When I was a kid, I was a picky eater. The type of picky eater who would look at a plate of food and turn my nose up at it just because it looked weird or gross- kind of embarrassing to admit now. The first time I ever tried a pickle, I was 17. How pathetic is that? Guess what, PICKLES ARE AWESOME. I wasted 17 years avoiding pickles for NOTHING. So stupid. Ever since then, (and more so since I met my husband, many years ago) I've attempted to be a more adventurous eater. Sometimes I find myself too grossed out (DANISH CHEESE? My best friend offered me this Danish cheese when I went to visit for her wedding and I almost barfed when I smelled it. I couldn't get it in my mouth.) but I make it a point to try a bite of whatever is in front of me, because you only live once.
All that said- I'm 25 years old, and (until this evening) I've never eaten dumplings. That doesn't mean I've never been served chicken and dumplings- far from it. My mom made chicken and dumplings on a regular basis growing up, using big cans of Swanson's broth and Bisquick for the dumplings. She even made it a few months ago when we all got together for dinner at my sister's house! For some reason, I've just always avoided the dumplings and spooned myself big bowls of plain ol' soup. "I don't like dumplings!" Whatever, dudes. Guess what, DUMPLINGS ARE AWESOME.
My husband came home with a copy of Cook's Illustrated the other night, an issue devoted entirely to soups and stews. First of all- I've never looked at an issue of Cook's Illustrated before, but right in the front, there's a page of "Quick Tips" that are pretty awesome and handy. Some of them are kind of dumb (Snipping off a piece of a plastic bag of frozen veggies to use as a bag tie? Just use a rubberband, dumdums. Or even simpler- twist the bag and then fold it over. Duhhh.) but one that blew my mind that I have to share is to invert the lid on your dutch oven to create a rack for roasting vegetables in tinfoil. Space-saving! Anyway, after perusing the magazine for soup ideas, he settled on chicken soup with dumplings. The recipe in the magazine wasn't anything to write home about- it was billed as a "Quick and Easy!" recipe (lame!) touting the benefits of store-bought broth, and omitting celery just to save time. (!?! like chopping celery takes SOOO long. Crybabies.) So we just based our recipe on the one in the magazine but went ahead and did our own thing.
So- start with a basic Chicken Soup recipe, and then add some other goodies:
6 or so cups of broth (we made our own chicken broth last night.)
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery (oh my god, try not to freak out about how LONG IT TAKES TO CHOP IT), diced
1 med-large yellow onion, diced
handful of minced garlic
2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
Oil, butter, flour
about 1/3 cup (or like, a glug) of heavy cream
Saute vegetables in a good sized hunk of butter and a drizzle of olive oil (starting with onions & garlic) for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Throw in a handful of flour and stir in quickly to make a roux. Toast for a moment, then add stock. Stir rapidly until liquid begins to boil, then drop to a simmer. Add the chicken breast, and a glug of heavy cream. Toss in a bay leaf, and let simmer for a few minutes.
In a mixing bowl, prep your dumplings:
2 cups of flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
generous dash of salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
fresh thyme leaves
Mix together dry ingredients, then add cream until "desired consistency" is reached. Jason didn't tell me what the 'desired' consistency is, but I'm guessing something thick enough to spoon into the hot soup that will keep its shape. Cook's Illustrated describes is as "very thick and shaggy." I like describing dough as "shaggy."
Spoon dumplings into the soup pot, covering the entire surface of the soup. Put a lid on the pot and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until dumplings puff up.
We ate the soup right away, but I found that by the time I got to my second helping a few minutes later, the texture of the dumplings had noticeably improved. They started out rather silky and creamy- very delicious, but maybe a little mushy? As the steam escaped the pot after removing the lid, the tops of the dumplings began to dry out a little bit and the texture became a little firmer as the soup thickened. Having never actually eaten a dumpling, (I'm so lame!) I asked Jason if the texture was right, and he said it felt perfect to him. He described it as being a little gelatinous on the outside, and biscuit-like on the inside. We had enough of this soup to really fill up about 4 people, and since I assumed the dumplings probably wouldn't keep well overnight (I imagine they'd soak up the soup, right?) I called up my buddy to join us for dinner and she headed over. She's from Texas, and she declared the texture of the dumplings perfect. It was Jason's first time making chicken and dumplings and I consider it to be a roaring success- we don't have any leftovers. I think it would be super easy to make a vegan version of this- just sub chicken stock for vegetable, and replace the heavy cream with some soy half & half? Give it a try, if you want.