Saturday, May 12, 2012

DinnerLove: Farmer approved Chicken & Dumplings

 In my opinion, Chicken & Dumplings trumps America's favorite hot dog. Well, sometimes, depending on the dog.
When you are hungry for a dish that warms the heart as well as fills the tummy, Chicken & Dumplings is one that instantly comes to mind. An American classic, Chicken & Dumplings is believed to have originated in French Canada during the Great Depression; probably because although the ingredients are humble and easy to find, the combination of these simple foods is what makes it nourishing for the body, mind and spirit- something that was in short supply at that time.
Although there are countless factory-made versions of this dish, it is easy to make and can feed a family for days, if need be. Here is my recipe (feel free to cut this down, I tend to think in terms of feeding an army).

10 pounds of chicken legs (you can use breasts, but this cut is cheap and more flavorful than the ubiquitous breast)
6 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

First, put the chicken on to boil. Boil until the legs are falling apart.This should take 60-90 minutes, or you can do this ahead in a slow cooker. Remove the meat from the pot, reserving the boiling liquid. Set aside to cool. Make sure you protect it from scavenging dogs.
Put the flour in a bowl, (I use my Kitchen-Aid with the dough hook attachment but you can do this manually as all our mothers- and fathers- did). Add the water and mix until a ball of dough forms. Knead until smooth.
Remove from the bowl, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, pick the meat off of the bones, leaving out the skin and connective tissue. Save the discarded material and simmer it for several hours or in a slow cooker to make your own chicken broth.
Divide the resulting meat in two and put it back into the pots. Set the pots back onto the stove on medium heat.
The possibilities are endless here. Dust your counter with flour and use theme cookie cutters! Hearts and stars or football helmets!

Retrieve the dough from the fridge and roll out to about 1/4" thickness. You don't need to use flour to dust your work surface, but if you like a perfectly shaped dumpling, use flour. I happen to like the stretching that results from peeling the dough off the counter!
By now, your chicken meat and broth will be gently boiling. Drop the dumplings one by one directly into the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like LOTS of pepper) and allow to simmer for another 30 minutes. If you like your C&D soupy, simmer for a shorter period of time. If you like a thicker, more stew-like consistency, simmer for longer, removing it from the heat when it reaches the thickness you like.
Now you have your own batch of Chicken & Dumplings!!

This may take some time, but it's perfect for a lazy Sunday or you can squeeze in the steps around laundry or cleaning your bathroom on Saturday. If you're retired or independently wealthy, you can make this on Tuesday at 10 am standing in your pajamas.

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