Archive | January 2012

Chicken and Dumplings

So, we talked about cooking a whole chicken, but now what do you do with it?  Now we turn it into chicken and dumplings and devour it like starving wolves.

This recipe can take some time and effort, but it’s cheap.  Like $10-$15, depending on sales and your supply of staples.  It’s also delicious and easy to transport — just put it in some sort of dish with a lid and go. Microwave it when you arrive at your destination and it’s ready to eat, no crackers or condiments needed. (Except for more black pepper, of course.)

Ingredients (Stew)
  • 1/2 stick (4 T) butter
  • 2 medium sized leeks
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots or parsnips
  • 6 tablespoon AP flour
  • 1/4 cup cooking sherry
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or half and half
  • 1-2 pounds chicken, shredded
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (You could also use a tablespoon of fresh rosemary, but you’ll have to chop it finely — whole rosemary can become a bit slimy when cooked.)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pinch tumeric  (Optional, but encouraged.)
  • 1 dash nutmeg (A dash is smaller than a pinch…so sayeth science.)  (Optional, but encouraged.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Chop vegetables.  Carrots can be grated on a box grater.   With leeks, you want to cut off the rooty bit at the bottom, cut the white part in half lenthwise, and then cut into quarter-inch pieces.  Discard the green top.
  2. Melt butter and saute leeks, onion, and carrots over medium-high heat.  Cook until soft, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the flour, then the sherry.
  4. Stir in the chicken broth, scraping up anything stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the milk, chicken, peas, garlic, and spices.
  6. Cover and cook on medium-low heat, ignoring while you prepare the dumplings.
Ingredients (Dumplings)
  • 1 cup whole milk or half and half
  • 3 tablespoons leftover chicken fat or bacon grease (You can substitute butter if you don’t have any lard.  Reduce salt by half if using salted butter.)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Directions
  1. Heat lard and milk until warm, not hot.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Do not over-stir.  (Pouring the wet ingredients into the dry will prevent all of the bubbles from the baking powder from escaping — you want them in the biscuits.)
  4. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.  This lets the baking powder react fully, ensuring light, fluffy dumplings.
  5. Spoon the biscuit dough into the stew in golf ball sized portions.
  6. Cover the stew and reduce the heat to low.  Let the stew simmer until dumplings have doubled in size, about another 15-20 minutes.

Black Pepper

Black pepper is my favorite spice, but it’s possible to make it even better.  Instead of using the pre-ground powder, it’s best to buy whole peppercorns and grind them as needed.  However, you’ll need to toast the peppercorns before you can grind them — toss them in the oven or do it on the stove-top on high heat, whichever is most convenient.  No need to put anything else in the pan — just pepper.  They’re done when they smell delicious and are starting to jump around a bit.

You can grind them with a mortar and pestle (found at your local World Market and under $20 — highly useful) or with an old coffee grinder.  Just do a small amount at a time because ground pepper starts to lose its flavor after a couple weeks, hence the joy of grinding it yourself.

You can also buy a pre-loaded pepper grinder at the grocery store, which is better than using the pre-ground stuff, but doing it yourself is so, so worthwhile.  I can’t use enough enthusiasm or even religious fervor when encouraging you to try it.

Pototoes au Gratin

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (approximately 6 smaller) potatoes
  • black pepper
  • seasoned salt and celery salt
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 t garlic
  • 1 T AP flour (AP means all-purpose, as opposed to wheat or cake flour.)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk (This is cheap and makes it taste much better. Pro-tip: 1 pint = 2 cups, but you can usually find it sold in a 1/2 pint — if not it will keep for weeks.)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup parmesan (Again, and always, real cheese. If it comes in a little green cylinder it’s not real.)

Directions

  1. Dice and caramelize onion. (You caramelize with a tablespoon of butter on medium-high heat. Use a saucepan and then you won’t need to dirty another dish for step 3.)
  2. Thinly slice potatoes and season them with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in onions. Place in 9×9 baking pan.
  3. Melt butter and briefly sauté garlic; stir in flour. Add milk and buttermilk. Bring to low boil.
  4. Add cheddar. Simmer, stirring constantly, until smooth and then pour over potatoes.
  5. Bake uncovered at 375* F for one hour. Sprinkle parmesan on top and bake until pleasantly textured, approximately 15 minutes.

