Soup: Chicken & Dumplings

 

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This is not a cooking blog. I do like to write about food though. Not in a “Look at me and how amazing I am at this” kind of way. More like you’re a dear friend and I want to talk dirty about something that I tried and loved. I could talk about food and cooking endlessly. In fact, when I sit to write and nothing is happening, I start by writing about food, making lists of food, writing out how-to’s.

One of my favorite pieces of writing I’ve done over the years (non-blog) is an Ode to making soup, inspired by Jane Hirshfield’s poem “Da Capo”. It’s a scene where I’m making soup with my first child. He’s three or so. I’m pregnant with his brother. Part recipe, part memoir, it’s about the abundance of everything in that moment. So much love, so much tiredness, tenderness. It makes me ache to even think about it. My tiny kitchen, six floors up, with West End Avenue humming below. Cold and dark outside, but my kitchen balmy, the window blurred with steam. Stirring soup with a wooden spoon. It’s so simple, really. Nourishing, gracious, one dish. Using what you have on hand to make something satisfying. Food may not be love, but a warm bowl of soup comes close.

This is a new one I tried this fall and it’s been a regular ever since.

Adapted from “Mad Hungry” by Lucinda Scala Quinn 

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE SOUP:

  • 1 3-4 lb chicken
  • a few swirls of olive oil (I’ve also used grapeseed and canola)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8-10 cups low sodium chicken broth (or enough to barely cover chicken, you can use some water)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Fresh pepper

FOR THE DUMPLINGS

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk (you may need more)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill (or parsley) Please use fresh dill if you can get it as it really makes the dish!

DIRECTIONS

  1. Sauté onions in oil until translucent (8-10 minutes)
  2. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two.
  3. Add carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes (it should be sizzling, but don’t burn).
  4. Place chicken on top, add broth to almost cover.
  5. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover, and simmer for 50 minutes.
  6. Lift out the chicken and let cool.
  7. Add the salt and pepper to broth to taste.
  8. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and shred into large pieces (You may not need all of it for soup).
  9. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  10. Stir in the milk and dill or parsley to combine.  (Batter should be thicker than pancake batter, but thinner than biscuit batter)
  11. Drop the dough, 1 tablespoon at a time onto the simmering broth. (Very low simmer)
  12. Cover and cook until the dumplings have cooked through 3 to 4 minutes.
  13. Return the shredded chicken to the pot.
  14. Add fresh chopped parsley
  15. Reheat on low heat for 1 minute.
  16. Serve in wide bowls with big spoons.

Image here

Thank you Baked Eggs, for being there

Baked eggs, a month ago I hardly knew ye, and in such a short time, you’ve made yourself  such a well-worn indispensible part of the family.  No guest, you’re here to stay.

I’ve been wanting to make Baked Eggs after reading Laurie Colwin’s description in Home Cooking (here’s a whole post I did about that book).   So basically I’ve had Baked Eggs on the brain for years now, and only this very month did I finally settle in to the task.  Not very ambitious, I know.  But necessary.

It was in a Chapter called, Nursery Food (aka Comfort Food).  In these dark days of February, I’ve been in need of some.  Plus, I’ve been looking for a good excuse to buy some of those Le Creuset mini oval gratins.  They look like gratin dishes for dolls.  I came home with five of them, one for each member of my family.

Baked (or Shirred) Eggs are one of those non-recipe recipes.  It’s kind of embarrassing that I’m even posting about it.  But this is no smittenkitchen, folks. (Holy time on your hands, did you see the latest homemade lasagna recipe with homemade pasta sheets and bechamel sauce and Bolognese that you cook and assemble over days? That is a recipe I loved to read but will never make.  I am a huge fan of all that Deb does over at smittenkitchen.  Inspiring food writing + food photography.  She just nails it over there).

While there are long leisurely weekends for taking on a cooking project that requires so very many pans, these days, I need easy.  I need reassurance.  Cheerful, even.  Baked eggs are that.

I can crack a couple of eggs while the oven warms, top with a pat of butter, sprinkle with Maldon salt, and be rewarded with something hearty and comforting inside of twenty minutes.

Here are Colwin’s directions:

“The Pyrex dish is put in the oven to hotten up.  When hot, a lump of butter the size of a walnut (as the old cookbooks say) is dropped in to melt.  When the butter is just slightly sizzling, break in the eggs, never more than four.  Sprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan but no salt, as the  Parmesan is salty enough.  Cover and bake in a 325 degree oven until done.  Done can mean just cooked, or pink around the edges of the yolks, or baked to the consistency of a rubber eraser–some children like eggs this way.  Baked eggs, though, have to be watched.”

A few notes on what I did. I tried to get all fancy and tried baking the dishes in a water bath as I saw recommended someplace.  I’ve done it both ways and say skip the trouble.  They seem to turn out the same.  Also I went with salt instead of the cheese, but imagine the cheese would be worthwhile, too.  And I used a spray oil on the dish before dropping the eggs in, and a pat of butter on top.

These always take longer to cook than I think they will.  If you’re in a rush, go scrambled.  But if you’ve got a little time (and some ramekins or mini Pyrex dishes), baking adds a little extra something.  I have eaten these for breakfast and lunch and could also see coming home to them for dinner after a long cold and rainy day and being very, very happy.