Monday, June 29, 2009

C and D

Saying the letters "C" and "D" in my house will get a big ol' reaction from Jim. It stands for Chicken and Dumplings and Jim claims that it is way up there on his list of favorite meals. Once I discovered his love for C&D I spoke to his mom about the recipe she used and was lucky that she kindly shared this with me.

The first time I made this for Jim he said it was "very good, but not the way my mom makes it." Oh, that hurt just a little...I thought I was making improvements on a stellar recipe by adding in a small bag of frozen vegetables like carrots and peas. Apparently those "improvements" were not appreciated and therefore when I make this for Jim, it is void of all color. This is simply a plain white meal and it still bothers me a little, but I do like to cook Jim a man-pleasin' meal, especially if he claims it to be his favorite.

Listen up my girlfriends - you know who you are... yeah, the one that is engaged and about to get married in Mexico this November. I know you have been trying some of my recipes out. Please note, DO NOT PASS this one will make you look like a super star in the kitchen. I was really shocked at how EASY this recipe is, and I promise your man will think he died and went to heaven when you make him "Homemade Chicken and Dumplings."

Here is what you need to gather: Olive Oil, Onion, Garlic, Chicken, 2 Cans of Cream of Chicken Soup, Salt, White Pepper, 2 Cans Biscuits, Chicken Stock and herbs of your choice (I like using Thyme, Oregano and Bay Leaves.)

Begin by pulling out your big stock pot or dutch oven. I love this lime green dutch oven by Rachel Ray. It's enameled cast iron and works beautifully for C&D. With the heat on medium, I add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot.

Small dice an onion.

Add to the hot olive oil and let it saute on medium until translucent. Towards the end, add in one minced garlic clove.

Next, add enough chicken stock to fill the dutch oven 3/4 full.

Add some herby flavor to the chicken stock with two bay leaves (we will fish them out later.)

I also went out to my herb garden and clipped a sprig of thyme and oregano. Turn the heat up and allow the chicken stock to simmer for a few minutes.

Remove the herbs and add two cans of cream of chicken soup. Stir to combine. I actually reserved the oregano and chopped it up really small and put it back in the soup - I can't stand to have an all white meal so I compromised by adding about a teaspoon of the minced herb back.

Now is also the time to season with salt and pepper. Taste as you go so you don't add too much.

Here is the most brilliant part of this recipe. Purchase two cans of plain biscuits, not the ones with specks of butter in them or the flaky kind. Using a knife or kitchen shears, cut each biscuit in fourths for big dumplings or in eights for smaller dumplings. Your choice.

Once the soup mixture has begun to boil again, start adding the dumplings a little at a time.

The dumplings will really swell, and look like they could just disintegrate, but then they absorb some of the soup, cook a little and go down in size. It takes about 15 minutes for the dumplings to go through this process.

I added the other can and it looks like I have way too many in there, but the are all puffy in this picture and will eventually shrink in size and become firmer little dumplings. I simply use a wooden spoon and stir these around every few minutes and check for doneness along the way.

Now for the "C" in C&D. Jim's mom would boil a chicken until his ankle skin rolls up. There is no WAY I'm doing that, and then pick the meat off the bone? Yuck! Instead I used a couple skinless, boneless chicken breast, rubbed them in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, then threw them in a 350 degree oven until cooked through.

I personally like to shred the chicken after it is cooked, but Jim prefers hearty chunks. However you slice or dice it, add the cooked chicken to the soup and turn down the heat to low.

To kick this C&D up a notch, I'm adding 3 tablespoons of white wine. My selection for this recipe is Turnbull Viogner from Napa. It's delicious!!

The last step is to add about 1/4 cup cream.

If you are making this for someone who isn't afraid of some color, I would highly recommend adding vegetables like carrots, peas, mushrooms, celery.

Deb's C&D Recipe:
Using a dutch oven, or a heavy bottomed stock pot boil a chicken till his ankle skin rolls up. Let it cool, Remove the skin and chop up the meat. This is time for restraint if you are like me. Reserve the chicken broth and add water to it. You will want at least half to 3/4 a dutch oven of broth and water.

To the broth add 1 can of cream of chicken soup and 1 can of mushroom soup. Salt, white pepper to taste. I've tried adding other spices like tarragon, but that is up to you. Most C&D recipes are not really spicy.

