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Monday, January 4, 2010


Ok, so yesterday it was really cold and I wanted some comfort food.  I started thinking about Chicken & Dumplings.  How retro and cozy, just like my grandmother made.  My grandmother didn't make Chicken & Dumplings...she wasn't even a very good cook ( she could make a mean chess pie, though).  But, I thought, I know other people had grandmothers who made Chicken & Dumplings, and that was enough for me to obsess about it.

I had the stuff in the freezer for chicken stock...wings, backs, necks, etc., so I started out.  Got my chicken stock going...full boil, reduced to a simmer, skimmed the scum, and let it go.  It didn't take long for the aroma and sight of this stock  to totally seduce me.  How could I take this beautiful stock and drop biscuit dough on top of it for dumplings?  I just couldn't, not that there is anything wrong with drop dumplings...  I love Matzah, and spaetzel, and every kind of dumpling.  I just wanted more...something special.

So, while the stock simmered away, I flipped  through a few of my hundreds of cookbooks; and  there it was...Keller's Pate a Choux dumpling recipe.  Should I?  Dare I? Did I really really really want to?  Hell yeah.

Pate a Choux is really a very basic pastry dough.  It the same dough that goes into making eclairs, profilteroles, cocktail puffs and gougeres..  These pastries are usually piped onto  baking sheets and baked until "puffed" and golden, split, hollowed out, and filled with all kind of wonderful french things.  But, I was going to make pate a choux for......
dumplings ...Chicken & Dumplings.  This was going to be fun!
Once you begin, it goes very fast.  Mise en Place'is  in order here.  No time during the process.

Water. Butter. Salt. Flour. Eggs. Herbs, if savory. That is it!

Bring 4 Tbl  butter, 1/2 Cup water, and 1 Tsp salt to a rapid boil on medium high.  Dump 2/3 Cup of flour in all at once.  Use a wooden spoon to vigorously stir the mixture.  This releases the steam from the flour.  It will pull away from the edges and start to stick.  4 to 5 minutes of this until a nutty aroma wafts. 

Put the dough into a standing mixture...while hot, very important, and beat on low speed.  Add 1 Tsp of dijon, and 2 tsp of salt and beat until it starts to cool down.  Add 2 eggs, one at a time, making sure each is incorparted before adding the next.  Add finely minced herbs of choice.  I chose fresh thyme. Reserved.

Now, in true Keller-esque fashion, I prepared all the ingredients seperately.  This insures the integrity and taste of each  ingredient will find it's potential.  I diced haricot vert, carrots, celery, pearl onions into like sizes. These were then blanched in salted water & shocked in a salted ice bath.  Reserved.

I then sliced chicken breasts from the bone and  poached them in chicken stock with a  bay leaf and fresh thyme with a parchment cover  for 5 minutes or until just cooked.  Reserved.

For the dumplings, I took 2 spoons, and shaped them into quenelles, scraping from side to side with the spoons  to form the shape., then dropped them into salted simmering water.  6 to 10 minutes until they floated to the top.  Resvered with a slotted spoon.

Assembly time.  The moment.

3 Tbl butter to 3 Tbl flour, melted in a stock pot to make a blond roux.  Just enought to cook out the raw flour taste.  Add the chicken stock and let it thicken until it coats the back of a spoon.   Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream for richness.    Add all the reserved ingredients, stir until heated through.  Ladle into large serving bowls, salt & pepper to taste, parsley to finish..

This is not your grandmother's Chicken & Dumplings.  It is refined, luscious, and decadent.

It certaintly is not My grandmother's Chicken & Dumplings, although I wish it could have been............

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