November 04, 2007

Chicken & Dumplings

It was cold and windy this morning. Well, not really cold, more like chilly. But it was windy. And since it was the first really chilly morning we've had this autumn, I decided to push the issue, and declared it a soup day. Initially I had set my sights on a hearty gumbo, with shrimp, andouille, chicken, and maybe catfish. When I got to the grocery store though, they didn't have very good shrimp, or catfish, but they had 10 lbs. of chicken leg quarters for $5.00. So Gumbo gave way to chicken and dumplings. I usually toss in a couple slices of lemon, but again, the only lemons I could find were in 2 lb. bags, and I didn't need that many. It's not that I couldn't find uses for them, I just couldn't find uses for them before they turn bad. But I had a couple limes at home and figured they'd substitute nicely. (which they really did, I may start using limes by default on this one)
I'm sure there are a million ways to make chicken and dumplings, but this is the way I do it, which really works well on a cold day. This recipe is adapted from Southern Living's "Cooking across the South".

5 lbs. of chicken. (dark meat works best)
1/2 an onion, sliced
1 stalk of celery, with leaves if possible, chopped.
2 slices of lime (or lemon)
2 bay leaves
6-7 whole peppercorns

Arrange a layer of the chicken pieces in the bottom of a pot. Add about half the onions, celery, a slice of lime, a bay leaf, and some of the peppercorns. Another layer of the chicken, and the rest of the aromatics, and seasonings. Cover all that with water, and bring it to a boil for 10-15 minutes. Let that cool. I usually take the chicken out with tongs, and put it in a collander. Then run cold water over it. When it's cool enough to handle, you want to get the skin off, and de-bone the chicken, returning the meat to the stock. Once you have all the meat back, let it simmer, covered, for about 2 hours. Meanwhile, you can make your dumplings. After 2 hours, add the dumplings, and let simmer, covered, for another 30 minutes.

For the dumplings I use:

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk with 1 egg mixed in

Mix your dry ingredients, cut in the shortening, and add the milk and egg mixture a little at a time until you have a fairly firm dough. Roll it out to about 1/4" think, then cut your dumplings. I usually use a pizza cutter and cut 1" strips, then cut on a diagonal to get diamond shaped dumplings.

November 02, 2007

Simple Pleasures

It's November. I never got those garden pics posted, and my digital camera is on the fritz. My chiles did well though. I've several baggies of roasted, peeled anaheims and poblanos, some of which have been selected to go into tonight's advance batch of machaca. The act of picking, roasting, sweating, and peeling chiles is one that I find very relaxing. I also grew some serrano chiles this year, as I did last year. One batch I pickled as escabeche, and the next batch I dried over hickory smoke. Funny thing about chiles, the same botanical pod will go by any number of names depending on what's been done to it. For example, jalapenos, smoked and dried, are chipotles. A poblano chile, when dried, is called an ancho chile. I don't know what you call a smoked serrano chile, so I'm calling it chipotle. I do know that they're very tasty, and add a fantastic dimension of flavor to a lot of dishes, and I'm a little bit proud to have grown and made my own.

My best friend was down this past weekend for a visit. It was good to see him. It's always good to spend time with him. I busied myself Friday morning with sundry errands, and on the way home stopped by the local fish market, and got a pint of shucked oysters, and a dozen blue point oysters. They had Chincoteague, Choptank, Prince Edwards, and Blue Points. The locals here can be particular about their oysters. Seriously. And I'll admit, I've never had an oyster that can compare to an east coast oyster. The blue points I bought came from Long Island, so they're not exactly local, but they're close enough that the trip didn't bother them much. I love it when the fish monger taps the shells, I leave much more confident that all 12 will be good. Next to the fish shack, there's a liquor store. I stopped in and got a 6 pack of Belgian white beer.

That evening, Joe and I stood over the kitchen sink, shucking and slurping some of the most delicious oysters I've had in a while, and washing them back with some delicious white beer. Here's the beauty of these oysters, -- they don't require anything. No sauce, no condiments, nothing but the oyster -- heck, it even comes in it's own dish! It's the essence of simplicity. Good friends, excellent food, no fuss. Friday was good.