February 19, 2006

The Things You've Been Missing

While I was unable to post during the Great Computer Crash of '06, I was certainly still cooking. I'm dedicating my next few posts to catching up on some of the things that simmer, baked, stewed, and burbled out of my kitchen during the latter half of January/early February.

Chicken and Dumplings is one of those peculiarly regional dishes that varies so much from location to location that it sometimes seems that the only constant is the chicken - and even then, it can have almost infinite variations of cut, bone, and procedure. As for the dumplings - my goodness, there are an aweful lot of things out there going by the name "dumpling." I've seen everything from dumplings that incorporate some of the chicken inside them, to matzo balls, to something thin, slick, and almost noodle like. I, myself, have been known to substitute a good biscuit, rising tall and turning golden and firm in the oven, but I think of that as a separate dish.

My own dumplings are the same as my mother's. Simple, minimal ingredients of flour, salt, baking powder, a little fat and a little milk - some fresh green herbs, if I can get them (even if only parsley). They are dolloped in small spoonfuls over a gently simmering stew - in this case a stew of boneless chicken, shiitake mushrooms, a few root vegetables and some celery and onions - and covered tightly for the 15 minutes it takes for them to puff up into perfect little balls of bread-y goodness.

The fat that I am most likely to use for dumplings is rendered chicken fat. I keep a mug of it in the door of the freezer (alongside, I confess, similar mugs of bacon fat, duck fat, and goose fat), simply pouring the fat away from roast chickens from time to time so that I can use it when a little fat is called for and the chicken flavour will be an asset. These dumplings are the perfect use for it. A mere tablespoon of chicken fat in a cup of flour yields light and fluffy dumplings with just a hint of savoury chicken accent. A little hit of comfort in the long nights of winter.

My freezer full of mugs of fat is probably a separate story all by itself - a stash borne of the habit of frugality and the sure knowledge that these frozen treasures add a depth of flavour and character to my dishes that is simply impossible to find using good ol' canola or olive oil.

1 comment:

Typical INgredients said...

Hi Dawna,

I like the new look of your blog you finally made it where you dont have to worry about anything..

Well, I'm a dumpling fan but I'll be honest with you-I never attempt and try to make my own chicken and dumplings but thanks to you- you're meal is so inviting..

Take care,