Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chicken Dumpling Soup

I'm still pretty focused on comfort food. Curly is feeling better, but… a double ear infection leaves a girl a little low. My boy is worn out. My husband returned last night from a business trip in which he went Seattle-New York-Seattle between Monday and Wednesday. The weather isn’t bad here, exactly, but it’s chilly.


I thought everyone in my house could use a little comfort on the plate, so yesterday I geared up and made chicken soup. The picture is of the ingredients for the stock.

I don’t usually make stock. I get the whole bit of how much better everything is with a good home-made stock and blabla blabla, but… I buy canned, or use bouillon cubes. Mostly canned. I know how to make stock. I have made stock. But… really, if I don’t love you, I’m not going to make the stock from scratch. And even if I love you, you must seem like you need it. I understand that I can freeze it, and that I’ll be Super Duper Glad to have it there for the Day I Need To Use It, but… no. It’s not rocket science, but it is a project that requires time and attention. And also, it requires more freezer space than I have (even if I freeze it in ice cube trays and then transfer them to a ziploc bag. Because I'm hoping to add extra steps, dishes and chores to my day), unless I get rid of pizza rolls, an occasional vice that I have no intention of dispensing with. Even if the ingredient list is scary and almost completely unrelated to actual food (potassium chloride? Usually used to make fertilizer. Other ingredients? Found regularly in SOAP. Eek. Maybe pizza rolls will be a less frequent vice.). Pizza rolls aside, my freezer is very, very small. I’m not going to be freezing broth. Or, for the most part, making it.

Yesterday, however, was an exception my anti-broth-making position. There really isn’t anything that can imitate the bland goodness (bland is not always a pejorative term, and I am a spicy food loving fool) of homemade chicken soup. We have a couple of chicken soup variations, but I went with chicken dumpling soup. It was tremendously soothing. Tasty, too, but there's something about homemade chicken soup that has a deeply calming quality to it. Perhaps because it is such an intensely homey dish? Who knows. The children finished their dinner and dropped off to sleep without fuss (after a couple of songs). The same songs that I sang the kids down with also took out my husband. When I came out, he was sound asleep on the couch. It was pretty sweet.


Chicken Dumpling Soup


This is really more of a rough guideline than a recipe. My measurements should be viewed with suspicion. I’m terrible about measuring things. And obviously, I can make no claims about the soporific effect of the soup.

Broth:
1 chicken
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut in half
2 stalks celery, cut in half
3-6 cloves garlic, peeled
10-15 peppercorns
1 bunch parsley, tied with kitchen string
1 tomato, cut in half
1 onion, peeled and cut in half

Dumplings:
1 ½ - 2 cups flour
¾-1 cup grated parmesan
2 ½+ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt

For broth when it gets reheated:
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan rind

On table
Capers
Lemon wedges

Rinse the chicken well, and place in a large soup pot with all the other broth ingredients. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the chicken meat moves easily from bones (which also makes fishing it out of the broth a fiasco sometimes, as the stupid thing falls apart and drops back into the broth, splashing one with fragrant but scalding liquid), 1-2 hours. I wish I timed these things better, or measured better, but… I don’t.



Transfer the chicken to a colander (or something) and allow to cool enough to remove the meat from the bones. Some people save the carcass (skin, bones, etc) to try and make more broth. I do not. When the chicken is cool enough to handle (and I am always too impatient and scald my fingers), remove the meat from the bones, shred it a bit, and put it in a container in the refrigerator.



Put a strainer over a bowl or other large container. Pour broth into bowl, discarding vegetables, etc. Put in refrigerator to cool (some people skim the fat first; I prefer to let it congeal at the top in the refrigerator, which makes removing it a simpler process for me).



The broth and chicken shredding can obviously be done well in advance, quite easily a day or even two before.



When ready to finish, remove the broth and chicken from the refrigerator. Skim the broth, and put it in a clean soup pot (which for me means: wash the pot after putting the broth in the refrigerator, because I only have one pot that’s big enough for this). Add the parmesan rind. Bring the broth to a simmer and add salt and pepper to taste, and add as much shredded chicken as you want (save the rest for something else).


While you’re heating the broth, mix together the flour, salt, parmesan and baking powder. Add the milk (I usually just dump it all in, and then add a little more if the batter is too dry), and stir until the ingredients are mixed. It should be a sticky.


When the broth is simmering, add spoonfuls of batter to the broth. Bring the broth back up to a low boil, cover the pan (but watch it, because mine, at least, has a habit of messily boiling over) and boil (covered or not, depending how much it’s trying to come out of the pot) until dumplings are cooked through, 10-15 minutes.


Serve.


All of us like a squeeze of lemon into the broth at the table (we’re sour lovers), and my husband and I like a small spoonful of capers. It's a soup that lends itself easily to adjustments.

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