Faced with a fresh pile of vegetables from our CSA once again, I was forced to turn down an invitation to the Durham Bulls game last night to stay home and cook them. (The unpleasant prospect of sitting outdoors on a cloudy, muggy, rain-splattered evening had nothing to do with it.) And so I felt compelled to Do Something.
My first thought was to make a vegetable pot pie, so I pulled out my handy Cook’s Illustrated: The Best Recipe for some guidelines. But the book magically opened instead onto the recipe for chicken and dumplings.
It’s been years since chicken and dumplings crossed my lips, and what a sad thing that is. They were a childhood favorite (back when the first line of my grandmother’s recipe would have read, “Kill chicken”), but I don’t find myself making them very often. The main reason is that I can no longer call my grandmother to get the recipe because I’ve forgotten it and could never remember to write it down.
Unfortunately my mother cannot be of help here because this is an area of deep division between us. Her mother (my other grandmother) was a proponent of flat dumplings, which are rolled out before they are added to the dish. My father’s mother was squarely on the side of drop dumplings, which are formed into balls and “dropped” in.
The flat/drop debate has raged in our family for decades now with no clear resolution. My mother, usually right about everything, has yet to see the merits of my argument in this particular case. To me, flat dumplings cannot even approach the fluffy perfection of a well-made drop dumpling. Properly done, drop dumplings are exceedingly light, with an inside like a tender, cakey biscuit, all surrounded by a very thin layer of rich, creamy dough. How can a flat, chewy lump even compare?
Still, the biggest obstacle to my making chicken and dumplings last night was that I had no chicken, and I wasn’t going to send even Fred out into a misty, damp evening to get one. Luckily, the Cook’s Illustrated recipe is called “Chicken and Dumplings with Aromatic Vegetables”–and I figured I had the second part of that covered. So I modified the recipe and came up with this dish.
Of course, the dumplings are not quite as light and fluffy as my grandmother’s. But lost recipes are like that–always made better by the fact we can’t have them anymore.
Note dumpling’s fluffy, tender goodness
Vegetable Stew with Dumplings
4 tbsp. butter
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 1/2 c. frozen peas
6 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
4 c. chicken stock
Cream, if desired
Melt butter in soup pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add carrots and saute for 5 – 10 minutes. Stir in zucchini and squash. Cover and cook for 5 – 10 minutes, until vegetables are just tender. Make dumplings and set aside. Stir in flour, thyme, salt, and pepper until flour vegetables are coated. Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add peas. Add cream if desired. Lay dumplings over top of liquid. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until dumplings are done.
Baking Powder Dumplings (from Cook’s Illustrated: The Best Recipe, p. 162)
2 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter
1 c. milk
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Heat butter and milk to simmer and add to dry ingredients. Mix with a fork or knead by hand two to three times until mixture just comes together. Form dough into balls about 2″ in diameter.