I was reading a blog the other day about how to be poor in American. It wasn’t complaining about being poor or looking at the causes of poverty but, rather, offering some useful coping mechanisms for living in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet when you’re not.
I was thinking about that when my horrible cold drove me to make my biggest comfort food – chicken and dumplings. See, I don’t just grab some store bought stock or a can of pre-made soup. Naw, I make it from scratch but I go to my frugal bags.
See, when I get a whole chicken to roast or grill, I usually take off the wings, neck and backbone and freeze them. When I cut onions or celery or carrots, I take the peelings, leaves and ends and paper that are typically discarded and freeze them, too. When I have about two bags of chicken parts and a bag of veggies pieces, I can make stock. After tossing the contents of the bags into a big stockpot, I cover it with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for a while.
Or, if you want a real recipe:
1 3lb chicken, divided or three pounds of chicken parts
1 onion, quartered
3 carrots, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped.
Put everything in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for about an hour and half. Skim off foam during cooking.
When the stock is done, strain out the solids and pick out the chicken meat. My frugal method, using the parts from 4 chickens, yielded almost 3 cups of chicken meat. Using a whole chicken, you should have enough meat from the thighs, wings, etc to reserve the breast meat for another meal. Place the stock in the fridge to cool. In a couple of hours (or overnight), remove the chicken fat that has risen to the top.
You now have chicken stock and are ready for the next step. You’ll need six cups of chicken broth for my Chicken and Dumplings, so be sure and freeze any additional for future use.
Today, my future is now.
My Chicken and dumplings start with a delicious chicken soup.
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup flour
6 cups chicken stock
Reserved chicken (about 3 cups of shredded chicken)
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
To prepare soup: In a Dutch oven, melt butter and heat oil over medium heat. Add carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves. Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Continue to stir and cook for 5 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste. Do not let the roux burn or turn dark brown. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition to remove any lumps.
Bring the sauce to a boil and then let simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, around 15 to 30 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, it is time to make the dumplings.
To prepare the dumplings: sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and milk together; pour the liquid in the dry ingredients and gently fold. Mix just until the dough comes together, the batter should be thick and cake-like.
Back to the soup: Fold the reserved shredded chicken into the sauce and bring up to a simmer. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. The dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching or crowded. Let the dumplings poach for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy.
Place into bowls and grind some freshly cracked black pepper on each serving.
Just the ticket for my cold and pocketbook!