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Good morning, GUSlings!  Yesterday I didn't wake up until 10 a.m. because I hadn't slept the night before.  I thought it might be Sunday and thought I had a diary which I hadn't even started.  Typing furiously, I realized it was Saturday once I had one cup of coffee.  So, happily, I was able to get it prepared early.

Today is request day, and chicken and dumplings were requested.  What a great comfort meal now that the chill is in the air for many of us.  

I've spent a lot of time just reading through Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.  I thought I had ordered his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian but -- oh, well.  That will be my Christmas present to myself.  His cookbook is utter beautifully constructed (and heavy!).  Not one single picture -- which I usually don't like, but there's no clutter here.  He has a foundational recipe and then shows how to add or change it with herbs or veggies or dumplings.  This recipe is adapted from his basic chicken stew.


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Chicken with Dumplings

1 whole chicken trimmed of excess fat
8 cups chicken stock
3 onions quartered
2 large or 4 small to medium carrots cut into chunks
2 leeks split, trimmed, washed and cut into 2 inch lengths
1 bay leaf
4 allspice berries
10 whole black peppercorns
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
alt and freshly ground pepper
Minced fresh parsley or dill for garnish

Put the chicken in a large pot with the stock, onions carrots and leeks.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low.  Skim any foam that rises to the surface.  Add the bay leaf, allspice, peppercorns and thyme to the pot along with salt and pepper.  Simmer until the chicken and vegetables are nearly tender and cooked through, about 45 minutes.;  the bird is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155-165 degrees.  With 15 minutes of cooking time to go, preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Remove Chicken and vegetables to a bowl and place in the oven.

[I think it is best to make the biscuit dough after the chicken is cooked and everything is strained.  Otherwise, I think it will dry out.  The chicken won't overcook in a 200 degree oven (cover it with some foil.  Bittman instructs to make the biscuit dough while cooking the bird.  I think you should time it for what you will make you comfortable and not feel stressed.]

Yogurt or Buttermilk Biscuits

The easiest and best way to make biscuits is with yogurt which produce tangy, tender, and flaky results.  Buttermilk is my second choice, but if you have neither just use a baking powder recipe.  

2 cups unbleached flour
1 scant tsp. salt
3 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2-3 tblsps. cold butter (more is better)
3/4 cups plus 2 tblsps yogurt or buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl or food processor.  Cut the butter into pieces and either pulse in food processor or, if using the bowl, cover your fingers with the dry mix and squeeze the butter -- incorporate all butter until you have it in pea sized pieces.  Pulse a couple of times or use a wooden spoon to incorporate the yogurt or buttermilk just until the mixture forms a ball.  Turn out on floured surface and kneed only 10 times -- no more.  If too sticky add a little more flour but not too much, it should still stick a bit to your fingers.

Back to Chicken and Dumpling instructions

Strain the stock and return it to the pot.  [I use cheesecloth and a strainer because it captures a lot of gunk -- I'm neurotic so I strain it until the broth is fully clear.]  Adjust the heat so it bubbles vigorously but is not at a rolling boil.  Drop heaping tablespoons of the biscuit dough into the hot stock and cover the pan.  Cook undisturbed until the dumplings are cooked through (a toothpick will come out clean), 10 to 15 minutes.  Serve the dumpling and a little broth, if you like, with the chicken and vegetables.

[For me, the looks of a boiled whole chicken is not that attractive.  I haven't made this recipe yet, but instead of putting the chicken in the oven, I will take the meat off the bone.  I will use a slotted spoon to remove the dumplings to a plate with enough broth so they won't stick.  If there's too much broth I'd just remove enough of it so the remainder covers the meat by an inch or more.  Then I'd return the dumplings and heat a bit if necessary (don't think it will be).]

Sprinkle the top with chopped parsley or dill.

This really is a recipe you can play with.  If I were really lazy, I'd get a rotisserie chicken, strip off the meet with the skin and cook the veggies and herbs in chicken broth as above.  Then just follow the rest of the steps.  On sale, a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store is sometimes cheaper than an uncooked one.  Only problem is it isn't free range -- but it won't kill me.
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