Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chicken and Basil Dumpling Soup

--or, "damn near perfect" dumpling soup, as my husband deemed it after his bowl's worth tonight. He quibbled just a little about whether the dumplings should fall apart like these do or if they should be sturdier. The dumplings were finally cooked through and firm enough to flip over (my test) -- after longer than the seven minutes the For the Love of Cooking blogger prescribed -- that's all I cared about. I liked the hint of sour in the buttermilk and the dash of dried basil (very money-saving over fresh).

They're right though, the experts in food land. Make the effort to make chicken stock from scratch. It's really no bother. If there's a sale on whole chickens, dump a whole one in the stock pot, throw in leftover ends of leftover raw veggies, like onion, garlic bulb halves, carrots plus the greens, all those herb stubs, fill with water with about two-three inches from the top, and let simmer for two hours at least.

If you're lazy like me, just pick up some Costco roast chickens, strip those clean while listening to talk radio or the ipod, and prep for the soup to come with the required amount of veggies and herbs. I threw in a Yukon gold potato, just 'cause I like potato.

The hardest part of making your own chicken stock (for me, anyway) is draining the stock, then sorting the trash from the treasures (chicken meat that falls apart). I solved that problem tonight by leaving the stock in its pot on the stove while I went to work on the chicken and basil dumplings (mine was more soup than stew, because I used triple the stock called for). Whenever I needed the stock, I just helped myself with a ladle and a four-cup measure.

Eventually, I had to drain the rest. It was easier to do with less stock. I just sorted out the garbage (bones, fat, skin, carrot/onion/garlic/celery chunks, herbs), threw it into a plastic bag (that carried the carrots), and put the chicken meat in a bowl to dump in later.

With the extra chicken meat--and there will be a lot unused--I'm planning to make chicken salad tomorrow. Thumbs up from my husband. I may do one with apples or with grapes. Depends on my mood.

I had to double the corn starch slurry on the fly, after realizing nothing would thicken with triple the amount of stock required. You should've seen the corn starch flying on my second round. I only had a cylinder container with holes and a half shape; hard to get 1/4 cup out of that without tearing the container apart. I also didn't mix the buttermilk and the egg together before mixing in with the flour/baking powder etc. But I did mix the egg a little, like the recipe says to do.

There's something immensely soothing about spooning out homemade dumpling dough into simmering stock. I felt the weight of a million housewives before me. Watching the dough plop and float made me smile. It's times like these -- even with cramping legs and toes from standing so long -- I understand why so many of us enjoy our alone time in the kitchen with our pots, pans, and recipes.

Maybe I'm finally becoming a cook, as well, able to use my experienced judgment on when to follow the recipe by the book and when to stray, improvise. This recipe is an improvisation from the original, a Cooking Light Best Chicken Recipes magazine using rosemary instead of basil. I could see dill too, instead of basil. Or even parsley.

I'm proud of the fact that my soup resembles the For the Love of Cooking picture. Except for the thickness of the stock. Next time, I think I'll do a chicken and dumpling dish, straight out of Everyday Food, strictly by the book. See how it turns out.

In the meantime, I have tons of chicken and basil dumpling soup left. Maybe some friends would appreciate soup in this rainy weather. Would you?

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