Potstickers Galore

Not long ago, I came across a small bamboo stacked steamer in an Asian market that looked to be the right fit for my 5-quart Instant Pot.  It’s quite charming sitting in my tiny kitchen, but more than that, eyeing it caused my mouth to water—as visions of  steamed dumplings danced in my head.

When I spotted Martin Yan’s potsticker recipe I knew I had the perfect excuse to pull everything together and start cooking.  Although I tailored this for my Instant Pot and steamer set-up, any steamer, wok or large  pan with a lid or foil to seal will do the trick.

The process is very much like making wontons. Martin incorporates Napa cabbage, ground pork or turkey, and dried black mushrooms in his filling. I’ve made a few adjustments, like adding an egg white for binder and extra moisture plus a bit of hoisin and mushroom soy sauce instead of oyster sauce. Instructions follow for Instant Pot as well as Martin Yan’s browning/steaming in a 12” sauté pan.

This makes plenty of potstickers!

I ended up making batches two days in a row—smartly pacing self to avoid eating all potstickers in sight.  So many did I have, there was an Asian salad event and more to freeze for a later soup.

Potstickers

Inspired by Martin Yan’s Potstickers.

Ingredients
40 round potsticker or wonton wrappers
2 tablespoons cooking oil
water
CB’s Spicy Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons  sriracha sauce or chile paste
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Filling
4 dried Shiitake mushrooms
1 cup shredded Napa cabbage (approx.)
2 tablespoons green onion, chop
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound ground pork or ground turkey
1 clove garlic, mince
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Directions

  1. Make spicy dipping sauce: in a small bowl, combine ingredients and set aside.
  2. Soak mushrooms: In a bowl, soak mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Discard stems and coarsely chop caps.
  3. Salt cabbage: In a bowl, combine Napa cabbage and salt, toss well and set aside until cabbage wilts, about for 5 minutes. Squeeze out and discard excess water.
  4. For filling: combine mushrooms and cabbage with remaining filling ingredients in a bowl; mix well.
  5. To shape potstickers: moisten the edges of the round wrapper and place a teaspoonful of filling in center. Pull up, flatten bottom, and pleat edges with some filling showing. Or, lightly fold in half, then press the outer edges inward to create a 4-pronged star on top. Keep remaining wrappers covered with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying. Repeat until filling is used or set aside half and make as needed.
  6. To steam in Instant Pot: line 2 steamer baskets with cabbage leaves or parchment paper.  Set in baskets without touching. In bottom of Instant Pot add about 2 cups water.  Place bamboo steamer on wire rack and cover with bamboo lid or seal top with foil. Cover tightly, close vents, steam for 6 minutes and use quick release.  Repeat as desired.  Yield: about 40 potstickers.

Variations:
To fully cook in skillet:  heat 10-12” skillet over medium high until hot.  Add 1 tablespoons oil to coat bottom of pan.  Add about 10 potstickers, flat side down and cook until bottom are golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Add 1/3 cup water, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until water is absorbed, 4-5 minutes. Remove and serve with spicy dipping sauce.
To reheat/brown the bottoms:  if desired, heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoons oil to cover bottom of pan, add a layer of cooked potstickers and cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add a couple of spoonfuls of water in pan to create steam, cover and cook briefly until warmed through and water is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Serve with spicy dipping sauce.

Cabbage Rolls Made Easy

My thoughts automatically turn to my new Instant Pot these days.  Often it is to re-visit old favorites like stuffed cabbage rolls, and tinker with how to best incorporate them into my new cooking repertoire.

This stuffed cabbage recipe was shared many years ago by a good Polish friend, who received it from his mother.  Since he was not a cook, he was so appreciative when I would prepare his beloved Goblaki, it was always reason for a party.

Golabki

When the mood strikes, I still make stuffed cabbage rolls for their homey, sweet/sour qualities. They are even better reheated the next day.  There are a few steps, but none are complicated.  I actually find the repetition of filling and shaping the rolls very relaxing—I like to think of it as a form of meditation.

