Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chicken and dumplings: Soup for a chilly day

Like much of the country, Wisconsin is having one weird winter. We've gotten freezing temperatures in the single digits, then 50 degree F weather, and snow and rain all in ONE WEEK. Then it decides to do one thing for a whole week, but then goes back to freaking out. All of this freezing and thawing is really taking a toll on our roads making driving on the streets like driving in a video game, but instead of dodging cartoon turtle shells, you're trying to avoid potholes the size of a kiddie pool.

In order to have a relaxing evening in, may I suggest a warms-you-up soup like one of my kitchen crushes Paula Deen's Chicken and Dumplings recipe? This soup is so good and it fills a whole big pot so you can enjoy this for a few days or hand some out to your friends and family members.

This recipe is so easy to follow, all you need is patience. My kitchen smelled amazing! There is one warning though: watch the salt!

I didn't read that you just needed a teaspoon of the house seasoning, so our soup was a bit salty, but then you just add more water and you're fine. Whoops!

Again, here is the link to the recipe, and below is my commentary on the directions. Learn from my mistakes and experience and you will probably have a smoother soup experience!

Fills the whole pot!
To start the chicken: Place the chicken, celery, onion, bay leaves, bouillon, and House Seasoning in a large pot. 
Note: I didn't use a whole chicken, but instead I used two thigh/leg portions and some extra chicken legs that I had in my freezer. No use in going out to buy more when I've got chicken portions in the freezer!
Add 4 quarts of water and in water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer the chicken until it is tender and the thigh juices run clear, about 40 minutes. 
Note: This is important because you don't want chicken that isn't cooked through to ruin your soup. Chicken is one of those meats that you should NEVER eat without making sure that it is fully cooked. No one wants Salmonella Soup.
Remove the chicken from the pot and, when it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and separate the meat from the bones. Return the chicken meat to the pot. Keep warm over low heat.
Tip: I found a really easy way to remove the skin. What you can do is cut a slice down the side of the meat and just peel back the skin. You don't have to wrestle it to get it all off since you're just going to pick the bones clean and chop up the meat. You can toss the chicken bones and skin. You may want to take your garbage out right away, but be sure and tie up your garbage bag otherwise raccoons or cats will be attracted to your garbage can!
To prepare the dumplings: Mix the flour with the salt and mound together in a mixing bowl. Beginning at the center of the mound, drizzle a small amount of ice water over the flour. Using your fingers, and moving from the center to the sides of the bowl, gradually incorporate about 3/4 cup of ice water. Knead the dough and form it into ball.
Note: My dough turned out to be firm, but sticky. You can either butter your hands a bit to keep it from sticking or dust your hands with flour first. It'll help A LOT!
Dust a good amount of flour onto a clean work surface. Roll out the dough (it will be firm), working from center to 1/8-inch thick. Let the dough relax for several minutes.
Note: I read ahead and saw that it said to cut the dough into 1-inch pieces, so I took a pizza cutter and sliced up the dough. That worked nice for a while, but then I ended up just taking a hunk of dough and ripping off small pieces. It was way easier.
Add the cream of celery soup to the pot with the chicken and simmer gently over medium-low heat.

Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Pull a piece in half and drop the halves into the simmering soup. (See my note above about ripping pieces - much easier, but not uniform) Repeat. Do not stir the chicken once the dumplings have been added. Gently move the pot in a circular motion so the dumplings become submerged and cook evenly. Cook until the dumplings float and are no longer doughy, 3 to 4 minutes.
Note: In order to submerge the dumplings without stirring them into a goopy mess, I found it easiest to dip my spoon all they way into the pot and gently stir the soup while keeping the spoon in contact with the bottom of the pot. That way it just makes all the soup move together without a lot of fuss.
To serve, ladle chicken, gravy, and dumplings into warm bowls. Enjoy!
I made a few too many chicken legs, so I saved two and added them to our soup bowls. Delicious!
There are solutions in the recipe link for thickening up the soup. You'll want to make sure that your dumplings are cooked before you add the cornstarch though otherwise it'll cling to the dumplings. Then it just gets weird.

Enjoy this soup and I hope you all have had a safe winter so far!

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