Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Month of Soups: Chicken and Dumplings Soup

Grandma didn’t have running water in her West Virginia home in the “hollers” of the Appalachians. I remember when she got electricity. She could finally have a light bulb in every room and a refrigerator. That was a big deal! Up until then, she used the springhouse built into the side of the mountain where the temperature was pretty even year round. But never cold enough for ice.

One of my fond memories was watching Grandma make stewed chicken and dumplings. She started out by catching one the chickens, twirling it around to break its neck, and then she dunked it in boiling water so she could pluck its feathers off. Now that is a stinky job.

Making chicken and dumplings was an all day affair in those days. She never had to pre-heat the stove; the wood-burning stove in the kitchen never went out. She just added more wood to increase the temperature. How she knew what the temperature was is unclear to me to this day. But she never burned anything and turned out delectable biscuits and other goodies.

Stewed chicken and dumplings were stovetop fare. I am not even pretending this soup is as good as Grandma’s. She never used recipes, so we have none from her. But I think my taste-o-meter is genetic from her side of the family. Thanks, Grandma!

Also, in the interest of simplicity and modern sensibilities, no killing of chickens here and no stewing chicken. We’ll just use the broth you already made along with some roasted chicken chunks you have in the freezer. Ready? Fire up the wood stove! Er, rather, turn on the oven.

Chicken and Dumplings Soup (serves 6-8)

12 pearl onions, “x” on each end

2 qt. chicken and turkey stock (combine them for more richness)

1 c baby carrots, halved

3 stalks celery, cut bite-sized

2 bay leaves

2 c chopped chicken

2 c flour

4 t baking powder

1 t salt

1 t pepper

2 t dried basil

4 T butter

1 c buttermilk

Peel paper off pearl onions and cut a small “x” in each end so they hold together while cooking. Add onions to broth. Add carrots, celery, and bay leaves, and chicken. Bring broth to a slow boil and cook for 15 minutes.

While broth is heating, mix flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and basil together. Cut in butter to make mealy dough. Add buttermilk. Mix well. The dough should be sticky but not too loose or too stiff. It should be able to drop from the spoon back into the bowl. Add more flour or buttermilk if necessary.

Adjust heat on broth to a slow simmer. Remove bay leaves. Drop dumplings a teaspoon at a time into the broth. Try to keep the dumplings from touching by dropping dough in different places around the pot. Cover when all dumplings are added.

Check after 10 minutes to see if done. Take one dumpling out and cut into it. The middle should not be raw. Return cut dumpling to the broth. If done, remove from heat and serve. If not, poach for 5 minutes longer, covered.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up! This is a flavorful, hearty soup. The basil in the dumplings adds a nice little bump of flavor. This is not quite like Grandma’s, but it is pretty darn good for flatlanders!

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