Here, the slow cooker steps in to deliver all the classic aromas and flavors and cooks in about the same oven time.  There is little mess. The blanching of the leaves is done in the same cooking pot. My current version cuts back on the ground beef and contains part turkey, which doesn’t seem to make a difference in overall taste.

Enjoy the rolls with Barley-Mushroom Risotto, a perfect companion.  Here’s to you, Joe!

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, aka Golabki

Ingredients
1        large head cabbage
Filling
3/4     pound ground beef
3/4     pound ground turkey
1/3     cup raw converted rice
1/2     cup onion, dice
1/2     cup celery, dice
1         clove garlic, crush
1         teaspoon salt, to taste
1/2     teaspoon pepper, to taste
Sauce
1       28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2    teaspoon dried dill, plus more for the pot
salt and red pepper flakes, to taste
1        tablespoons brown sugar, approximate
2        tablespoons cider vinegar
1/3    cup raisins (optional)

Directions

  1. To blanch the cabbage leaves:  gently separate the cabbage leaves and rinse well.  Layer leaves in pressure cooker. Set pressure element to Low, and steam the leaves for 1 minute with fast release.  Carefully remove and place in an ice water bath to stop the cooking.  Drain on toweling and set aside.
  2. Place a few unusable leaves in the bottom of the pot, add a bit of available sliced onion, add a light sprinkling of dill, salt and pepper.
  3. To make cabbage rolls:  combine filling items.  Place a heaping tablespoonful of stuffing at largest end of leaf, roll and fold sides in.  Repeat.
  4. For assembly:  combine sauce ingredients and spoon 1/3 of the sauce into bottom of pot.  Place a layer of rolls close together, seam side down, into the pot. Top with another 1/3 of sauce.  Add another layer of rolls and finish with remaining sauce.
  5. Set slow cooker to Medium setting for approximately 2-1/2 hours.  Note: begin on medium setting, cook for 1-1/2 hours. and check.  If not simmering at this point, increase to High for the additional hour.  Can also be cooked on Low setting for 6 hours or longer.  Yield: about 12 rolls.

Soup in a Flash

When it comes to preparing quick meals, planning ahead makes all the difference.  Instead of eating the last of the roast chicken, I like to tuck a portion into the freezer for a rainy day. One large chicken breast could be the makings of a taco dinner for two or a comforting soup, with the help of a little chicken stock.

Hominy is another item that has plenty of applications.  The same corn staple used for grits in the south,  it’s a versatile ingredient used in hearty Tex-Mex breakfasts and serves as a wonderful addition in Mexican soups and stews. Markets often prefer stocking the jumbo cans, which could mean a lifetime supply—unless you are into menudo.  So, when I spot the smaller 12-ounce cans I like to grab one or two for handy use later.

Chicken Lime Soup with Hominy
Chicken-Lime Soup with Hominy

If you happen to have those three ingredients on hand, pat yourself on the back. You have the basis for a tasty soup dinner that’s ready in less than 30 minutes. Zip it up with a heavy squeeze of lime to emulate the flavors of Mexico’s Yucatan; top it freely with a fresh cheese like cojita or a feta and garnish with cilantro or avocado.

Chicken-Lime Soup with Hominy

Inspired by Fine Cooking Make It Tonight

Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 white onion, peel and chop
1-2 cloves garlic, peel mince
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seed and chop
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups chicken stock, or more
1 cup canned hominy, drain
1 large chicken breast roasted or poached; skin, debone, and cut into large chop.  Shred into slightly smaller portions
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper or to taste
1 lime

Accompaniments:  Cotija or queso fresca 1/2″ cheese cubes, cilantro leaves, lime slices, avocado slices, tortilla chips

Directions

  1. Add oil to soup pot over medium heat; when hot add onion and sauté for 1 minute to soften.  Add the garlic and toss until aromatic; add the green pepper, oregano, and cook an additional minute.
  2. Add the chicken stock and the hominy and bring to a simmer.  Add the chicken meat to the soup, season lightly with salt and pepper, cover and simmer about 10 minutes.
  3. When ready to serve, season with about 1 tablespoon lime juice and add more to taste; it should be tangy.  Serve in bowls with cheese cubes, cilantro, more lime, and additional accompaniments. Serves 2-4.