Notes

  • The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs to be mixed in with the parmesan…possibly worth trying, at least to see what it does to the texture of the cheese.
  • Believe it or not, I’ve never added ham or bacon to this, but there is absolutely not reason not to. Crisp the bacon first and then you can use the bacon fat to caramelize the onions.

Parmesan Chicken with a Delightful Corn Crust

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal (I am not kidding about the finely ground part.  Trust me, it will be much easier to chew this way.)
  • 1/2 grated parmesan cheese (preferably real cheese, not the Kraft sawdust)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder

Directions

  • Mix cornmeal, cheese, and spices in one bowl.
  • Beat the egg into the milk.
  • Dip chicken in milk mixture and then spice mixture.
  • Place chicken on lightly greased pan.
  • Bake at 350° F for approximately 40 minutes.
Number of Servings: 4
You could use leftover chicken for this: just cook until the crust is set and the chicken is hot, approximately 15 minutes.

Chicken

The cheapest way to buy chicken is to buy a whole chicken.  Great, but what the fuck do you do with an entire chicken?

Well, tonight we are going to roast it.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Take it out of its protective packaging, and give it a thorough rinse, removing anything that might be inside of it.  (Giblets, chunks of fat, feathers, etc.)  Pat dry.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper inside and out and toss in the oven.  Cook for about an hour.  That is all.  If you’d like to get adventurous, you could truss the chicken or shove some random veggies from the refrigerator into its hollow little chest to help keep the breast from drying out, but don’t worry about it if you lack string or random vegetables.

Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165° F.  You put the thermometer in the thigh to check.

Eat the wings immediately.  They’re tasty, but there’s not enough meat on them to make cleaning them anything more than a pain in the ass.

You could throw in a baked potato and turn it into a slightly more balanced meal.  The heat is a little higher than you usually use for baked potatoes, so perhaps some tin foil?

So, what to do with the rest of the chicken?

The easiest thing to do is to let it cool off a bit and then remove the meat from the carcass*.  You could also just put the whole chicken in the refrigerator and do it later, but it’s slightly more work when it’s cold.  We’ll use the rest of the chicken in another recipe.

*You can make chicken stock from the carcass.  I find this to be a pain in the ass and just buy stock at the grocery store, but let me know if it’s something you’re interested in.

Hangover Chili

Dice these things (or throw them in a food processor) and saute in a teaspoon of oil over medium/medium-high heat stirring frequently.

  • 1 small onion or 1/2 large onion
  • 2 serano peppers
  • 2 jalapeno peppers

Cook until soft and add a large teaspoon of minced garlic and a large teaspoon of minced chipotle peppers.  (Chipotle peppers can found in a can in the “ethnic food” aisle of your grocery store.  They keep approximately forever if stored in an airtight container.)

Add a shot of some sort of alcohol and use it to help you scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.  (This is called deglazing.)  Beer, whiskey, and red wine all work especially well and you can be more generous with the beer and wine.

Reduce heat to low and add one 64 oz. can of tomato juice.

Drain and add one (14 to 16 oz.) can of each:

  • kidney beans
  • black beans
  • pinto bean

Pinto beans may be omitted and chili beans added in their place.  Do not drain chili beans.

Throw in several handfuls of frozen corn.

Add spices to taste.  These spices.  All of them.

  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • black pepper
  • cumin
  • seasoned salt
  • celery salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves

You could also throw some chili powder in there if you happen to have some on hand, but do not go out and buy it.

Turn heat up to medium-low/medium and sample after it’s simmered for at least ten minutes.  Adjust spices as needed.

Simmer, but do not bring to full boil, for at least another 20 minutes.

Eat with crackers and cheese.

Notes:
The spicier it is the more effective it will be at curing your hangover…and clearing your sinuses.  The Scoville Scale can help you decide which peppers you want.