Sunday, January 22, 2006

Is There an Echo in Here?

Last night, V. and I had another couple over for dinner antecedent to catching a late showing of Match Point. I had told both V. and my friend S. that I was just going to make something simple for dinner, and they both laughed at me. I suppose I have something of a reputation. In any event, everyone was surprised when I had them sit down at the table and the place settings consisted of a soup bowl, a napkin, a soup spoon, and a wine glass. Then I set down in the middle of the table an electric skillet full of chicken and dumplings and told everyone to tuck in. (We had a while between when our guests showed up and when the movie started, so we'd also had a cocktail, and I followed the very simple main course with a cheese course and slices of the Mephistopholes cake, so everyone was more than adequately fed, especially since they all took seconds of the chicken and dumplings.)

I don't generally like to make the same thing twice within a week, and I dislike repeating recipes here on the blog (especially so soon after the initial recipe, when even I can't pretend that I have plausible deniability when I say, "Oops, I forgot"), but the chickens came in a two-pack from Costco, and I have, with relatively minor modifications, significantly improved the recipe, which, you will remember, I found absolutely delicious the first time around.

Preparation was a lot easier this time, as well, because I took lindy's suggestion and used the stockpot that has the steamer/pasta insert instead of the (wider) stockpot that doesn't, eliminating the need to truss the chicken as well as the need to fish out the bits of chicken when the trussing failed miserable. I made up for the pot's relative narrowness by finishing the dish in V.'s electric skillet, which is wider than any of the pots we own, and I was thus able to get all of the dumpling dough into the simmering soup, and that can only be a good thing.

Even Better Chicken and Dumplings

One fryer chicken
3 stalks celery
2 carrots
1 medium onion
4 whole cloves
1 clove garlic
4 pods green cardamom
2 bay leaves
12 peppercorns
1 t. salt

8 oz. baby carrots
1 sprig rosemary
4 T. chopped dill
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced, not too thin
butter (2 T. + 6 T. + 4 T.)
flour (1.5 cups + 1/3 cup)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. mustard
3/4 c. milk

Remove the giblets from the chicken, rinse it well, and pat it dry. Cut the celery and carrots in half. Cut the onion in half and stud with the cloves. Cut the garlic clove in half. Bruise the cardamom pods and wrap them in cheesecloth along with the bay leaves and peppercorns. Put all of these ingredients plus the salt into your stockpot and add water to nearly cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, then simmer for two hours, skimming if necessary. Remove the chicken and refrigerate it. Strain the stock. If you have more than two quarts of stock, reduce it until you have two quarts.

Put a saute pan over medium heat and add two tablespoons of butter. When it has melted, turn the heat to medium high and add the mushrooms, tossing to coat them. Cook, stirring or tossing occasionally, until they have given up their juices and browned nicely. Reserve.

In a wide pan or electric skillet, melt 6 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in 1/3 cup of flour and cook for five minutes. Add stock, a little bit at a time, whisking so that you don't get any lumps, until it is all added. Simmer for five minutes. Then add carrots, 2 tablespoons of chopped dill, and the sprig of rosemary, and simmer for another twenty minutes.

While the carrots are simmering, make the dumpling dough. In a bowl, combine 1.5 cups flour, a pinch of salt, and the baking powder. Add four tablespoons of butter and rub it into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of coarse meal. Mix in two tablespoons of chopped dill. Whisk together the milk and mustard and stir it into the flour mixture. If it is too thick to drop from a spoon, add a little more milk.

Remove the skin from the chicken, then remove the chicken flesh from the bones. Break the flesh up slightly with your hands, leaving fairly large pieces.

Add the chicken and mushrooms to the pan or electric skillet and return to the simmer for five minutes. Correct seasoning. Drop the dumpling dough by teaspoonsful into the simmering liquid. Cover and simmer for ten minutes. Serve. Garnish with additional chopped dill and/or rosemary sprigs if you like.

Even though this dish involves balls of cooked dough, any refrigerated leftovers reheat splendidly in the microwave. The picture above is from the second day, when I could photograph it without using flash. It will be significantly thicker the second day, but that will probably not inhibit your enjoyment.


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