Chicken and dumplings kick off fall
Autumn is here. Well, at least it is now with temps dipping into the 50s and rain greening up the grass after long summer days.
So last Saturday night, we roasted two organic chickens. We made mashed potatoes and gravy with the amazing chantrelles that New Seasons had on sale. We served this meal with fresh green beans. Dinner was hearty and good, but the best part of roasting a chicken or two is the anticipation of the leftovers: sandwiches, dumplings, chicken tacos, chicken salad.
We decided to use the leftovers for chicken and dumplings Tuesday night — yes, the perfect dinner to ward off the chill of the day’s off-and-on downpours. But we were not altogether in a winter frame of mind: We had end-of-season berries to remind us of summer, plus a crisp pinot gris to add to the conversation and camaraderie. We also had an arugula salad with red onion, filberts and crumbled bleu cheese.
Our friend Marcus gets credit for the dinner photos, and the Intrepid One gets thanks for making the delicious chicken and dumplings. He has a system, which involves setting aside leftovers for sandwiches and cooking the rest of the meat off the carcass in organic chicken broth with carrots, onions and celery. Then he puts the whole thing in the fridge for a day so it can cool and the fat can rise to the top.
On Tuesday evening, the IO removed the solidified chicken fat, picked through the meat for the choice pieces and got rid of the cooked-to-death vegetables, cartilage, gristle and bones that helped flavor the stock. Now we were ready for fresh vegetables. The dog was ready for anything.
He added the chicken pieces, fresh broth, and four big carrots peeled and cut into rounds. Next, he peeled and sliced six stalks of celery and some diced onion and added them to the stock, bringing the liquid to a gentle boil.
Making dumplings is a procedure that the IO has perfected over the years. His latest improvement came from a PBS cooking show in which a woman who was a guest on an old Julia Child episode was making amazing fluffy biscuits. She dusted them in flour before she baked them. So now just before the IO plops the dough into the simmering chicken stock and slams down the lid, he rolls the dumpling material around on a board for a light coating of flour. That helps to thicken the broth for a creamier consistency. He likes the dough on the juicy side.
When he was a kid, his mom admonished him for lifting the lid on the steaming dumplings before time was up. He has never forgotten, and that rule still goes in our household. He simmers the dish on the stove for about 10 to 12 minutes before lifting the lid and serving.
The dumplings, mostly courtesy of “Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook”
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons salad oil
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Combine the milk and oil. Add to the dry ingredients, stirring just to moisten. With a rounded tablespoon, drop the dumpling onto a floured board and roll the dough around before plopping directly into the simmering stock. When they’re all formed, cover tightly and cook with reduced heat about 10-12 minutes.