Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Taste of Home (Chicken and Dumplings)

At last, I take the driver's seat! Today I bring you a family recipe, taught to me by a great-grandmother. Growing up, we moved around a bit up and down the East coast, but spent a significant amount of time in North Carolina. That afforded us the luxury of living near a large portion of my then step-father's family, including the aforementioned grandmother. She was a traditional southern cook and managed her own restaurant for years, but had since retired to maintain an extensive farm (and cook the fruits of that labor year-round).

Home cooking

She hosted breakfast every Saturday for as many of the family members as would come - typically around 20 or so (she started cooking at 5am). She taught many of her recipes to my mother, who, in turn, taught them to me. One of my favorite recipes of hers was chicken and dumplings: basically a rustic, simple version of a chicken noodle soup.  I've taken the original recipe and adapted it a bit, to adjust the flavors, reduce the butter, and replace white flour with whole wheat. The end result is a delicious soup that is perfect on a chilly day or while surviving the dreaded cold/flu!

The line-up
Chicken and Dumplings
It may be difficult to see, but I've tossed in some fresh lavender buds with the other fresh herbs, which we happened to still have in our garden. Unfortunately I made this dish a few weeks ago, and winter has begun to emerge in PA since. 

1 whole chicken (I chose organic, but it's not necessary)
1 stick (8 tbs) butter
2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbs crushed fennel seeds
1 sprig fresh rosemary
6 stalks (about 2 tbs) fresh thyme
1 tbs crushed pepper
2 tbs crushed sea salt, plus more to taste
2 c flour (plus additional for surface/rolling pin)

Begin by removing the chicken from it's wrapper, being sure to remove any giblets, rinse with cool water and pat dry. Place the chicken in a large stock pot, and fill with enough water to cover the bird. Add the butter, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.
Fresh herbs = greatness

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until fully cooked, about 45 minutes. Carefully remove the bird and place it on a large platter to cool. Additionally, remove about 2 cups of the stock you've just created and place it in the fridge to cool - we'll need this to make the dumplings.

Once the chicken has cooled, remove the meat to a small bowl and discard the rest. Add the flour to a large bowl. Add the cooled stock, slowly pouring in a small amount at a time, combining to eventually create a ball of dough. You may not need to use all of the stock, or you may need to toss in a few tablespoons of flour. Getting the right consistency is about being able to form and roll it without it being too sticky, but still holding together as a single piece of dough.

Slow and steady wins the race
On a clean surface, sprinkle enough flour to loosely cover the area. Then, flour your rolling pin. Place the dough in the center of the area and use the rolling pin to roll it out to about 1/8 inch thick. Be careful not to roll it too thin, or the pieces will fall apart easily and the end result will be a mushy soup. On the other hand, if they're too thick, they won't cook all the way through and will taste like raw flour.

Simple but beautiful
When the dough is rolled out to about 1/8 inch thickness, you can begin to cut dumplings.  Personally, I cut long strips, and often cut those in halves or thirds, but you could adjust and cut them to a size/shape of your preference (see initial photo). Turn the heat up on the stock, bringing it to a low boil. Carefully drop in a few dumplings at a time and allow them about 30 seconds to cook.  Continue to add more dumplings until you have cooked all that you have made. Add the chicken back into the stock, and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.  Serve immediately, or store this item in the fridge for later (it's especially delicious when reheated as leftovers, trust me).

A twist on a classic


KJL said...

Yay, for A's first post. This looks delicious. Coincidentally, as I left yoga class last night, I was tempted by (but resisted) a sandwich board at the place next door advertising "Grandmother's chicken and dumplings," but I'm sure that this is the real deal!

AEthanP said...

Thanks for the comment! This is the real deal, and I promise it won't disappoint, especially on a grey winter weekend day!

Unknown said...

The fresh herbs are an especially nice touch.