Happy 2017!! We did it!! We made it through 2016!!! How is everyone feeling? Refreshed? Relieved? Relaxed? Or still deep in thought about the year we just left behind? As much as we all want to move on, it’s tough to start something new when you’re still holding onto the feelings of something behind you. Because there are things that can never be completely left behind. Feelings and thoughts and broken hearts… those things don’t erase. They just get smaller and smaller as the minutes pass. Until one day you’re able to hold it up in front of you- this very tiny thing you once let define you, and you look at it and you can honor it for what it was in your life, thank it for what it taught you, and you just keep moving forward as it gets smaller. We don’t move forward by forgetting.
We move forward by accepting.
I don’t make resolutions. I never have. I think if something is important enough to start or change on January 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, then it’s important enough to start or change on any day of the year. You don’t like something about yourself? Change it now. You want something? Go get it now. Learn to be adaptable and do things as they come to you, and stop putting off your happiness in exchange for stagnancy. Get that job you want, tell that boy you love him, treat your body with more respect, play more with your kids NOW. Not tomorrow.
If 2016 taught us anything, it is that life is too short and it is unpredictable as hell. I cried more this past year than I think I have in all my adult years on this earth. I watched people I love be in pain they didn’t deserve. I watched people around me make choices I didn’t understand. I said goodbye to friends. I conquered fears. I met new people. I traveled the world. I learned things. I changed. I danced. I sang. I thought. I breathed. I loved. And I lost. All of us did. In so many ways, having gone through so many ups and downs this past year, and sometimes feeling those downs more intensely than the ups, made us all stronger and closer as fellow humans. If we can take from all the heartache and loss and confusion we went through and turn it into something shiny and new, then let’s do that. NOW. Otherwise all that shit that happened and made us feel bad and sad and mad happened only for bad reasons. And I refuse to believe that things happen only for bad reasons. If that were so, then the darkness wins. But there is always light to be found. Always hope. Always joy. Always love.
We cannot have a shadow without the light.
So, here’s to a Lovely 2017. It is yours.
I am proud of each and every one of you.
You are loved.
And now you get some good, old fashioned comfort food to start you off on the right foot. Spoons up! *clink*
Chicken and Dumplings is one of the ultimate comfort foods. It’s like Chicken Noodle Soup on growth hormones. It’s the Hulk to Chicken Noodle Soup’s Bruce Banner. (Ok, so technically I should have said ‘It’s like Chicken Noodle Soup on an aggressive amount of gamma radiation, but you get the idea.) Chicken and Dumplings comes in many forms, but I stand beside the kind where thick shreds of pastry are poached in homemade chicken and vegetable stock. And what results, if you do it right, is this intensely rich bone broth with big, soft pieces of slow cooked chicken, chunks of vegetables and plump dumplings that both delicately melt in your mouth and scream with sopped-up brothy goodness.
I make mine by poaching a whole chicken with chunks of mirepoix in a well seasoned broth, then separating the cooked meat from the skin and bones, adding the chicken back in, dropping in strips of scratch-made, buttery pastry, finishing with peas, parsley, black pepper and lemon zest, and letting the steam from the bowl delight my nose as I take slow and deliberate slurps.
I highly recommend it.
Especially right now.
MY CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS
. soup .
Place into a large stockpot at least twice as large as the chicken itself…
- 1 whole chicken (4-6 lbs.)
- 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 2 stalks of celery, cut into the same size
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 bay leaves
(Change up the veggies if you want to be parsnips with the carrots, fennel with the celery, leeks with the onions, etc. Be creative!)
Carefully cover by several inches with water (anywhere from 1-2 gallons, depending on pot size) OR if you have homemade stock, use that! I actually used homemade turkey stock for this, because I had it and needed to use it. But if you don’t have that, water is completely fine. I don’t recommend wasting the money on using store-bought stock when you’re about to be making your own here anyway.
If you’re using water, season with…
- 2 TB or so of kosher salt (this can be adjusted later if need be, and since I don’t know your pan size/water amount it’s hard to say exactly)
- good sprinkling of ground allspice
Bring this to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let this go all day if you can, but I highly recommend no less than 4 hours. This is one of those ‘start early and forget about it til right before dinnertime’ meals.
As it cooks, you will see what we lovingly call ‘scum’ rise to the top of the pan. Just skim it off and discard if you’d like, it’s not dangerous. Or leave it in. It’s basically the meat proteins, and overtime, will eventually just melt into the stock if you stir it in. Be as fancy or rustic as you’d like here.
After 4 hours, your chicken has been cooked through for quite some time, and will now be falling apart, so carefully remove it and allow it to cool in a large bowl or plate until safe to touch. With your fingers, remove all the chicken and place it back in the simmering stock, leaving behind the skin and bones to discard. I like leaving the meat in large and uneven pieces, as it will continue to break down anyway.
Fish out your bay leaves and discard.
Taste your stock. Does it need more salt? Add it and keep tasting until it’s right.
Bring this to another boil.
And slowly drop in your dumplings (recipe follows). Try to space them out as you drop them in so they don’t initially stick to one another inside the pot.
Let the dumplings cook until they float to the top.
Now it’s done!
Serve by spooning into wide bowls and adding fresh or frozen peas to each bowl.
Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, lemon zest and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. (And/or maybe fresh dill, tarragon, any other soft herb would be lovely here…)
(a note on leftovers- there is a lot of gelatin in homemade stock that comes from the collagen in the bones, so this will literally turn to chicken jello once chilled. Do not be concerned, it will turn back to its soupiness as you reheat it.)
. dumplings .
(This is just my pie dough recipe, and you will only need half of this for the dumplings, so you can either make a pie now, freeze the other half to make a pie later, or for more chicken and dumplings!)
I have my own technique for making/rolling out pastry, so if you’re more of a watcher, watch the quick (old) video below, or read about it underneath…
In your food processor bowl, add the following…
- 2 cups AP flour
- 1 rounded tsp kosher salt
Pulse this to mix well.
Insert the shredder attachment, but leave in the blade.
Through the spout of the mixer lid, with the mixer turned on, shred into the dry ingredients….
- 2 sticks unsalted, frozen butter
Once the butter is all mixed into the dry, remove the shredder attachment, replace the lid and slowly pour in, while mixing…
- ~1/2 cup ice water, or enough to make a dough
Don’t add so much that you have a wet mess on your hands, but just enough so that it can be pinched together and form a dough with your fingers.
Dump onto a large piece of plastic wrap on your counter top.
Form into a dough ball.
Cut in half.
Reserve one half for later use, wrapping it tightly in more plastic wrap and then in a freezer bag.
And refrigerate the one you’ll be using, wrapped tightly in that plastic wrap it was on, until firm..about 30 minutes should be fine.
Remove from fridge, unwrap, but keep on the plastic. Flatten as best as you can with your hands before covering with another sheet of plastic wrap.
Now roll out your dough in between the two sheets of plastic until you get it to about 1/8 of an inch thick. You will need to readjust the plastic after every couple rolls.
With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, slice your pastry sheet into long strips, about the size of pappardelle noodles… about 3/4 of an inch to an inch wide. Do not be precious about this.
Thanks for reading, y’all. Happy first Monday of the year! xo