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Friday, April 22, 2011

Big Balls

I intended to make a very  straightforward matzoh ball soup for our Passover supper a few nights ago. 

Shockingly, I had no matzoh meal lurking in the cupboard, so I settled on chicken soup with dumplings. Dumplings.  I've made them all; dropped dumplings, rolled dumplings, dropped biscuit dumplings, and Thomas Keller's quenelled  pate a choux dumplings. Name one and I've made it...except for potato dumplings.

In the past, my boss has had great success with potato dumplings, so I called her for her recipe. No proportions, only ingredients:  mashed potatoes, flour, and eggs. Simple.

I brought 4 cups of chicken stock to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and tossed in 2 sliced rinsed leeks, 1 diced onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 diced roma tomato, salt, pepper, fresh parsley, and 1 thinly sliced lemon.

While the soup base simmered, I pulled the  meat off the leftover braised chicken from the previous night, sliced it, and set it aside. On a whim,  I gathered the strewn scraps of leftover paprika-stained chicken skin , sauteed them in butter until golden and  crisp.....and snacked on them. Yep. Cook's treat. Don't judge.  I adore chicken skin.

I let the soup bubble away while Michael and I strategized our summer plans over several glasses of wine.

After an hour or so,  the soup had reduced and the vegetables were tender. I gently mixed a cup of mashed potatoes with a cup of flour before incorporating a large beaten organic egg into the mix.  I seasoned the dumpling dough with salt and pepper and let it rest while I cranked a large pot of water to the boiling point.

When the water flared to a rapid boil, I tossed in a handful of salt and reduced it to a simmer.  After rolling the dough into golf-ball-sized dumplings, I swirled them through snipped chives, dropped them into the simmering salted water, covered the pot, and let them steam cook.

After 15 minutes (one glass of wine equivalent), I checked on the dumplings. I was stunned.  Stunned and silent. I stared at them for several minutes before bursting into laughter.  They were hysterical! The dumplings had morphed into gigantic orbs of chive-flecked dough balls. They were huge.  Big.  Really big.

Big balls.


Game over? Order out?

What the hell.

I plated our chicken and dumplings  as if I'd intended the dumplings to grow into enormous  fist-sized dough balls..  I scattered the chicken into  two large pasta bowls and ladled the steaming vegetable soup over the chicken to heat it through without breaking it apart.  I carefully lifted the dumplings from the simmering water,  nestled them into the soup, and showered them with plucked fresh dill fronds.

The paper thin lemon slices perfumed the stock with bright aromatic acidity while the tender vegetables gave gentle bites throughout the velvety soup.  The dumplings were lighter than air.  Soft.  Creamy.  Floating dough clouds dotted with  snipped chives that hinted  mild onion grassiness. 
The bulbous balls held together, yet gave way at the slightest touch creating spoonfuls of jiggly dough when scooped from the silken broth.  They were fabulous and crazy to eat. Fun. 

Spoonful after slurping spoonful,
we ate them all.

I'll make these dumplings again......a wee bit smaller.

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