Chicken and Dumplings


In the past few days, I planned to blog about strawberry shortcake. That plan fell through (but you bet your ass you’ll see a recipe in the future!), then I planned to blog about chicken pot pie. But the most intriguing recipes for chicken pot pie called for obscene amounts of butter (almost a full pound of butter AND heavy cream for two 8-inch pies, really?), so fuck that. You wonder why Americans are so obese? That’s fucking why.

Basically in the process of learning to cook, you tend to end up flipping through recipes that call for both obscene amounts of butter and a ton of pretty expensive equipment and ingredients. Is it not possible to make something that’s hearty, relatively healthy, and tastes good?

Enter chicken and dumplings. This is not your normal fat-ass chicken and dumplings loaded with butter and shit. There are three goals here: 1) It uses just enough grease to be tasty but doesn’t overdo it, 2) It uses some of the absolute cheapest vegetables and meats you can find in the United States, and 3) It is chock full of said vegetables as to actually provide a balanced meal, something you can eat day after day without serious risk of heart disease.

Ingredients

Yo momma

I've got nothing against fat people, I just don't want to be one, yes?

Cook & Prep Time: ~90 minutes
Serves 3-5

Chicken Stew:

8-12 pieces of dark meat chicken (drums, thighs)*
1 large onion, diced
4-6 large stalks of celery, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 large russet potato OR 3-4 white/red potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes**
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
2 sprigs green onion, chopped into 1/2 or 1 cm pieces (optional)
salt
pepper
4 tbsp cooking oil
3 tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted (MUST be sifted to avoid lumps)
1/4 cup cream (optional)
1/4 cup cooking wine***
3 cups chicken stock OR chicken bouillon****

You will also need: 1 large pot, 1 smaller pot (but capable of holding 3 cups of fluid)

*Many recipes recommend using breasts, which is far trickier since breasts are far easier to overcook. Thighs and drumsticks are dark meats which are a) more flavorful and b) do not overcook as easily.
**Depending on if you use russet potato or white/red potatoes, cook times are different. Russet potatoes tend to fragment after a period of boiling while white/red potatoes do not, so Russet potatoes should ideally be added about 15 minutes before cooking finishes.
***From what I can see sherry is the optimal liquor. I used Chinese cooking wine since it was on hand, which still works. I think white wine could also work.
****By which I also mean 3 cups of water and a chicken ramen flavor packet.

Dumplings*:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
salt
1 tsp baking powder

~OR~

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tbsp cooking oil
salt
cold water

*I included two recipes which provide drastically different textures depending on your preferences. The first dumpling recipe produces soft, fluffy dumplings, which is more authentically American. However, I find this to be too mushy, and prefer the second recipe, which produces a dense, chewy dumpling. I did not include a water amount for the second recipe because I usually just eyeball it. You should add just enough cold water to produce a slightly damp ball of dough that isn’t floury on the outside, yet not very sticky to the touch either.

Cooking

First, measure out 3 cups of chicken stock or water and bring to a boil in a small pot on the side. Add bouillon to the pot if you are not using stock.

We now start with the chicken. Pour two tablespoons of oil into your big pot over medium heat. Add chicken pieces, salt and pepper them, and brown them on each side (simply leave the chicken pieces without turning them until they are browned, then repeat for the other side). You may need to do this twice if your pot cannot fit all the chicken pieces. Don’t worry if bits of chicken stick to the pot bottom; these bits will come handy later.

Yo Poppa

"Mommy what happens to the rest of the chicken when the leg gets cut off?" "Well son, we get chicken legs when chickens accidentally step on landmines and their legs have to be amputated. There are actually large buildings just full of peg leg chickens running around." "Cool story brah."

While the chicken is browning, dice your onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Group the onions, carrots, and celery together; these are typically called the “trinity” in culinary speak, except in New Orleans where the carrots are replaced by green bell peppers. They are a trio of aromatic vegetables that can greatly enhance the flavor of many soups and other dishes. For this specific dish, it is the onions that are the most important because onions significantly enhance the flavor of chicken stock.

Remove your brown chicken and set it aside to cool. In the same pot, add your other two tablespoons of cooking oil and saute the vegetables until just translucent. Do not forget to salt and pepper the vegetables!

