Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cool Weather... Warm Food...

It's a Slow-Mo Day today. It's sunny out - but cold :::sigh:::

Autumn is upon us. Temp was 48* when I woke up (Brrrrr!!!). I think it might hit 70 this afternoon, but it's been staying mostly in the 60's and it's quite windy.

I'm not feeling motivated enough to go out and do anything in the yard - plus I'm feeling a little sniffly (though I don't think I have a cold coming on - I sure as hell better NOT!).

Anyway - Cooler days mean I turn more toward "nesting" tendencies. Hence the whole "Fix-Up-The-House" mindset, of late. Today I've decided I need to cook some "Comfort Food" (which actually isn't good for the whole Diet Thing! But "Oh, well!").

Earlier this week, Rog was out of town (he still is, actually. Well, he's in the air at this moment, heading home). I was hungry for real (but low-carb) food, and I didn't want to cook, so I picked up a Rotisserie Chicken at the grocery store. I nibbled at it for most of the week, but then got bored with it.

Thought about stripping the last of the meat and making chicken salad today, but that didn't sound appealing. I wanted something heartier. And I know Rog loves a good home-cooked meal (on the rare occasion that cook!). I really didn't want to toss the half-eaten chicken so I did end up stripping the meat off and now the remainder is boiling in a pot of water, herbs, garlic, onion, celery and carrots. Yep, I'm trying my hand at making Chicken Stock! I've never actually done that before - so it'll be interesting to see how it comes out.

The ultimate goal is to make Chicken and Dumplings. If not today, then maybe tomorrow. Seems like the boiling of the carcass is going to take several hours...

I normally "cheat" and make crock-pot C&D using a package of frozen "Crock Pot Classics" Chicken and Dumplings. But I HATE the frozen dumplings in those packaged products - so I usually make Bisquick dumplings (or - at the very least - use a tube of those refrigerator biscuits).

This time I'm going for "mostly homemade." Yeah, I'll probably toss-in a can or two of Cream of Chicken Soup - but it'll be "mostly" homemade. Chicken breasts were on sale, so I'll use those to add more meat the mix...

Oughtta be yummy!

Postscript: It was quite yummy! I wasn't sure if Rog was gonna be hungry when he got home, so I held off on making the dumplings until I knew for sure (he was very hungry and appreciative).

Recipe (kinda/sorta).

Nan's Chicken & Dumplings (This is how *I* did it - Not necessarily "correctly" but it came out just fine!)

Leftover Rotisserie Chicken
2 fresh (or frozen/thawed) half-breasts (mine had bones and skin)
Small bag of Baby Carrots
1/2 head of Celery
2-3 cups of Frozen Mixed Veggies
1 cup sliced Mushrooms (I used fresh button mushrooms)
1 Onion
2-3 cloves Garlic
1-2 tsps Poultry Seasoning
Salt & Pepper

1 cup Bisquick
1/3 cup milk

Optional (if needed and good to have on-hand)
Small can of Chicken Broth (if you end up needing more liquid)
Small can of condensed Cream of Chicken Soup + Milk (or Half & Half)
White (or Marsala) cooking wine

Strip all the salvageable meat off of last week's Rotisserie Chicken. Set meat aside in the fridge.
Put the carcass in a big pot. Toss in a couple-three handfuls each of whole baby carrots and coarsely chopped celery (coarse - as in 2-3" long chunks). Half an onion and a clove or two of fresh garlic (again, big chunks). For this go-round, we're using the veggies to flavor the water. They'll be strained off and discarded later.

Add water (I nearly filled the 5-6 qt stock pot) and add 1 tsp Poultry Seasoning. Set uncovered pot on stove @ med-high heat until it starts to boil, then turn it down. Let it simmer for an hour.

About an hour into it, I added the two half breasts. Turned the heat up to med-high and got it boiling again, then I turned it back down to "simmer." I left the breasts in for about 2 hours. Then I removed 'em, set them aside to cool (I returned the skin and bones to the pot).

Let the pot continue to simmer for another hour (all told, it was right around 4 hours).

The recipes I'd read said you should skim off the scummy stuff as it cooks, but I never got any scummy stuff.

Using a strainer, pour the liquid into another pot, bowl, whatever. You'll find that about 2/3 of the liquid will have evaporated off, and the remaining chicken stock should be quite tasty and flavorful (*Much* better than canned chicken stock, IMHO!).

Now's the fun part: Sifting through the strained stuff! It helps to let it cool for awhile (I poured the stock back into the original pot and set it back on the stove with the burner turned off). I managed to salvage quite a bit of meat (which went back in the pot). Bones and fat get thrown out. Mushy veggies could be pureed in a blender or food processor and tossed back in, but I wasn't feeling that industrious (I bet it'd be tasty though!).

I put all the chicken back in the pot (rotisserie chicken leftovers, and the half breasts). Then I added more fresh veggies: Carrots, Celery, Onion, Garlic (chopped in smaller pieces this time around - this time it's meant for eating!). Personal Note: I prefer my veggies to retain some semblance of their original color and texture - that's why I prefer to save most of 'em til the end of cooking...

The soup, at this point, was looking really thick 'n chunky, so I added a small can of chicken broth, a can of Cream of Chicken Soup, and one can of Half & Half. Add Salt, Pepper and Poultry Seasoning to taste.

Turned on the burner (medium) and brought it back up to a rolling boil. Add the frozen mixed veggies and sliced mushrooms at this point and a splash or two of wine. Then set it back to simmer for about 30 minutes. Toward the end of that you may or may not want to add some sort of "thickener" to the soup (corn starch or a flour roux). You don't want it too thick b/c the dumplings will absorb some of the liquid.

Now it's time for dumplings: In a small bowl, add 1/3 cup milk to 1 cup Bisquick. Mix with a fork til well-moistened. Batter should be pretty "sticky." Using a tablespoon, gently plop batter blops onto the top of the soup. Don't worry if it seems like there's not enough dumplings - they'll expand as they cook!

Cook 10 minutes uncovered, then cook an add'l 10 minutes covered.

Serve and Enjoy!

BTW - This made a huuuuuge batch. It would easily serve a family of four. So now we've got leftovers for lunch! (Unfortunately, dumplings are never quite as good the next day - but the soup should be very good!)

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