Posts tagged ‘home’

November 2, 2011

Chicken and Dumplins

There comes a time in every couple’s relationship where one person says, “Oh, let’s have    insert dish here    for dinner” with a giddy, child-like smile… and the other person looks at them with a face like their trying to solve a very complex math problem.  Well, this happened to me when my boyfriend asked for “chicken and dumplins”.  Chicken and what?  My parents are British; I grew up eating pot roast, shepherds pie, sausage rolls and bubble and squeak.  I felt like I’d walked into an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.  I thought it might be something like Matzo ball soup, which is really isn’t, so I got my lesson in dumpling creation through unscripted directions from my boyfriend’s grandmother over the phone.  It was less than vague… something along the lines of “mix a little flour with some Crisco until it looks right”?!?  Regardless, I think I figured it out and I’ve been trying to master it ever since.

Chicken and dumplings, like most southern food, evolved out of necessity and practicality.  In the old days, chicken was a special treat and not readily available like we find today in our grocery stores.  When it was available, chickens were often scrawny little birds without a lot of meat, yet had the job of serving an entire family dinner and lunch the next day.  However, flour was in abundance and an affordable staple found in all household kitchens.  Flour could easily be used to stretch a meager meal so that an entire family would leave the table feeling full and satisfied by making biscuits, dumplings, bread or an assortment of other improvisational meal stretchers.   Today, chicken and dumplings has become an ultimate comfort food of creamy sauce, thick luscious dumplings, and shreds of moist chicken.  I like mine with lots of pepper so the sauce is speckled with little flakes of black and charcoal.

Now I’ll say up front this is a work in progress, I’ll keep you updated on my adjustments but overall this recipe delivered a very satisfying dinner.  I should also mention this is not a weeknight dinner.  It takes a bit of time so I recommend making it over the weekend, or if you decide to do it during the week, split it up into two nights and make the stock the first night and the dumplings the second.

Ingredients

Stock

  • 1 whole chicken (remove giblets)
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 large carrots, roughly chopped (or 2 handfuls of baby carrots if you have them around)
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Water (enough to thoroughly cover the chicken and have room for all the flavorings)

Dumplings

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (add more if mixture is too dry and won’t hold together)
  • 2 eggs (This was my first attempt with the eggs, it resulted in fluffier dumplings so if you like them more dense remove the eggs and add a little more milk)
  • 3/4 cup Crisco
  • Extra flour for dusting

Soup

  • Homemade stock (from above)
  • Shredded chicken, remove skin (from above)
  • 1 tbsp, freshly ground pepper
  • Strips of dumplings (from above)
  • 2 tbsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Method

Part 1

  1.  Get a large soup pot and fill half way with cold water
  2. Add chicken (whole chicken but no giblets), carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary salt, and peppercorns
  3. Top up with water if needed, the chicken should be completely covered and the vegetables should have enough room to float around
  4. Place on stove top on high and bring to a boil
  5. Once it begins boiling, lower heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours
  6. Enjoy your time off, and leave the stove to do all the work.  You don’t need to do a thing!

Part 2

  1. Remove pot from stove and remove chicken carefully
  2. Place chicken in a bowl and let cool for 20 minutes before shredding (or you’ll burn your fingers)
  3. While the chicken cools, take the stock and run it through a strainer.  Hopefully you have another large pot big enough to hold the stock, if not line up a few bowls
  4. I usually transfer the stock into a Dutch oven pot so I have more room to drop the dumplings later. I have one from target and I use it ALL THE TIME!  I highly recommend purchasing one of these, you won’t regret it. Kitchen Essentials® from Calphalon® Hard Anodized Nonstick 5-qt. Covered Dutch Oven.
  5. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off and discard the skin and bones.  Shred it with your hands and leave it on the side until the dumplings are ready.
  6. Return stock to the stove and bring to a low simmer.  I usually reserve some of the stock on the side, I don’t use it all and then I can make another soup later that week.
  7. Skim some of the oil off the top before you drop the dumplings, it helps your soup stay creamy and not oily.

Part 3 – It’s dumpling time!

  1. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl
  2. Cut in shortening using a pastry knife or a large fork.  Pastry makers mix in the shortening using their hands, this is my preferred method too – dip your hands in ice-cold water for a minute, then dry your hands; it helps to not melt the Crisco and the dough doesn’t stick to your hands as much.
  3. Add cold milk and beaten eggs, a few spoons at a time, mixing the dough from the outside in with fork until a soft dough forms (do not over mix – about 2 minutes total). You may need to add a small amount of milk or flour at the end to adjust the consistency of the dough.  Add milk if the dough is very dry and crumbly after it’s been mixed; add flour if the dough is very sticky.
  4. Sprinkle your work surface with flour to prevent the dough from sticking.
  5. Roll dough out thinly, about 1/8″ thick, then slice into strips, each about 2 inches in length.
  6. Lightly dust with flour and then gently drop the dumplings into the simmering chicken broth.
  7. Stir them gently to prevent sticking
  8. Add chicken and 1-2 tbsp of pepper and stir gently.  (Add more or less pepper depending on your taste)
  9. Let cook for 15 minutes
  10. Check consistency and then add 1-2 tbsp. corn starch to thicken the broth.  You want it to be nice and creamy!
  11. Let simmer another 30 minutes until dumplings are cooked through
  12. Add salt/pepper to taste
  13. Serve in a big bowl so you get plenty of tasty dumplings!
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October 8, 2011