Jerk Pork: it’s grill time!

It’s summertime and the living is stunningly easy here on the homestead.  Especially now that I have finally located another folding grill!  What was once called the Pyromid has resurfaced under the new name of EcoQue, and I couldn’t be happier.  This unique stainless steel grill not only folds neatly into its own 2” thick tote for easy storage, it produces temperatures close to 900 degrees on its 12” surface with only 9 charcoal briquettes.

EcoQue Portable Grill
EcoQue Portable Grill

I apologize, I did not intend the post to become a sales pitch for this adorable grill, but I guess I can’t help myself. I am utterly thrilled that it hasn’t completely disappeared!  With the new grill at hand, my first order of business was to grill off a little celebratory jerk pork.

Jerk Pork
Jerk Pork

This popular Bahamian marinade makes anything taste better.  It’s wonderful hot off the grill on chicken, fish, beef, or pork and it is even better the next day. Jerk meats remain so moist and flavorful they are ideal for picnics and travel. Today, I’m cooking a thick chunk of pork but 3 to 4 pounds of chicken or beef will work just as well.

Jerk Pork, Chicken, or Beef

Ingredients
3 – 4 lb.  pork, chicken or beef ribs
Jerk Marinade
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and cinnamon
3 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup green onions, chop
1 clove garlic, minced
4 scotch bonnet chiles, or jalapeno peppers, seed
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt

Directions

  1. For marinade: place all ingredients in blender and puree for 2 minutes.
  2. Massage the meat well with the marinade and marinate several house or overnight.  Any extra marinade can be reserved for dipping if not used for brushing the meat on the grill.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium-low heat.  Drain and pat the meat dry.  Brush the grill with oil.  Grill, turning and brushing with marinade as needed until nicely browned all over and pork reaches an internal temperature of 160°, beef is between 145-160°, and chicken reaches 165°.

 

 

Super Bowl and… Buffalo Wings!

Chicken wings aren’t something I thing about eating very often, but I dearly love them.  They are one of those foods that I always link with good times, like the Super Bowl.

I love chewing on the tips and bones until there is absolutely nothing left. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy wings with the wing tips included… Such was the case when I set out to purchase wings for Super Bowl snacking and had to settle on just drummies. They are still good, but just not the same. Cooking wings can be a greasy mess, so I try and keep the process as simple as possible.  Here’s my Buffalo wings solution.Wings(640x480) I brine the wings overnight and precook them ahead. When ready to eat, it’s a simple matter of gathering everything together and finishing them on the grill or in a hot oven. The most important trick to their success is to saturate them well with wing sauce while they are as hot as possible. It soaks in and does not make them soggy.wing plate

I especially like homemade blue cheese dressing with the wings, but any will work. It is the perfect balance with their hot spiciness, as well as an excellent dip with crunchy celery and broccoli. With just a few vegetables thrown in, somehow we can believe we are eating healthy.

For an add-on, serve these with the smashed creamer potatoes mentioned in the previous blog entry.  Enjoy, because it wouldn’t be Super Bowl without wings.

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Ingredients
2 lbs. chicken wings, or more, cut at elbow; rinsed well
2 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
water to cover
Wing Sauce
1 part butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 parts favorite hot sauce
soy sauce, to taste
vinegar, optional

Directions

  1. In a sealable container or zip lock bag, combine the salt and enough warm water to dissolve, add the garlic and water to cool.  Add the wings and water to cover.  Let stand overnight in brine.  The next day, drain and air dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 450° and line baking sheet with foil.  Precook the wings for 30-45 minutes until they begin to color. Set aside until ready to finish.
  3. For sauce, melt the butter, add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes, add the hot sauce and adjust flavors with a bit of soy sauce and vinegar.  Set aside until ready to finish.
  4. Finish the wings on the grill or in 450°oven for approximately 15-20 minutes, until well browned and crisp, turning as needed. While hot, toss the wings with sauce and serve.
    Traditionally served with celery stick and other fresh vegetables and blue cheese dressing.   Serves 6.