When the mixture comes to a boil, add the dumplings: 1-2 Cans of biscuits - I don't use the biscuits that have specks of butter added to them or the flaky kind. Just good old fashioned plain biscuits. Cut them into fourths for large dumplings or eights for smaller ones. (I had a friend that floured them, rolled them out and cut them into noodle shapes. But then, that would be C&Ns.) Add them to the boiling soup a little at a time and cook till they are at a consistency that you like. 10-15 minutes. I always just check them for doneness because it is hard to tell.

Add the chicken pieces and heat through. If the mixture is really thick, thin it with milk. This really make them rich. Now here is the secret... You can have them just like this or you can make them richer by adding the following...Use whole milk or half and half depending on how your arteries are feeling that day. At the end, add 2-3 tablespoons of dry white wine.

Mandy's C&D Recipe:
Season 3-4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in a 350 oven until cooked through. Dice or shred cooked chicken and set aside.

In a dutch oven, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot - medium heat. Add one diced onion and cook until translucent. Add 1 minced garlic clove and stir until fragrant. Add enough chicken stock to fill the dutch oven 3/4 the way full. Add two bay leaves, a sprig of fresh thyme and a sprig of fresh oregano. (Dried spices could always be substituted.) Bring soup to a boil, let simmer for five minutes. Remove bay leaves and thyme. Remove oregano, chop finely and add back to the soup. Add two cans cream of chicken soup, stir to combine, bring back to a boil. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Buy two cans of plain biscuits and cut each biscuit into either four or eight pieces. When soup boils, add pieces of biscuit a little at a time until all are cooked through. About 15 minutes, check for doneness.

Add the chicken pieces to the soup and turn down heat to low. Add three tablespoons of dry white wine and 1/4 cup cream. Stir to combine. Voila! This makes about six average servings, count your man as two servings.

Cracker Barrel Chicken and Dumplings
When I was doing recipe research I came across this copy cat recipe and thought I would share. I think my version and Deb's version is much easier to follow and give similar results but if you wanted to know how to make your own dumplings from scratch, this is a good recipe to follow.

Chicken and Broth

3 quarts water
1 3-4 pound chicken cut up
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 small onion sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
4-6 whole parsley leaves
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice


2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

1. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the chicken, 1 teaspoon of salt, onion, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and parsley to the pot. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook the chicken, uncovered, for 2 hours. The liquid will reduce by about one third.

2. When the chicken has cooked, remove it from the pot and set it aside. Strain the stock to remove all the vegetables and floating scum. You only want the stock and the chicken, so toss everything else out.

3. Pour 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) of the stock back into the pot (keep the leftover stock, if any, for another recipe-it can be frozen). You may also want to use a smaller pot or a large saucepan for this. Add coarsely ground pepper, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the lemon juice, then reheat the stock over medium heat while preparing the dumplings.

4. For dumplings, combine the flour, baking powder, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and milk in a medium bowl. Stir well until smooth, then let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about a 1/2 inch thickness.

5. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch squares and drop each square into the simmering stock. Use all of the dough. The dumplings will first swell and then slowly shrink as they partially dissolve to thicken the stock into a white gravy. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until thick. Stir often.

6. While the stock is thickening, the chicken will have become cool enough to handle. Tear all the meat from the bones and remove the skin. Cut the chicken meat into bite-size or a little bigger than bite-size pieces and drop them into the pot. Discard the skin and bones. Continue to simmer the chicken and dumplings for another 5-10 minutes, but don't stir too vigorously or the chicken will shred and fall apart. You want big chunks of chicken in the end.

7. When the gravy has reached the desired consistency, ladle four portions onto plates and serve hot. Serve with your choice of steamed vegetables, if desired.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wholesome Granola

This delicious granola recipe is courtesy of Nekisia Davis of Early Bird Foods. I saw her on the Martha Stewart Show making this Farmhand's Choice Granola.

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup raw sunflower seeds, hulled
1 cup coconut chips
1 1/4 cup raw pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
Coarse salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, pecans, syrup, olive oil, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and mix until well combined.

Spread granola mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

Transfer to oven and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until granola is toasted, about 45 minutes.

Remove granola from oven and season with salt.
Let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to one month.

This is delicious when generously spooned over Greek yogurt.

Look what walked into the kitchen?!?!

