I have been writing madly this week trying to finish my second edition and have only allowed myself a few other activities besides sleeping, one of which is cooking. But, my intense writing schedule is taking a toll and I've been craving comfort foods and hot baths. So, last night I made Chicken and Dumplings - one of my favorite Pennsylvania Dutch classics and one of my father's and son's favorite foods too. What's most interesting about it is that the dumplings are really more like thick chewy noodles and when paired with soft chicken pieces and a creamy gravy, it is so incredibly satisfying. I usually cook the chicken the day before and remove it from the broth and refrigerate it all (seperately) overnight. Then the next day, I take the chicken off the bone, then I make the dumplings and cook them in the broth. After that, the only thing left to do is thicken the broth into gravy and add the chicken back in. But, you can also make it the same day - it takes about an 1 1/2 - 2 hours depending on how fast you can make the dumplings. It is worth it because you will end up with a bowl of creamy and chewy goodness. If you have never had these kind of dumplings, you will have to try them. It really is comfort in a bowl.
Chicken and Dumplings
1 broiler/fryer chicken about 3 pounds, cut into pieces and dusted with flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
About 10 cups of water - more if necessary
2 - 3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon thyme
2 onions, chopped
3 - 4 Tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with enough water to make into a slurry
Put large pot onto stove and put in vegetable oil and onions. Cook onions until they are translucent and just beginning to brown. Add in chicken pieces and brown lightly on each side. Add in water to cover by about 2 inches. Add salt, pepper and thyme and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Remove chicken and cool down until you can remove meat from the bone. Cut into bite size pieces (but not too small). Keep broth warm or refrigerate both the chicken and broth overnight.
Then make dumplings:
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
1/3 cup milk
Mix flour with baking powder and salt. Put butter in and mix with your hands until the dough resembles coarse meal. Beat eggs and milk together and add to flour. Mix with your hands until rough ball just holds together. Put ball on lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth. Roll out with a rolling pin until dough is between 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick and cut into small squares.
Reheat the chicken broth to boiling and add in dumplings. Bring to a boil and turn down heat and cover. Cook for 20 minutes - no peeking! Then taste one to make sure they are done and if necessary, cook for another minute or two.
Then, remove dumplings to a bowl and add cornstarch to broth. Cook until thickened. If it isn't thick enough, mix another tablespoon of cornstarch with a bit of water and add it in and cook for a few more minutes. Be careful of adding too much cornstarch too soon as you don't want the sauce to get gummy. Taste for salt and pepper.
Add dumplings back in and also the chicken. Simmer just until chicken is heated and serve in bowls.
Five Element Analysis
Chicken is a Wood Element meat and combining that with dumplings made from wheat makes this a primarily Woody dish. The onions add the Earth Element as they cook for a long time and this is a long and slow cooking stew that is chewy and creamy so that adds even more Earth and there is enough water that turns into broth to bring in the Water Element and the eggs help too. The thyme adds just a bit of Metal and the cornstarch and milk add even more. But there isn't any Fire - so to balance this meal, a green salad with tomatoes would be a wonderful choice.