There are a few key phrases I can say if I want my husband’s face to light up like a Christmas tree.
Some are recreation-related:
“I’ve been wanting to play more video games lately.”
“Can we have a lazy day?”
“I’m willing to watch Firefly with you on a trial basis.”
“For some reason, the lawn didn’t grow this week, so we can skip mowing.”
“Let’s get naked.”
And some are food-related:
“I feel like nachos are an acceptable lunch for today.”
“I made meat pie.”
“I found a rogue tub of Mission to Marzipan ice cream at Safeway.”
“Would you like a frozen Twix bar?”
“I accidentally bought Mike’s Hard Lemonade instead of manly dark beer.”
But the number one food that is likely to elicit joy from him is chicken and dumplings. Or chicken pot pie. But really, chicken and dumplings is almost the same thing as chicken pot pie, it’s just got a softer “crust” that floats around like islands in the same filling. You can argue that point, but the way I do it, they’re very similar.
They’re the perfect winter comfort food, and I love to make either one of them. Except in August. In August, I get myself into kind of a rut where I only eat produce, candy, and sandwiches. It’s too hot for anything else, let alone something that simmers on the stove all day long. Most of my meals, as I’ve mentioned, end up being a yogurt and a giant serving bowl of cut up fresh melon. Or cold salads involving fresh tomatoes.
And homemade refrigerator pickles. I love vinegary food.
But Chris has been a saint lately, running on shopping trip after shopping trip helping me get the house restocked with food and art and furniture and clothing. He goes to HomeGoods with me every week. Do you know what that does to a man’s sense of self? Nothing good, is probably the answer. He even pretends to like it, so I don’t feel guilty. And the Amazon packages that have been arriving daily haven’t even phased him. Not one bit. So I figured he deserved a meal that would warm all of his cockles and make him whole again.
“Hey Chris? Do you want chicken and dumplings for dinner?”
Cue his skin bursting into sparkles like Edward Cullen, his eyes creasing up in sheer delight, and the slow-but-steady exposure of his childhood dimples on both cheeks.
How is it possible that I don’t make this for him every night?
Oh yeah. The heat. And the labor. And the mess.
And the calories.
Chicken and dumplings is NOT a low-calorie food. I’d suggest eating a bowl of it on a day where you’ve had nothing but melon and yogurt for your other two meals. Balance is key. I LOVE me some high calorie foods, but you’ve got to find ways to trade it out elsewhere in your diet for that week, or you’ll end up like Sally Struthers, schilling for orphans who don’t have any food, all the while looking like you live in a cozy pied-a-terre inside the milkshake machine at McDonalds.
There are some simplifications you can make to this meal for summer, though. This one was ready in under an hour, with the exception of the stock that was made a few days beforehand. It’s deceptively simple, and really, really good.
**A note on stock– This stock was made by simmering the bones from a chicken carcass with some leftover fire-roasted poblanos, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, and rosemary. The poblanos left a very faint, back-end spicy heat that tickled the tongue without being assertive. I am VERY fond of adding a touch of spice where it would otherwise not appear. Delicious. I froze the stock, and used part of it to make this meal. While homemade stock really helps with this type of thing, you won’t go immediately to hell if you use store-bought. Just be sure to use a good quality, free-range stock. That Swanson’s crap is terrible and tastes mostly like sodium and sadness. I like the Pacific brand of chicken stock when I’m in a pinch. They sell it at most grocery stores, and sell six-packs of it at Costco for cheap.
Okay, onto the recipe. It looks like a lot of steps, but it comes together quickly and isn’t hard at all.
Quick Chicken and Dumplings (yes, there is such a thing)
Serves 2, plus lunch the next day
3 chicken thighs
3 C stock
1 stick plus 2 T butter
.5 C flour (plus 3 T flour, separately)
1 t parsley
1 small onion, 1/4″ diced
2 medium red potatoes (or other waxy potato, like yukon gold) peeled and 1/2″ diced
1 large carrot, peeled and 1/4″ diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 small sprigs (sprockets?) fresh rosemary (or 1 t dried, if you must)
4 fresh sage leaves (or .5 t rubbed, dried sage)
.5 t cracked pepper
-First, poach your chicken in the butter. To do this, melt one stick of butter over medium low heat in a small saucepot. Submerge the chicken thighs and simmer very gently until the internal temperature reaches 160 F. Remove chicken from butter and set aside. When cool, chop into a bite-sized dice.
poached chicken thighs are butt-uggers, but delicious, moist, and cheap (even the free-rangers)
-Take about 4 T of butter/juices from the chicken-cooking liquid and put into a large, oven-safe, high-sided pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add your onions, garlic, and carrots, and sweat gently in the butter until translucent but not mushy. Add a sprinkle of salt to help this process along.
-Meanwhile, in a medium-large pot, bring your stock and potatoes to a simmer. Cook your potatoes until they are juuuuuust tender. Don’t boil them hard, and don’t overcook them.
gently, gently, or they’ll turn to mush.
-While they’re simmering, add your sage and rosemary to your carrot/onion/garlic mixture and gently press them to bruise them a little. They should start to smell pretty fragrant. Add more butter/juices if you need to to keep the mixture from getting dry.
This smells incredible, and makes a great base for stuffing, too!
-When your potatoes are done, add your 3 T of flour to your carrot/onion/garlic mixture and stir to coat the veggies in a paste. Cook for a minute or so to get the raw flour flavor out. Then carefully pour your potatoes and the stock they were cooked in into the pan with the veggies. Stir continuously and turn the heat up to medium-high. You want to bring it to a gentle simmer, but not a boil. Add your chopped chicken and stir. Taste for salt and pepper, and add as necessary to make a savory, delicious filling.
The flour you added to the carrots will thicken the liquid. If it gets too thick, add a touch more stock. Too thin? Let it simmer a few extra minutes.
-Set your oven to “broil.”
-Quickly mix up your dumpling batter. Stir together your eggs with 2 T melted butter (from the chicken liquid, if there’s enough left. If not, melt the additional butter and allow to cool for a moment before adding to the eggs) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then add .5 C flour and 1 T chopped parsley and stir until just combined. Add large spoonfuls to the simmering chicken stock/veggie mix.
dumpling batterThey shouldn’t be touching, either. They’ll grow a bit when they cook.
-Simmer for a minute or so, then stick into the preheated oven to finish cooking the top of the dumplings. This only takes about 2-3 minutes. Watch it carefully, as broil will quickly burn things if left unwatched.
This is their final appearance after broiling. You don’t want any color on them, really. Just doneness.You would eat this any time of year. I promise you that.
If there’s someone in your life who really likes tasty comfort food, make them this.
If you’ve had a rough day, and you need to be coddled a bit, make yourself this.
If you’ve been awarded a snow day, make this.
And let’s get naked.