Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

Yesterday was the first day of school for my kids. They’re at the age where going back to school just doesn’t hold the same appeal that it once did—now, the first day of school mostly means the end of sleeping in and hanging out. It’s not a happy occasion. Combine this with my son’s bungled class schedule and a halfway-completed new building at my daughter’s high school and you have a recipe for complete disaster.  Everyone was very, very glad to come home at the end of a long, crazy day.

So I decided to dispense with Meatless Monday for this week and revert to comfort food. I had some chicken that needed to be used up, and a tube of biscuit dough that had been hanging around for awhile, so the answer seemed obvious enough: chicken and dumplings. As you can probably tell, this is a recipe that makes good use of some prepared foods (in addition to biscuit dough, you’ll need a can of cream of chicken soup); if you’re a foodie purist who sneers at the very idea of canned soup, just move along. There are many recipes for chicken and dumplings made from scratch.  But my idea of comfort food is something quick, easy and delicious, because when you’re really in need of comfort, you don’t want to wait for it to arrive.

This recipe calls for two cups of cooked, shredded chicken. If you don’t have leftover chicken sitting around in the refrigerator, you can buy a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store or, as I did, just boil two or three boneless chicken breasts. Cut the chicken breasts into chunks; use just enough water to cover the chicken and bring the water to a boil for about 20 minutes. If you like, you can add a bouillon cube to the boiling water for a little extra chicken flavor. After the chicken is done, allow it to cool before shredding it with your fingers. 

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Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients:

1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans chicken broth (14 oz. size)
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 cup sliced carrots
1 tsp. thyme
1 tube refrigerator biscuits

Directions:

In a large pot, whisk together the cream of chicken soup and chicken broth. Stir in the cooked chicken, sliced carrots and thyme. Heat this mixture until it comes to a boil. While it's heating up, sprinkle flour over a cutting board or counter top. Open the tube of refrigerator biscuits and dredge them in the flour on each side. Cut the biscuits into quarters.

Once the chicken broth mixture is boiling, drop the biscuit quarters into it. Use the back of a spoon to push them into the broth, making sure each piece is submerged briefly. They'll float at the top of the boiling mixture while cooking, but that's okay. You want the flour from the biscuits to help with thickening the broth as it boils, and that's why they need to be submerged initially.

Once the dumplings are in the broth, don't stir the pot—the dumplings will puff up while they're cooking, and stirring the broth will deflate them and make them doughy. After about 20 minutes, remove one dumpling and cut it in half. If it's done, it will look the same in the center and at the edges. If it's not, you'll see a puffy layer of broth-infused dumpling around a dense, darker center. Allow the dumplings to boil for another 10 minutes, if necessary. You cooking time will depend on how large the dumplings are.

When the dumplings are done, use a large ladle to serve the chicken and dumplings in bowls. I like to toss in a few cooked peas, at this point, just to add a little fiber and color, but chopped parsley also works to add a bit of green. Feel free to top your chicken and dumplings with whatever brings you comfort at the end of a long and taxing day.

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