The fall weather is well and truly here … cool nights, frosty mornings, and a craving for hot comfort foods, easy to make easy to eat, and smothered in gravy/sauce of some kind.
In this a slow cooker, and/or a big cast iron enamel dutch oven are your friends.
This week was ox tail stew – in the slow cooker for a market decorating day potluck
Slow cooker pulled pork for Wednesday evening was a huge time saver during a very busy week.
But what really warmed the cockles of my heart, and my belly was a big pot of chicken and dumplings. I don’t do them very often, despite the fond remembrance of childhood, so a quick glance around the internet for a recipe. Alas I really wasn’t particularly taken with any of the ones I saw, non really seemed to use what seemed to me to be ‘proper methodology’ …. so using basic ingredients from some, add a bit here and there for flavours and then upped the ante on the techniques to proper old school cookery.
Chicken and Dumplings
1 whole chicken cut into pieces / 8-9 chicken thighs
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 stalks celery – chopped
1 large onion – roughly minced
3-4 carrots sliced
1 clove garlic
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried savoury
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup butter
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk (splash of white wine – optional)
Start with a nice bird. Cut into pieces, depending on your butcher there’ll be either 8 or 9 – doesn’t matter because you’re gonna debone em anyway. The other option here is to use chicken thighs – 8 or 9 or so and forgo the deboning.
Firstly – whenever you’re braising meat you want to brown it first, it’s all about the flavour and a nice crispy caramelized browning makes a world of flavour. So .. put 1 cup of flour, 1 tbsp dried mustard powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, 1 tsp smoked paprika and 1 tsp of dried savoury in a bag and about 3 pieces at a time give the chicken a shake to coat. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in your cast iron enameled dutch oven on the cooktop over medium high heat. Working with 3 or 4 pieces at a time brown your chicken pieces and then remove to a plate and continue with the next 3-4 pieces. When the chicken pieces are all browned, add 1 minced onion (large) 2 spears of chopped celery, 3-4 carrots sliced and 1 clove garlic minced. Turn the heat down to medium and stir and saute for 5 mins or so till the vegetables wilt and soften. Toss in a 1/4 cup of butter (because butter makes everything better) and when melted add in the flour you coated the chicken in. Stir till it starts to colour just a little, then slowly add 2 cups of chicken stock, and 1 cup of buttermilk – trust me on this – you really need a hit of acid in this dish to take it from good to great! Turn the heat off, stir as the stove cools down and you’ll see that lovely thickening of a nice gravy. Add your chicken bits back into the pot, push em down a little to see them covered in sauce. Toss on top 2 bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and a sprig of fresh sage – barring fresh herbs you can substitute a tsp each of dried herbs – but really, try to keep a couple little pots of a few essential herbs on the go in your kitchen – fresh makes a difference. Cover with a lid, pop in an oven preheated to 325°F. Go do something else, like soak in a tub, read a novel, drink some wine, for about an hour and a half.
When you wander back to the oven, take the pot out, remove the chicken pieces to a plate. If the gravy / sauce looks a bit too thick (and it well might) you can add a little additional liquid, a cup of stock, some water, a bit of white wine is nice here…. just to bring it to ‘stew’ consistency. While the meat is cooling a bit, mix up your dumplings, 2 cups of flour, 4 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and 3/4 cup of buttermilk (or a combination of buttermilk and a splash of white wine). whisk together with a fork until just mixed – don’t over stir these puppies! Using two forks pull the meat from the bones and add back to the pot, if you’re using thighs you can skip this bit and just serve them as whole pieces. Stir them back into the gravy. If you’ve added cool liquid to the pot bring it back up to a simmer and then turn it off, add the dumpling mixture to the pot in spoonfuls, leave some space between them they’re gonna rise!, pop the lid back on and slide her back into the oven for another 20 mins while you go build a salad, or open another bottle of wine.
And I promise…. one of these days I might actually go find a plug in that allows you to print these recipes more easily…. because it is the one thing I hate about some food blogs.
Your Market vendors … see Kevin at Thousand Hills Farms for the best chickens, and of course as always Evelyn at Riverview Produce Farms has lots of fresh onions and carrots right now, and talk to Alice at Ouest-Ville Perennials about fresh herb plants.