Cole is one hot mess! He got into a bag of FLOUR and it is now caked all over his face.

What a stinker.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Grillades and Smashed Potatoes

Grillades and Grits. This is a terrific, hearty meal that is generally eaten at breakfast or brunch in New Orleans. Grillades (pronounced GREE-yahds) like many other great recipes from New Orleans, comes from meager times, when a piece of meat needed to be stretched to feed a whole family. Jim and I definitely ate this until we really could not eat it anymore. This recipe could feed an army!

I began with a three pound chuck roast that I cut into one inch pieces.

Using SPOG (Salt, Pepper, Onion Powder and Garlic Powder) I seasoned the beef.

Then dusted the beef with about 1/3 cup flour and tossed lightly to coat.

Spray a cast iron dutch oven with cooking spray.

Heat 4 tablespoons of bacon grease and 4 tablespoons of cooking oil, or you could use all bacon grease, all solid shortening, or all cooking oil if desired.
Brown meat in batches and remove to a large bowl using a slotted spoon.

Set meat aside, and leave fat in dutch oven.

Slice and dice a large bell pepper.

Chop two medium onions. These were from my latest CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.)

Chop up one cup of celery.

Next, saute the bell pepper, onions, celery, and 3 minced cloves of garlic.

When they look like this, remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add or take away grease to total 3 tablespoons of fat left in the dutch oven.

I keep chicken and beef bouillon in the pantry for cases like this. I made up 4 cups of beef broth by dissolving the bouillon in hot water. Set aside.

To make a roux, add about 1/4 cup of flour to the hot grease in the dutch oven.

Stir constantly and slowly until flour is a nice deep brown, being careful not to burn the flour.

I usually shew Jim out of the kitchen so I can concentrate on making the roux. Slowly add the four cups of beef broth and stir.

Bring to a simmer.

Now add back the beef.

And add back the sauteed vegetables.

Add 3-4 bay leaves,

A sprig of thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme),

2 tablespoons of hot sauce,

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce,

1 teaspoon dried basil.

I added two 14-oz cans of diced tomatoes.

For added "heat" I added a chopped jalapeno and this other pepper. Simply chopped up with seeds and threw it all in.

Stir together and simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After letting it simmer, I fished out the bay leaves and the thyme sprigs.

Paula serves these over buttered grits. I served over simple smashed potatoes.
This was a really good meal, better for entertaining a crowd than just for two people...unless you don't mind eating leftovers for ever. You should also allow some time to make this dish, although it is easy to put together, it takes about 30-45 minutes to chop and brown and then another hour and 15 minutes to let the entire dish simmer. This meal reminded me of a beef stew, and the spice I added was hardly noticeable. It added lots of hearty flavor, but I could hardly say it was a spicy stew. Over the next few days, Jim and I ate the Grillades over all sorts of starches like rice, potatoes and grits. It was probably best over the buttered grits like Paula recommended.

Paula Deens' Grillades and Grits Recipe
1 (3-pound) chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Garlic powder
Cooking spray
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup
4 tablespoons bacon grease
4 tablespoons cooking oil
1 large bell pepper, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cup diced celery
3 large cloves garlic, minced
4 cups beef broth or water
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
5 medium or 4 large fresh tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1 (10-ounce) can extra hot stewed tomatoes (recommended: Ro-Tel)
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley leaves

Season beef with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Dust beef with about 1/3 cup flour and toss lightly. Spray a cast iron Dutch oven with cooking spray. Heat 4 tablespoons of bacon grease and 4 tablespoons of cooking oil (you may use all bacon grease, all solid shortening, or all cooking oil if desired). Brown meat in hot fat and remove to a large bowl using a slotted spoon. Leaving fat in Dutch oven, saute bell pepper, onions, celery, and garlic. Brown vegetables and remove to bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving fat in the pot.

Add or take away to total 3 tablespoons of fat to make your roux. To make roux, add about 1/4 cup of flour, stirring constantly and slowly until flour is a nice deep brown, being careful not to burn the flour. Slowly add 4 cups of beef broth or water and stir. Bring to a simmer and add back beef and vegetables. Add bay leaves, thyme, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, dried basil and stir. Add fresh tomatoes and 1 can extra hot tomatoes. Simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Just before serving, remove bay leaves and stir in 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Serve over your favorite hot buttered grits.