Yo Auntie

I messed up the pots/pans planning while doing this dish, hence stainless steel pan. In other news, I got a stainless steel pan so I no longer do atrocious things to my non-stick, like make caramel in it... Huzzah!

When the vegetables are ready, add your cream and wine. Stir everything around a few times and add your 3 tbsp of flour. The flour should thicken everything, and the liquids plus the sauteed vegetables should have loosened any stuck bits of chicken on the bottom of the pan. Add your boiling stock to your main pot with the vegetables right now, as well as the bay leaf and thyme. Add red/white potatoes at this time. Adjust your heat so the pot is at a bare simmer.

If you are going to make the dumplings that do NOT require baking powder, prepare your dumplings now: Bring together oil, salt, flour, and just enough cold water to mix into a cohesive ball. Knead ball until consistent. The ball of dough should have no excess flour and be slightly damp to the touch, but not sticky. Pat the dough flat on a very lightly floured surface until about 1/3 inch or 1 cm thick, then cut into 1-inch/2.5 cm pieces. Place the pieces into the vegetable stock mixture. They will have to cook for at least 45 minutes.

Yo Grandmomma

Not exactly "chock full" right now, but it will be. Oh, it will be

Once your chicken has sufficiently cooled (given about 20 minutes), take a knife to them on the cutting board, de-skin and debone them. I recommend this de-boning process since most recipes do and it makes for easy eating. However, if you are lazy, it’s perfectly fine to keep the chicken pieces intact. Add the chicken to the soup.

Now comes the critical part. If you are using the dumpling recipe that HAS baking powder, now is the time to prepare it. Bring all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, bring melted butter and milk together. The most effective way to do this is to partially melt the butter by microwaving it at 5 second intervals, then adding milk, and microwaving until the rest of the butter is melted. Add melted butter and milk to your dry ingredients and mix just enough to combine everything. Do not over-mix!

The other dumpling type sinks, this type floats. Like how skinny people tend to sink in a pool and fat people float.

Now, IF you are using the dumpling recipe with baking powder: turn the heat up on the soup until it is actively boiling. Add russet potatoes at this time. The increased temperature will allow the soup to continue to boil even with the additional cool ingredients. Drop the wet dumpling batter two tablespoons at a time into the boiling soup. Cover the pot with a lid and let cook for 15 minutes. Do NOT take the lid off during this time for any reason. These dumplings need to steam to cook. The baking powder expands the dumplings, allowing the hot air within to quickly cook the dough.

Dumplings with baking powder should double in size.

Once the fifteen minutes are up, add your frozen peas and simmer for five more minutes. If you are using the dumpling recipe without baking powder simply time it so the russet potatoes are added 15-20 minutes before the dumplings are done and the peas are added 5 minutes before the dumplings are done. Meanwhile, chop up your green onions and spread over the finished soup. Try to remove the bay leaves if you are able to hunt them down. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

The Result

Give a man a bowl of soup, he eats for a day. Teach a man to cook soup, he laughs in your fucking face, goes to the grocery store, and buys it pre-made. Such is life today

4.8 / 5 Not bad, huh? And it doesn’t contain six sticks of butter? You don’t say. This is a nice hearty soup that sticks to your ribs but not in the way that’ll clog your arteries and kill you. Make a big pot, stick it in the fridge, eat it over a few days. Great for the winter time. If you ask me, this is the ideal way food should be. Tasty, healthy, and reasonably priced.

Well, unless… I can think of a couple of upcoming planned blogs that might go in the opposite direction of healthy >_>

Conclusion

Carrots, onions, celery, and potatoes are cheap. They are dirt fricken cheap where I live, and in most parts of the United States. At least two out of these four ingredients are present in my fridge at all times. As a result, I am intimately familiar with these vegetables. Necessity dictates that I become creative with these vegetables lest I become sick of them. The two dishes chicken and dumplings and chicken pot pie both use all of these ingredients to a similar (and very delicious effect). While I personally don’t mind making an emaciated, super-lean version of chicken pot pie for myself, it doesn’t quite taste rich enough to merit a legitimate blog. I will do more research to come up with a tasty compromise between richness and full-on heart attack.

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