Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chicken and Dumplings

I first tasted chicken and dumplings circa 1992 when Elissa took me on a pilgrimage to Dip's Country Kitchen in Chapel Hill. I've never forgotten the taste of them, and have always longed for more. Of course, I had no idea that when I set foot in Dip's I was entering the chicken and dumpling wars, between devotees of the fluffy, matzoh-ball-like Northern drop dumplings, (often disparagingly referred to as being "yankee," although historically speaking, they are every bit as Southern as the other kind) and the proponents of chicken stewed with flat, rolled dumplings called "slickers" or "chicken pastry," like we had at Dip's. But join I did, and now I'm a crusader.

So, what is it now, seventeen years later or something like that? Last week I finally turned out my first batch of chicken and rolled dumplings, and Bill was wildly delighted with the results. Completely over the moon. Said they tasted exactly like Viola's, which is really as high as praise ever gets over here in Viola's Kitchen, so I was very pleased.

You can imagine that I thought I was being very clever, cutting Goya "discos" (empanada dough) into strips instead of rolling out my own dumplings, but it turns out that busy Southern cooks have been using packaged biscuit dough in exactly the same way for years. Oh well. So I'm not going to revolutionize Southern cooking...

Here's what I did do and will do again soon:

Simmer chicken thighs in chicken stock with diced celery, carrots, onion, a bay leaf, fresh thyme and parsley for about an hour. Strain the broth and reserve the chicken and vegetables. Discard the herbs. Bring the strained broth to a simmer.

Cut the Goya discos into strips and coat each strip with flour before dropping into the broth. Stir gently to separate and then cover tightly for fifteen minutes. Taste to see if the dumplings are done and have lost their "raw" taste and texture. If not, cover and continue to cook until done. The broth should have thickened to the desired consistency. If not, thicken with a little additional flour and water. Shred the reserved chicken and add shredded chicken and reserved vegetables back into the pot. Adjust for seasoning. Watch husband swoon with delight.

Last week I also became an instant fan of Southern Plate. What a marvelous cook! I clipped out her chicken and dumplings recipe, just in case I decide to try her biscuit dough method sometime.

Southern Plate's Chicken and Dumplings:
3 or 4 chicken breasts
32 oz Chicken Broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
1-10 count can Pilsbury layers biscuits
salt and pepper to taste

Cook chicken breasts in approx. 4 c. of water until fork tender, about 45 minutes. Place broth in medium to large sized pot. Stir cream of chicken soup into gently boiling broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pull biscuits apart into three layers. Dip each layer into flour and then tear each layer into three pieces and drop into gently boiling broth mixture. Do not stir biscuits a lot, or they will cook up, only gently push dumplings down into broth as they float to the top. Cook about ten minutes after last dumplings are added. Add shredded chicken and turn on low until ready to serve.

1 comment:

  1. The thing that food is supposed to do, beyond provide basic sustenance, is bring people together. In this case, before I knew it, dinner brought two distant lovers together: me at 7 or 8 at my Nana's apron hem, and me re-discovering this taste in the present. Nana's kitchen, aromas, apron print, satiny-feeling floured rolling pin, all came rushing back in a sensory flood, bite by bite, along with the feeling that I was about 3 1/2 feet tall, being allowed to taste the parts I liked apart from and before the presentation at dinner.

    Things I remember about my grandmother come back fleetingly now, I'm so busy with the present, but now more and more often, little transporting moments of magic conjured by my lovely wife, emerging from my new/old kitchen, fold the ends of my life/experience together, bite by bite before I'm even aware of what's happening, like "the melánge" does the space/time continuum in Dune. Soy muy afortunado. Mmmmmm!

    Thank you, honey.