Chicken & dumplings

Another classic Southern comfort food dish. Ahh…. so fabulous.

I learned to make this dish when I was just out of college and had a job that was more handling customers than washing diapers. For the record, I’ll take Cheerios over conference calls any day. 😉  This was one of those “oh I use some of this and a little of that and sometimes those — should I write this down?” sort of things, so I’m doing my best to turn it into an actual recipe.

Chicken & dumplings

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts or one roasted rotisserie chicken
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold
  • Chicken broth — about 2 quarts
  • 2 Tbsp. or so cornstarch
  • Salt, pepper, onion powder

Instructions

The chicken
    1. Either boil or slow cook the chicken breasts, saving the water it was cooked in, or (time saver alert!) buy a lovely already-roasted rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Viola, my Grandma would wittily say, you’re halfway there. With either method, wait till the chicken is cooled and chop it into chunks; set aside for now.
The dumplings
    1. While the pot of broth is heating up, cut the butter into the flour like you’re making biscuits using either a pastry blender, a fork, or a few pulses of the food processor. Now sprinkle in some salt and pour in chicken broth, a little at a time, till the dough holds together enough to be able to roll it out — this will take somewhere around a cup or cup and a half, but it’s not a science. When the dough holds together, roll it out very thin and cut into strips about an inch wide, and two inches long. A pizza cutter is great for this! These, obviously, do not have to be anywhere near perfect.
    2. Returning to your chicken broth: get a big pot of chicken it simmering — either the water you reserved from cooking the chicken breasts, or some homemade you might have in the freezer. If you’re using quarts of chicken broth, pour in one full quart plus whatever is left after making your dumplings. Bottom line: you want plenty in there so the dumplings have room to cook.
    3. After the broth has come to a nice simmer, start carefully dropping in the dumplings; they’ll all sink to the bottom at first and that’s fine. Let them simmer gently for about half an hour, swirling the pot around every so often. You don’t want to do too much stirring because the dumplings are delicate as they’re cooking and you don’t want to make them all into a giant ball of mush; some gentle moving around with a wooden spoon is fine.
Thickening time!
    1. Whisk about 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch into 1/4 cup of cold water till it’s all dissolved and there are no lumps. Pour this mixture into the pot of dumplings and stir gently, then add in your chopped chicken.
Seasoning
  1. Sprinkle in some salt, some pepper and some onion powder, bring the whole mess back up to a simmer, then reduce heat so it’s just below simmer. Let it cook another half hour or so to give the cornstarch time to work its magic and thicken things up and for all the flavors to get to know each other properly.

Now serve! This is crazy good with green beans (cooked with bacon fat, duh) or just on its own. It also freezes like a dream so I make a giant pot once a month or so and freeze quart size bags of it.

Chicken broth

Remember when we made the French chicken and I told you to hold onto the gizzards from the chicken? Here’s why:

Throw them in a pot or slow cooker. Or a pressure cooker! Whatever floats your boat. Now throw in half an onion and a couple stalks of celery. If you have some carrots or a bay leaf, go crazy — throw ’em in.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the whole mess. Now fill with water, turn it on low, and walk away. For about 12 hours.

When it’s done simmering, strain it through a mesh strainer, drain off any excess fat (although there won’t be much from just the gizzards), and store it however you see fit. I usually put a quart in a Mason jar in the fridge, then put quarts of it in freezer bags in the deep freeze so I have it on hand.

Now after you’re done with your French chicken and you’ve had supper and sandwiches with the meat? You guessed it. Throw the chicken bones (“bones” sounds prettier than “carcass” does it not?) in a pot with the other half of your onion, and whatever combination of celery, carrots, bay leaves, salt, pepper, etc. you arrived at earlier. Fill the pot with water and repeat the process. Then shake your head at yourself that you ever spent $4/quart on the store-bought stuff, which isn’t nearly as good as yours is anyway.

And now that you have all this yummy chicken broth on hand, you have no excuse for not making risotto! Or, as I like to call it, Chicken Broth’s Best Reason For Existence.

Tortilla Soup

January is the perfect time for a pot of tortilla soup! My friend Rachel gave me this recipe after I devoured admired a pot of it at her house. And it’s so easy to make!
You will need:

  • Black beans, 2 cans (I used some I’d previously cooked from dry in the crock pot)
  • Corn, 1 can
  • Diced tomatoes, 1 can
  • Rotel, 1 can (the South’s gift to the world, along with Moon Pies and cornbread)
  • Three chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
  • Chicken broth (made from afore-mentioned chicken)
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning
  • Shredded cheese — cheddar, colby, jack or some combination thereof
  • Fritos

Easiest directions ever:

  1. Boil the chicken in plenty of water till it’s cooked through
  2. Shred the chicken and set aside the resulting broth
  3. Stir together beans, corn, tomatoes, Rotel, spices and chicken in a pot
  4. Add in chicken broth  till it’s as soupy as you like it
  5. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, then serve with Fritos and cheese on top

You can play with these ingredients at will. It’s not exact at all! Like more beans? More corn? Run with it. Also easy to make with bags of frozen veggies if you’re making a bigger pot. Speaking of which, this soup freezes beautifully. I make gigantic batches and freeze supper-sized portions for easy weeknight meals. Also great with cornbread!