with butter and enough milk to make them spreadable. I used a ricer. Cayenne spices it up. Salt to taste.
Step 3
Spoon everything but the sweet potatoes into a 9 inch casserole. Sweets on top. Preheated 350 oven till bubbly, about 30 minutes. Broil to get crustier on top.
Eat.