Friday, October 19, 2007

Chicken and Dumplings- Step by Step

Today's recipe is one I found recently on Recipezaar. (I seem to be spending a bit of time there lately!) I will never forget the first time I had the proverbial chicken and dumplings. To me, the mere name of the dish brings thoughts of home cooking and deliciousness to the forefront. Yet I was 20-something years old, and I'd never had it. I was chaperoning an overnight high-school field trip, and this particular night the group decided to go to Cracker Barrel for dinner. It was a cold and blustery October day, and comfort seemed the ticket. I promptly ordered the chicken and dumplings, it just sounded so good, and I normally love Cracker Barrel, so I was looking forward to my meal. And then it came. The other chaperon with me had ordered the same thing, and we both looked at it, and looked at each other, incredulous that this was really chicken and dumplings. It was like paste. There were chunks of chicken, and very thick egg noodles, and a gravy of sorts to hold it all together. And it really wasn't very good. It looked like paste and tasted like glue. I was so disappointed.

Fast forward to the present. I have in my freezer a large hen that we bought from a farmer that needs to be stewed. It's larger than a normal chicken, and will be tough to eat if it's not slowly cooked and coaxed into tenderness. Chicken and Dumplings-the correct way, seemed perfect to me. So here we have Chicken and Dumplings, step by step, as I actually had my camera handy, and thought to take pictures of the process. The resulting product was very good- not quite what I expected, but overall I'm pleased with it and thought it worth sharing. Warning- this post could get a little long today. If you'd like to just get to the recipe, check it out in the Recipe Trove.

Here we have the first step. This is my chicken, nicely browned in my large saute pan. I am using half of my large hen, as it will be more than enough chicken for my family. Even though the recipe doesn't say to, I did sprinkle my chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and I used 1/2 butter, 1/2 olive oil to brown in. You want this golden brown crispy color. In the photo above, I've already removed the chicken and put it in a casserole dish for the oven. When I saw how cramped it was though, I moved the chicken to a 9x13 pyrex dish instead.

This is the sauteing vegetables and herbs. This is one of those times I wish I could transfer scent to you. The second this hit the hot pan, an amazing aroma permeated the room. I think the addition of celery leaves as an herb is a bit of genius and is where most of that gorgeous scent comes from. In addition to celery leaves, we also have carrots, onions, garlic, an celery pieces. This sauteed for about 5 minutes- or until the vegetables started to brown a bit.

Then you remove the carrots from the saute pan and surround the chicken with them. I loved the look of the large carrot pieces, and you can see that this would have never all fit in that round casserole dish either. If you're wondering which chicken parts I'm using, there's a thigh, a leg, a wing, and a breast cut into two large pieces. As I mentioned, this is a big chicken.

After removing the carrots, flour is added to the pan, followed by chicken broth. To the chicken broth, sugar, salt, dried basil, and bay leaves have been added. This needs to be stirred constantly until it starts bubbling, and then it thickens very nicely. Once it bubbles, you can add your peas or corn (Or both). I opted for a can of corn this time. This is where you pour the sauce over the chicken pieces and carrots waiting on the side. But at the last minute I made a judgement call and decided to pull the meat off the chicken bones to make it easier to serve and eat.

And here it is all combined together in the pan. Have I mentioned how much chicken is on this rather large hen? If you have an opportunity to buy a farm-fresh chicken, do it! Don't even hesitate. We paid about $8.00 for one chicken. This one chicken was portioned into three freezer bags-ideally for two chicken dinners, and then the third one is the back and bones to be turned into stock at some point. But this half of a hen for the chicken and dumplings was a lot of meat! I could have cooked this in two smaller pans and tucked one into the freezer for another time. As it is, I've been munching on it for lunch for a few days. Anyway...

And here, finally, is the final product. The dumplings came together very quickly and I dolloped them all over the top of the chicken stew. In the end, it seemed a little more like a rustic chicken pot pie to me than what I expected of chicken and dumplings, but overall,we all enjoyed it. It was a complete meal in one, and I thought the flavor was right where it should be. Maybe a little too much black pepper for our taste, but the combination of dumplings and chicken stew were perfectly proportioned, and it is a keeper for sure. It also re-heated perfectly, as I'd cooked it early in the day on Wednesday, popped it in the fridge, and then Andy warmed it back up while we were at ballet class. I am certain that this could be frozen as well after the dumplings have been fully cooked.

Since this post got a little long today, rather than posting the recipe here, I'll just direct you to my saved version here in the Recipe Trove. TGIF!


Karen Hu said...

Hi, this is my first visit to your blog and I am impressed about the chicken and dumplings!

Interestingly, my husband and I went out to dinner Thursday night, something we rarely do. We went to what in Nashville, where we live is called a "meat and three" because they serve good ole southern cooking of meat and three veggies (or what passes for veggies in the south...fried okra, fried corn, fried apples, macaroni and cheese, etc.)

This particular meat and three, called Vittles, served chicken and dumplings. My husband, who hails from Chicago, did not know what dumplings were! I tried to explain and he ordered it. It was pretty good, actually, much better than Cracker Barrell. I agree w/ you that CBs are not that great.

Anyway, I was hoping he did not like them too much because then me might want me to make some! I am intimidated, but less so now that I see how you did it.

BTW, the idea of buying a whole chicken from an organic farmer is definitely something we are planning to do in the near future.

Happy Eating!

Erika W. said...

Thanks for visiting Karen! The chicken and Dumplings that I used looks like it's a lot of work, but it came together much quicker than I'd anticipated. I think it you had leftover chicken you could use that and completely eliminate the browning chicken step.

Do try the organic chicken- totally worth it in terms of flavor.