Monday, April 30, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings

It seems like everyone and their mamma is either pregnant or having babies recently. I may be slightly biased since I work as a nurse in Labor and Delivery and the birth rate amongst military seems to be higher than the moon. Still, I've reached the age where people are actually trying to get pregnant- planning families, buying homes, starting LIFE. When did we grow up? When did things get so.... real?

It's freakin' me out, man!

There will be no babies for Travis and I in our immediate future- both of us being active duty really puts a strain on our availability to simply see each other for more than a collective 2 hours in one week (no joke, this was our average in April) and to throw another life for which we are responsible for in the mix seems impossible right now. I'm very happy snuggling with friends' babies and my own furry one, Travis Otis. Besides, both my mother and my mother in law would probably put me in the stockades if I got pregnant with their first grandbaby thousands of miles and a 24 hour flight away.

I bring up babies today because within the last month, this meal is the third I have brought to a friend who has recently delivered. I have been blessed and lucky to have been part of their healthcare team, and it's always nice to see the wee babes once they are home and not in hospital blankets and not looking like they're thinking, "Yo man, what in the world just happened to me, what are all these lights, what is all this noise, and... got milk?"

While this is another dish that is not necessarily aesthetically pleasing, it delights all of the other senses, perhaps except for auditory. I've made this dish a few times before and I always feel it looks better in the dish than the pictures protray- perhaps it's the crummy fluorescent lighting in my kitchen that I must rely upon after I lose the natural light in the evenings.

Anyway, it's a pretty simple recipe, to boot! Sadly, I did not make it with fresh herbs. They go bad so quickly here in Okinawa so buying a whole bunch of parsley or cilantro is mainly reserved for holidays since there's a larger chance most of it will get used vs my minuscule normal usage. I honestly didn't taste much of a difference, though!

Chicken and Dumplings

Very adapted from Bev Cooks

For The Dumplings:
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon shortening
¾ cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped or dried, your choice

For the Stew:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables* (see note below)
3 tablespoons AP flour
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup stock
3/4 teaspoon oregano
Freshly ground black pepper, salt to taste

*If you'd like to chop and use fresh veggies, use any combo you like as long as you get 2 cups worth before the onion. Be mindful that carrots, celery and onion take longer to cook than most other veggies used in this dish, and that if you use mushrooms, they release quite a bit of liquid as they cook. Always add peas at the end, as they will become grey and mushy the longer they cook.

Combine all ingredients for the dumplings and let rest. It will be a sticky, sticky dough. Poach the chicken breasts in boiling, salted water until cooked through. Let them cool a bit and then shred. In a dutch oven or large pot, saute the onion and celery in some olive oil (also add carrot and if using fresh) until soft, then add garlic and stir until fragrant. Add shredded chicken, veggies and flour, stir on medium heat. Once the flour looks like it's been absorbed, add the stock and turn heat to medium high. Stir often, letting the yumminess simmer and bubble and thicken. Add just a little bit of the cornstarch and stock mixture, as well as the oregano and black pepper. NO SALT YET! Spoon the dumpling dough (I love using my small disher for this) right on top of the stew, cover and turn the heat off. Let the dumplings steam for 10 minutes. 

Pull a dumpling out and cut it in half- if it is moist and juicy throughout then dinner is ready. Gauge the moisture level of the stew- if you like it a bit thicker add the rest of the cornstarch mixture- if you want it thinner add a few tablespoons of stock or water until you get the desired consistency. Taste and season with a little salt and serve in bowls!

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