Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings #SundaySupper

Chicken and dumplings mean different dishes depending on where they originate. In southern Louisiana, it’s fluffy drop dumplings, cooked in a roux-based simmering rich brown gravy with stewed chicken, just like my grandmother used to make. 

Where are you from?
When one lives in a place where bargaining is standard practice, there is a hierarchy of pricing guidelines and most folks assume I’m a tourist. So, when I am out and about in a local market and someone asks, “Where are you from?” I always answer, “I live here.” And then, if I am truly interested in buying the thing, I start chatting with the vendor. “I live here” puts me squarely in Resident Expat sector, which usually gets me a decent price but not as low as it could be if I cajole my way up the Friendliness/Bargaining Savvy Continuum. If you know what I mean. Here, I’ve drawn you a handy chart.

Sadly, I've met folks from a few countries who could qualify as "ugly Americans."



It’s only when someone pushes further, that I might say that I am from the United States. If you prod even more, you’ll get “The South.”  We have to be having a real conversation for me to get into, “Well, I was born in Louisiana but I lived more years in Texas, but Louisiana is still kind of home because that’s where my grandparents were. Actually, I’ve lived overseas even more years than I have lived in the US.” Whew. But when it comes to cooking, the first hometown favorites that come to mind are my grandmothers’ traditional Cajun dishes, like chicken and sausage gumbo,   courtbouillionmaque choux, smothered pork chops, smothered cabbage with pork, eggplant casserole with shrimp or crawfish etouffee, just to name a few. I’ve shared all of those already, as you can tell by the links, so I was wracking my brain for another of my grandmothers’ dishes that I haven’t shared for this week’s Sunday Supper hometown favorites theme. Perhaps smothered round steak or cabbage rolls or crawfish fettuccine casserole? And then it hit me!

What your hometown favorite? 
A couple of years ago, when we were living in Cairo, it was chilly, my heater was broken and I was cold and lonely. I needed some comfort food. So I called my mom on Skype and discussed the ins and outs of my grandmother’s chicken and dumplings recipe. I made it that day and even took photos but I never shared it here. It's the perfect dish for this week’s Sunday Supper Hometown theme, and it's kind of chilly here in Dubai, so I made it again. The roux-based gravy is wonderful, the chicken is tender and falling off the bone. And the dumplings! The dumplings are light and fluffy, so wonderful that my husband went back for seconds of just the dumplings with extra gravy. As my grandparents would say, “Talk about good!”

Ingredients
For the chicken stew:
1 whole chicken
Sea salt
Black pepper
Cayenne
Olive oil
4 tablespoons flour
1 medium onion
2 long stalks celery

For the dumplings:
2 cups or 250g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup or 180ml milk
1 large egg

Note: My grandmother would have undoubtably finished this dinner with a sprinkling of chopped parsley. I plumb forgot.

Method
Cut your chicken up into at least eight pieces and season liberally with salt, black pepper and cayenne. If the breasts are large, I cut them in half again to get 10 pieces. I go pretty heavy on the cayenne because we like things spicy but use your best judgment for your family’s tastes.



Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan and panfry the chicken until it is golden on both sides.



While the chicken is browning, dice your onion and celery.



Once the chicken is browned, remove it from the pan and set aside.  Add the four tablespoons of flour into the pan and stir until it is completely combined with the oil in the pan. Use a wooden spoon to loosen all the lovely browned bits that are stuck to the pan.



Cook the flour/oil mixture, formally known as a roux, over a medium heat, stirring almost constant, until it reaches a lovely dark copper color. Make sure not to let it catch and scorch or your gravy will taste burnt.



Add in the chopped onion and celery and continue cooking for several minutes until they soften.


Slowly add in a couple of cups of water and stir. Keep stirring until you have a lovely brown gravy without lumps of flour.

Add the browned chicken back into the pot, along with any juice that is in the plate it was resting on.

The gravy should come most of the way up the sides of the chicken. Add a little more water, if necessary.

Cover the pan and turn the fire down to simmer. Leave to simmer for about 45-55 minutes, checking occasionally that the water doesn’t completely evaporate and adding more if necessary. About halfway through the cooking time, turn the chicken over.



When the chicken is tender and cooked through, lightly whisk your egg with your milk and then combine your dumpling ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring until just mixed.



Remove your chicken from the pan and set aside. Cover it so it stays warm.



Use a tablespoon to spoon the dumpling batter into the simmering gravy, leaving room between the dumplings so they can puff up as they cook. The batter comes off the spoon more easily if the spoon is wet so rinse it with water first and between scoops. Put the lid on for a few minutes.



Remove the lid and turn the dumplings over and replace the lid for another minute or two.



Transfer the dumplings to a plate and keep them warm until ready to serve, while you cook the remaining dumplings. They will soak up some of the gravy so you can add in a little water and stir well between the two batches if you need to.

Serve the chicken and dumplings with the remaining gravy from the pan. And my grandmother would always have had a vegetable or two alongside.



Enjoy!

So fluffy inside!


I am so excited about this week’s Sunday Supper because I know I am going to learn about dishes from so many different places around the US and the world through the loving, perhaps even a bit nostalgic, eyes of my fellow Sunday Supper colleagues and our wonderful host Coleen of The Redhead Baker. What a fabulous list, don’t you agree?!

Breakfast
Drinks
Appetizers and Snacks
Main Dishes
Side Dishes
Desserts
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