Monday, May 16, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

Today's recipe is a comfort food.

Today feels like a day which needs some comfort.

As a matter of fact this whole era of time we are presently in feels like a time in need of some comfort.

And more that just the pleasure afforded by a bowl a steaming hot soup and luscious dumplings... how about the enjoyment of settling into a good book? Better yet, a series of books.

A series of books that transforms you to a simpler time. To small town Americana where there are white picket fences, overgrown dogs, and everyone knows your name.

Where is this you ask?

In Mitford, I'll answer.

I'm talking about the "Mitford Series", by Jan Karon .

If you haven't already enjoyed these wonderful books then you don't know what you're missing. And if you have, then you must, must check out the "Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader", also by Jan Karon

If you're familiar with the series then you'll recall all of the food references and in her cookbook is where you will find all of the recipes. And you'll find lots of interesting, "behind the scene", stories too.

I especially like when she talks about the leap of faith she made when deciding to try her hand at writing novels. How she left a well paying job in advertising so she could pursue this dream. Her plan was to take on free lance work to pay the bills in the interim. Only the economy did not cooperate (sounds a lot like today) and she found herself in a pickle.

But she didn't give up. She realized that God was using this time to draw her nearer to Him and to strengthen her faith and her trust. She learns to lean on Him and He carries her through the difficult days to something better.

And that is always a comfort to remember. That God is always there for us and that He always sees us through.

So if you need a little comfort of your own tonight maybe this will help. It is the best chicken and dumplings recipe I have ever tried!

Puny's Chicken and Dumplings

2 cups self rising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup vegetable shortening (I use lard)
3/4 cup buttermilk
4&1/2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups cooked chicken meat
1 cup milk

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and sugar. Cut the shortening in with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and stir with a fork just until the dough forms a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry until it is 1/8 inch thick and cut into 1-inch squares.
In a large pot bring 4 cups of the chicken stock to a rolling boil, add the butter, and continue to keep the stock at a rolling boil. Gradually drop the dumplings in, one at a time, stirring to prevent sticking. Place the chicken meat on top of the dumplings and pour the milk over all. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until dumplings are cooked through. Do not remove the cover while the dumplings are cooking. After 20 minutes, remove the top and add more milk if the mixture is too dry. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

If you are in a hurry you can use boxed chicken broth and a store bought, rotisserie chicken.

And if you have more time you can make your own chicken stock...

Puny's Chicken Stock

1, 3-4 pound chicken, rinsed and giblets removed
2 large onions, quartered
2 large carrots, sliced thick
3 ribs celery, sliced thick
10 black peppercorns
2 teaspooons salt
3 sprigs fresh parsley
4 quarts cold water

In a tall, narrow stockpot, combine all the ingredients. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 2-3 hours.
Remove the chicken, strain the liquid and pour into small containers (no deeper tht 4 inches). Let the stock cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When the chicken has cooled, remove and discard the skin, then remove the meat and refrigerate. Before usig the stock, skim any hardened fat from the surface and bring back to a rolling boil.

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