British Bread and Butter Pudding

I’ve tried many bread and butter puddings in fancy restaurants, but I always go back to the simple homemade version I learned from my mom.  It doesn’t have fancy ingredients, or liquor, or vanilla spice, it’s just traditional pudding just like Nanny used to make.

I love the smell of the warm custard baking in the oven; it makes the whole house smell like home.  When it’s ready to take out, the crispy brown coating on the top makes me giddy, and as I spoon it out the warm steam escaping from the pudding is intoxicating.  The raisins plump up in the oven and get nice and juicy and sweet, while the bread is soft and creamy.  I like the slight crust on the top from the sugar; it’s a nice change of texture from the soft, velvety filling.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf day old bread
  • 2 cups whole milk (don’t use 2%, 1% or skim)
  • 1 3/4 cup light or heavy whipping cream (I’ve used both and I can’t tell any difference)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/8 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp. for sprinkling
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 stick salted butter

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F, and place rack in center of oven
  • Combine milk and whipping cream in large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and 1/8 cup sugar in large bowl.
  • Once the milk starts to foam, remove from heat.  Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture, to create a custard.  Add the hot milk slowly while whisking so the eggs don’t scramble, it’s called “tempering” the eggs. Set custard aside.
  • Butter a 9x9x2-inch glass-baking dish
  • Spread a thin layer of butter on both sides of each bread slice
  • Line the bottom of the baking dish with a single layer of bread.  Feel free to break up the slices or cut them to make to make it fit.  You don’t want them overlapping.
  • Sprinkle with raisins and a dusting of sugar.
  • Continue to layer bread, raisins and sugar until you fill the dish.  I don’t put a layer of raisins on the top, as they tend to dry out in the oven.  I only put a sprinkling of sugar and use all the raisins in the pudding.  Don’t worry about filing the dish, the custard will fit!
  • Slowly spoon out the custard over the bread and let it set in as you go.  Make sure you do this gradually, so the custard has time to sink in.  You should be able to use most of the custard; you may be left with about 1/4 cup, nothing to worry about.  Just fill it to the very top.
  • Let stand until some custard is absorbed, about 2 minutes.
  • Place in over and bake pudding until custard thickens and begins to set, about 20 minutes.
  • Preheat broiler. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over pudding. Broil until sugar browns, rotating baking dish for even browning and watching closely, about 2 minutes.
  • Let pudding cool slightly. Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream!

October 4, 2011

Polenta with Bacon & Parmesean

This is a dish that will always remind me of home, and more importantly my mom.  She would make this for me on ‘special’ nights and to this day I’m still not sure why this was a ‘special’ dinner.  Either way, I enjoyed it and would hold off eating any snacks for the afternoon in anticipation of warm polenta topped with bacon and cheese.  This is a very easy, affordable dinner that only consists of 3 ingredients, can’t get much simpler than that!

There’s something warm and inviting about  creamy polenta when it’s fried up in a skillet.  It gets a delicate crisp coating on the outside, but the middle is smooth and creamy.  The Parmesan cheese slowly melts on top, and the crispy, salty bite from the bacon give the dish a nice change of texture.  It’s hard to imagine not liking this dish, after all it has bacon and cheese, what more could you want?  Give it a try; I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Ingredients

  • 1 round of pre-cooked polenta (you can make it from scratch but I like to make life easier)
  • 1 packet of bacon, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or 1/2 cup if you love it like me)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Method

  • Preheat skillet to medium~high
  • Cut bacon into bite size pieces with scissors directly into the pan
  • Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes until the bacon is crisp
  • When the bacon is nice and crispy, use a slotted spoon to remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towel to drain the excess oils
  • Wipe out pan with paper towel and add 1 tbsp. of olive oil and return to medium~high heat (you can also use the bacon fat instead of olive oil, your choice)
  • While pan heats up, take the round of cold polenta and slice into 1 inch thick pieces
  • Once oil is hot, carefully place the cut rounds of polenta into skillet
  • Cook for 6-8 minutes until golden brown and turn
  • Brown other side for 6-8 mins
  • Remove from pan
  • To serve, place polenta on plate, sprinkle crumbled bacon and Parmesan cheese on top
  • YUMMMMMMMMMM!

If you make Polenta from scratch, the basic ratio for polenta is 4 parts liquid to 1 part polenta. I recommend making 2 cups polenta and add a teaspoon of salt, cook as normal and then pour it into a shallow dish to set in the fridge (takes 2-3 hours).  Then slice the polenta and fry up just as you did above.

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