Monday, March 16, 2009

Amber Waves of Grain

Wheat fieldIt's official: I'm a blogger. You Gonna Finish That? is just over seven months old now. Experts agree that if you can stick with something for six months, well then you're in. The time has really flown by.  The irony being I'm so sick of cooking and writing about winter fare that I almost wish I'd never started this venture. Almost. What I really need is a couple of warm days wearing shorts & flip flops, the Farmer's Market to open, and for someone to treat me to dinner for a change.
But enough whining. My dad just had a birthday and I got to thinking about extended family. That led invariably to memories of good times spent at the table, and that led rather circuitously to my Aunt Robin's chicken & dumplings. And just like that, I had a dinner menu. Aunt Robin must be 170 by now, so there's no chance of getting an emailed recipe, and it will take my father days to one-finger his way across the computer keyboard. So I'm left to my own devises.

No one makes chicken & dumplings like my aunt. The broth is thick and creamy, salty and chocked full of piping hot, tender chicken. Her dumplings are white fluffy clouds of dough. I was way too young to remember anything about her technique, but I'm out to show what a real food blogger can do with a modicum of skill and the right inspiration.
MirepoixSweating the mirepoix
Searing chunks of chickenStir to combine and continue browning
The motto for this venture was, "When you come to a fork in the road, step on the gas." I was flying blind, but was obviously going to add my own spin to the dish, and that meant a dumpling makeover. I wanted some color and a little zing for the dough. Frying? All that grease floating on top of my perfect broth? You must be mad. How about a whole wheat flour? Eureka! And for zest: herbs. Milk is frequently called into service with egg for binding dumplings. What if I substituted yogurt for some tang? Things were getting interesting in La Cocina de BOF.
Dumpling ingredientsMix dry ingredients
Drop tablespoons of dough into simmering stockDumplings swell up appreciably
Chicken & whole wheat herbed-dumplings
For the Broth
  • 12 oz boned chicken legs and thighs, cubed
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2½ cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp chopped fresh sage
  • salt & pepper to taste

For the Dumplings

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup yogurt (or buttermilk) + extra if needed
In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, sweat a classic mirepoix until the onions turn translucent. Move vegetables to one side and add seasoned chicken in a single layer. Allow to sear on one side. Turn all the pieces and let cook for another minute or two before stirring everything together. Continue to cook until the chicken is barely cooked through. Add the liquids and herbs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer to reduce the liquid.
When the soup reaches a consistency you are happy with, mix all the dry ingredients for the dumplings in a large mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients and mix quickly. The dumpling dough should be soft, so add more yogurt if necessary. With a soup spoon, drop rounded mounds of dough into the broth. Increase the heat to medium, cover the Dutch oven and cook for 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your dumplings. Cut into a dumpling to make sure it is cooked through. Ladle into large shallow bowls and serve with a tall glass of ice cold milk, or a young Beaujolais.
Chicken and whole wheat herbed dumplings
My foray into dumplings came with a surprise or two. They do plump up while cooking, so take care with how much dough you drop into the soup for each dumpling. The extra egg yolk added some nice color and texture to the dough, and the herbs were just as zesty as I had hoped. The sauce had a slight sweet curry-like flavor mostly from the carrot and herbs I think. It was a not-altogether-unpleasant outcome. I dream up these updated recipes and my father always accuses me of being a gourmet, a word I detest. However, he once gave me an utterly blank stare when I asked where the lemon zester was, so maybe he's on to something.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

1 comment:

Jeff (UK) said...

Looks good enough to eat -- oh yeah, got it. Keep enjoying your foray into food, while it takes 6 months to make a habit, it can take a bit longer to find an audience. Not to worry though, this too will come.

Looking forward to buying you dinner this summer - let's make a food foray into Portland, and we'll start making plans for Ireland/Scotland.