Tuesday, October 14, 2014

the weather called for soup (recipe: chicken and dumplings)

The last of the small batch summer jam is gone, we finished it last night.  I realize I never shared the recipe in this space but the last few times I've made preserves it was quite spontaneous and a recipe was never jotted down.  But alas, we had to say goodbye to the fine marriage of summer's strawberries and cherries wrapped in a blueberry balsamic vinegar.  It was sublime and I will have to wait for next year's berries for its recreation.  It is fall, after all and time to move on.
The past few days have brought clouds, wind and a few rain showers.  It broke the unseasonably warm weather we've had for the past few weeks.  The weather called for soup and warm spices.  Apple Cider Pancakes with Cider Syrup in the morning, chicken and dumplings for dinner and pumpkin chocolate chip bread for dessert, snacking or any other time it seemed fit.
As the clouds pulled over the sky and the rain fell to the earth I craved for a homey, nostalgic soup like my family's chicken and dumplings.  I will not pretend to make the best Chicken and Dumplings because I don't, my grandmother, Momoo, does.  And then my parents make a wonderfully close replica, as does my sister, Shannon.  I however, have never liked my rendition of her Chicken and Dumplings recipe.
It seems simple enough, chicken simmered in chicken stock, a stick of butter, biscuit dough rolled in flour, cut and dropped into the bubbling chicken stock.  But I have never made an acceptable batch-decent yes, but I am not looking for decent.  I am looking for a dish reminiscent of childhood able to transcend through time; for love and warmth poured delicately into a bowl.

Because of my efforts lost and knowing I could never duplicate Momoo's recipe, I decided to branch off using the techniques of my family and a homemade dough from classic southern chef Art Smith. Inspired by a local cafe, I added onions, carrots, celery, parsley and a heavy grind of freshly black pepper.  It may not be my Momoo's recipe but it satisfies the soul just as well.

Chicken and Dumplings
serves 4

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 yellow onion, medium dice
1 large carrot,sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 quart chicken stock + one cup reserved stock
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
3 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
salt & pepper

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon water
pinch of salt
  1. Place chicken, onion, celery, carrot and chicken stock into a dutch oven or stock pot.  Add salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that has risen to the surface.  Reduce the heat to low and cover tightly.  Simmer, skimming off when needed, until chicken is tender, about 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile make the dough:  Mix flour, salt, oil, and water in a medium size bowl with a wooden spoon until a dough has come together in a ball.  Dump dough onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth.  Let the dough rest for five minutes.  Roll dough out 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1 inch strips.  Place strips onto a floured, parchment lined plate or board in a single layer.  If needed, sprinkle with flour and cover with another piece of wax paper to layer more dough strips onto the plate.  Place in freezer while chicken is cooking.
  3. Once chicken is cooked remove from pot and set aside on a cutting board or plate to cool.  Once cooled, shred chicken and reserve. 
  4. Turn the heat up under the stock pot and boil for 30 minutes, reducing stock to deepen the flavor.  In a small bowl stir together flour and softened butter until combined.  Add to the stock and boil for a few minutes.
  5. Take the dumplings out of the freezer and snap the longer strips into 2 inch pieces and drop one by one into the bubbling stock. When dropping, take care not to place dumplings on top of one another and slide them into the most active areas of the boiling stock.  Cover tightly and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until dumplings are tender, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add chicken and parsley, adjust the seasoning (a little heavy on the pepper) and add reserved stock if needed to reach desired consistency.
*Using bone-in, skin on chicken will ensure a deliciously flavorful bowl of soup.  I use boneless, skinless because that is what I typically have on hand.
**The mixture of flour and butter, known as a beurre manie, thickens the soup giving it a velvety, luxurious texture.  Once the mixture hits the boiling liquid, the butter melts dispersing the flour which then swells and thickens the soup without any lumpiness.