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Archive for March, 2010

Chicken & Dumplings

Lula McDaniel, (or Grannie Mac, as we called her) my maternal great-grandmother, was known throughout her county for making the best Chicken’n’Dumplings.  Now down in rural Alabama, this was a big deal!  When I was a child, she rarely cooked, (after a lifetime of farming and feeding a large family, she deserved the break!) so I only remember eating her version of this dish once, but it sure made an impression!  When I asked her about how she made it, she told me “Well, hon, I didn’t get to making the dumplin’s, and I’m sorry, but they’re just store bought biscuit dough.  The rest you just throw together!”  Pre-made dough or not, her Chicken and Dumplings were still the best I ever had.  This recipe is as close as I get.  Chicken and Dumplings were a delicious way for Grannie Mac to stretch one chicken to feed her family of 11 down on the old homestead.  Feel free to adapt it to whatever veggies and herbs you have on hand – Southern thrift at its finest…

Chicken and Dumplings

  • 1 whole chicken, or 8 individual pieces (bone-in makes for more flavor)
  • 2 small onions, chopped (approx. 1 ½ cups)
  • ¾ cup chopped celery, optional
  • 7 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup dried parsley, or ½ cup chopped fresh
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 ½ tsp fresh
  • 2 ¼ tsp granulated sea salt, or to taste
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

In a stockpot, combine all ingredients and barely cover with cold water , about 8-10 cups.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer, covered, for one hour or chicken is fully cooked and falling off the bones (If using boneless pieces cook with some stock added for flavor and cook only half the time).  Remove chicken from pot and place on a plate to cool for a few minutes – until cool enough for you to remove meat from bones.  Discard bones and add meat back to pot.  Mix dumpling dough (you can use your favorite biscuit recipe instead) and drop 3/4in pieces on top of chicken mixture.  You can either let them steam on top for fluffy dumplings or stir them in for chewy dumplings. After all dumplings have been added, cover and allow to cook 15-20 minutes, or until dumplings no longer taste floury and raw.  All ingredients can be altered to whatever you have on hand- it’s real country cooking, have fun!  Serves 6-8, 12 if you double the dumpling recipe.  This freezes well for up to 6 months, tightly sealed.

Dumplings

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup shortening or butter
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 7/8 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Stir dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Cut in shortening until there are pieces no larger than a pea.  Add milk, stirring until just blended.  Knead dough together lightly a few times, then form into dumplings.

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My brother is an Irish Traditional musician (geeky enough to have studied in County Donegal) and also a fan of other Irish traditions – like soda bread.  Unfortunately, he has developed an allergy to gluten, but luckily, the Ballymaloe Cookery School has my back.  Enjoy making this un-traditionally traditional version of soda bread.  If you’ve never tried the real thing (and really most Americans haven’t!), try this or the original recipe (in an earlier post).  You won’t regret it – easy and tasty!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread

(Courtesy Darina Allen & Rosemary Kearney at The Ballymaloe Cookery School)

  • 10 oz rice flour
  • 4 oz tapioca flour
  • 2 oz dried milk
  • 1 level teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 heaped teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaped teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons sugar, optional
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 10-12 fluid oz buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Dust a work surface lightly with rice flour and also dust the center of a baking sheet with about a 12inch circle of rice flour, set aside.  Sift all the ingredients together into a large bowl and whisk to mix well.  (This ensures even mixing and no clumps) Make a well in the flour mixture.  Lightly whisk the egg and buttermilk together and pour most of the mixture into the well.  Mix immediately and thoroughly with your hand, fingers outstretched like a claw, or with a wooden spoon, in circular movements from the center to the outside of the bowl in ever increasing circles.  Add remaining buttermilk mixture if necessary; mixture should be softish, not too wet or sticky – there should be no dry bits at the bottom of the bowl.  The trick is to not over mix the dough – just enough to get the dough together.  Turn the dough onto work surface.  Quickly wash and dry your hands.  With rice floured fingers, pat dough together into a round about 2 inches thick- just enough to make it neat- and place on prepared baking sheet.  With a sharp knife, cut about 1/8 inch deep cross on the top and over the edges, so the bread will rise high.  Put into preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until golden and the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove from tray immediately, cover in a clean, non-terry cloth dish towel to soften the crust and let cool on a cooling rack.  Let cool most of the way before cutting, or it will be difficult to slice.  Traditionally, the bread is cut or broken along the pre-cut lines, then the quarters are each sliced.  Serve with salted butter, preferably Kerrygold.  Bread will be good for eating fresh only on the day it is made, but you can freeze it.  Slices can be toasted the next day, or you can make leftover bread into gluten-free breadcrumbs in a food processor.  By the third day it will be rock hard because of the lack of preserving agents.  You can add raisins, caraway seeds or herbs to the dry mixture, if desired.  You can also make this into smaller loaves or scones.

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Roasted Potatoes and Carrots

Some very yummy looking local & organic fingerling potatoes were given to me the other day.  They are called “Fingerling” because they are long and cylindrical like a finger, and usually no longer than the average person’s finger.  Prized for their tastes and texture, there are many European varieties of fingerling potato, and they are easy to grow in the ground or deep pots.  My personal favorite way of making them is to roast them at a very high heat to caramelize and crisp the outside, while still having a fluffy and rich interior.  You can use these guidelines to roast most root vegetables. Here I used carrots, so I would have a more balanced side dish.  When you cut them up, remember the more evenly sized the pieces, the more evenly they cook.  You could leave the fingerling potatoes whole, but they will take about another 15-20 minutes to cook through.  When making simple dishes like this, it is very important to have really good quality ingredients – any not-so-great element will really stand out.  Leftovers are great for folding into fritattas or adding to breakfast burritos, or even added to pasta (well, maybe not potatoes, but the carrots for sure).

Roasted Potatoes and Carrots

  • 2 lbs fingerling potaoes, halved or 2 lbs any kind of  potato, cut into wedges
  • 1 lb Carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried parsley

Preheat oven to 450F.  After cutting vegetables, toss them on to a large rimmed baking sheet.  The vegetables need to be spaced out a little to brown, so use 2 sheets if all you have are smaller baking sheets.  Drizzle on olive oil, about a Tablespoon to start, sprinkle generously with salt & pepper and the parsley, then toss mixture with your hands to coat evenly.  Vegetables should be glossy and quite slicked with oil.  Add more oil if needed.  Dry vegetables will stick to the pan and really oily ones will just leave a lot of oil on the pan – a waste, but at least they won’t stick.  Practice makes perfect.  Roast for about 30-40  minutes, or until potatoes are cooked and crispy golden brown.  I prefer quite brown potatoes, but as long as they are tender, you can serve them. (You will just have softer outside crusts on the potatoes).  If you are using the oven to make something else, you can roast the veggies  at lower temperatures (like 350F), it will just take twice as long.  Serves about 4.

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