The Blessing of Chicken

 

+For this post, I will just concede to my friends who have the advantage and benefit of home-grown chickens. I live in the suburbs. I have a limited income. I don’t know any chicken farmers.

Yes, I do miss fresh eggs.

My husband said just yesterday, “I wish we knew someone who has chickens so I could get some manure for our yard . . .”

You can take us out of the country, but we will still long for a good moose roast and some fresh wild salmon. . .

Back to why chicken is a blessing

It just smells so good simmering on the stove;

it is versatile;

it’s very forgiving for my low energy level

So, even in a Virginia summer, my house smells like chicken soup. . .

or, in this case — chicken n’ dumplings

put the chicken (thighs, breasts quarters, a whole chicken, it’s just what you prefer) in a large pot with almost a gallon of water (I think there were 12 thighs in the package I used). I leave the skins on the chicken. It adds more flavor to the broth.

throw in some onion (around 1/4 large onion)

and garlic (1-2 cloves)

and celery (maybe 2 stalks, cut up)

Now put the lid on, turn the heat on medium-low, and walk away. for 2 -3 hours.

just let it stay at a very low simmer. not too hot a boil (you don’t want too much evaporation) — just enough to make Leonard the cat pace around the kitchen meowing 🙂

turn the heat off. put the chicken (skin, bones and all) in a bowl. toss the celery, onion and garlic; pour the broth into a separate large bowl.

Cover, and put them in the refrigerator. (I did this part tonight after supper dishes, so I washed the pot while the parts cooled a little, and then they all went in the refrigerator until the next morning)

Now, skim the fat from the top of the broth (it’s really ok if you leave a little fat in the broth)

pour the broth back into that big pot, and turn on the heat.

Meanwhile, time to get your hands “chicken-y” while you take off the skin and bones. Some people like “strings” of chicken in their chicken dish. I like sort of cubes from cutting up the chunks of chicken.

(tip: I get a plastic bag like from the grocery, and put it on the counter. As I take the skin and bones from the chicken, I put them straight into the bag. When I’m done, just tie the bag and put in the trash)

By now the broth should be close to boiling (doesn’t it smell wonderful!). Turn it down to a simmer again, because it’s time to get the dumplings ready.

Here’s where there are two very definite “camps” — are you a “puffy dumplings” fan,  or a “noodle dumplings” person?

For the “noodle” people, I can give you a quick tip — take out 4 or 5 of the burrito-size flour tortillas, slice them into strips, and oila — noodle dumplings.

But if you are like my family, “puffy dumplings” is the only way to go. My favorite recipe is one I took from my “Farm Journal” cookbook —

2 cups flour     1Tbs baking powder     1tsp. salt     4Tbs shortening     1 cup milk

I “sour” the milk by adding 1Tbs white vinegar to the milk and let it sit for around 5 minutes. Because I use powdered milk, I pour 1 cup water in my little shaker/mixer container (like for diet shakes or salad dressings), add the vinegar, then add 1 heaping scoop of powdered milk. Shake well to mix, then let it sit until I’m ready

This is totally an option — for the shortening sometimes I use 2Tbs of the chicken fat I skimmed off the broth, and then add 2 Tbs of shortening or butter

Put the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cut in the shortening/chicken fat until it’s mixed in and looks like little balls of dough. Then add the soured milk, and stir just until it’s moist (don’t beat it up or the dumplings will be heavy)

Now — back to the chicken

The broth is simmering nicely, so it’s time to thicken it. For the nearly gallon of broth, I will add a paste of 1/3 cup corn starch or potato flour mixed in some cold water. Pour slowly into the simmering broth and whisk it like crazy until it is smooth. The thickness of the broth is personal preference. My family likes a thicker, gravy-like consistency.

Now is the time to “taste test” the broth/gravy, and add some pepper, celery seed.

And then stir in the chicken.

When the pot starts to simmer again, it’s time to add the dumplings (make that, about 20 minutes before people are ready to eat, it’s time to add the dumplings)

Here’s another personal preference thing — I like to make small-ish dumplings, so I use a soup spoon, and start “plopping” the dough onto the bubbling chicken and broth/gravy. I go around the edges of the pot, and work my way in toward the center.

Keep the heat to just a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes uncovered. Set the timer on this one. Then put the cover on, and cook for 10 minutes covered. Set the timer again.

Dish the yummy dumpling and chicken/gravy mix into bowls, and enjoy!

Oh, yes, the tortilla noodle dumpling — I don’t add quite as much thickener to my broth, and then just drop the tortilla strips into the hot, simmering broth/gravy. Let simmer uncovered 5 -7 minutes, then 5-7 minutes covered. Taste test a noodle to see if it’s tender and cooked. Some of the flour tortilla will thicken the broth, and they will taste just like a tender dumpling noodle.

I know this post is long. I didn’t mean for it to be a recipe really, and it’s taken much longer to write out than it actually takes to make this dish.

Make a green salad, or a side of green beans, and a glass of sweet tea or lemonade. Tastes wonderful.

Comfort food, y’all

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