Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Chicken and Dumplings
Tonight we had our second meal from the original Sunday dinner of roasted chicken, which always makes me feel so frugal and smart. The roasted chicken is a favorite at our house. In the roasting pan I lay a bed of celery and onions, which I also stuff in the cavity of the bird. I might sprinkle some salt and pepper or seasoned salt lightly over the top, which should be breast side up.
This method makes such a flavorful gravy and I always make plenty. I'll need some leftover for the second meal.
Now usually the second meal is chicken soup. I simmer the carcass of the chicken with whatever meat is left on the bone. At some point, the meat is all too willing to fall off the bone. And at some point soon after that, the carcass itself begins to fall apart, which is sort of a pain to sort through. (There's a scene which I like in The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeanette Walls. It's her story of growing up in desperate poverty and she makes a friend whose mother oftens lets her stay through mealtimes to ensure that she could sometimes go to bed with a full stomach. That mother tells Jeanette that she could stay for dinner if she would pick the chicken meat off the bone to help prepare the meal. "Do you know how to pick a chicken?" she asks. "Pick it CLEAN?" And she was shocked to see how expertly that hungry child found all the hidden morsels.) I put the stock in a cool place. The grease will rise as it rests and can be skimmed off.
If I'm making soup, I start by bringing the stock to a simmer again. My secret ingredient is the leftover gravy, which I whisk in at some early point. There's lots of flavor, and the thickener in the gravy gives the soup a bit of body that I find favorable. I toss in whatever veggies I desire (and have on hand) - always diced onion, carrots and celery... sometimes corn or peas. I also fling in a handful of rice and cook til tender. Nothing is better in January, particularly with fresh bread. Can you believe this almost makes me miss winter?
Anyway, after all that, it wasn't even soup that I made tonight. I thought my Little Leaguers needed a slightly heartier meal than soup to hold body and soul together through their evening activities, so I went with chicken and dumplings instead. It's my mom's recipe and I have an inkling that it was something she ate at home as a girl.
Mom's Chicken and Dumplings
Cook one whole chicken or parts so that you can have 7-8 c. of flavorful broth. (Mom's note: "I added 3-4 bouillion cubes after the broth was cooled and skimmed")
For dumplings: 2 c. flour, 4 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. salt, 1 T shortening, 1 c. milk.
Sift dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Use fork to mix in milk. Drop dough by spoonful into boiling broth. Reduce to simmering. Cook 15 minutes in a tightly covered stock pot. Should feed 4-6 easily.
For me, this is what home tastes like. In fact, I was so busy liking it I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.