Inside-Out Won Ton Soup

Now that we are heading into cooler weather, soup is beginning to look good again.  Here’s a tasty and fun soup that inspired my imagination because it immediately reminded me of my old favorite, Won Ton Soup—without all the work that goes into it.

I must be getting lazy. I’ve always enjoyed won ton making and have viewed the process of filling and folding and pressing each little won ton as relaxing and meditative.  I was intrigued; the further I studied the recipe, the more it resembled Won Ton Soup with its similar components, but lacked the cute little dumplings.  Perhaps this deconstructed version would yield a similar outcome without the fuss… I was all over it!

Credit for this soup goes to Jessie Price’s recipe Brothy Chinese Noodles in The Simple Art of EatingWell, where it is described as being inspired by Chinese Dan noodles.  Upon further investigation I learned that Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles are known for being spicy hot and frequently are served with very little broth.  For more background on Dan Dan Noodles, see Appetite for China.

With soup on my brain, I certainly wasn’t disappointed with EatingWell’s variation; it was beyond everything I had imagined. The soup broth has more flavor than my usual Won Ton Soup because it begins with ground turkey (beef or pork) broken into large chunks, browned in sesame oil along with ginger, garlic, and scallions, and then it is all removed.  The stock is built on the lovely brown bits left in the bottom of the pot and further enhanced by soy sauce and rice vinegar.  With the Chinese penchant for perfectly clear stock, this might appear a bad idea, but since the soup is already filled with chunks of ground meat, it really doesn’t matter.

Steamy soup pot
Steamy soup pot

I added bok choy,  hot peppers and other vegetables that would cook quickly along with the noodles. I opted for my current favorite, somen noodles, which gave the soup an even deeper, heartier flavor.

Inside-Out Won Ton Soup
Inside-Out Won Ton Soup

I finished the meal-in-a-bowl off with cayenne dusted cucumber strips and green onions.  In the blink of an eye the soup was done, with nary a flick of the wrist…

Inside-Out Won Ton Soup

A zesty soup that calls for slurping; inspired by Brothy Chinese Noodles in The Simple Art of EatingWell by Jessie Price.    

Ingredients
1 Tbsp hot sesame oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 cup scallions, sliced, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 cup baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
Red pepper flakes to taste
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups thinly sliced bok choy
½ cup red hot or mild pepper strips or small rings
1 cup snow peas, strings removed
8 oz somen noodles, or dried Chinese noodles
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 small cucumber, sliced into matchsticks

Directions 

  1. In a large saucepan, heat sesame oil over medium heat.  Add turkey, ½ cup scallions, garlic and ginger, stirring gently to break up turkey, but keep some clumps. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until no liquid remains.  Remove to a bowl.
  2. Deglaze the pan with a little broth, scraping to loosen bits of meat adhering to bottom of pan.  Over medium heat, add all the broth and the vegetables as they are cut up.  When it comes to a boil, add the noodles and the turkey mixture, reduce heat slightly and stir occasionally until the noodles are tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Adjust seasoning and serve topped with scallions and cucumber.  Serves 6.

Saved by Chicken Tostadas

I’m sitting in my tiny summer quarters greeting the new day.  Outside, it looks to be another beauty:  mid-80’s, sunny and warm.  But inside, it’s a slightly different story.  There is no kitchen to speak of here; I rented this space, sight unseen, with that understanding.

marionberry quilter.com
Courtesy Marionberryquilter.com

I’ve decided that this is definitely worth the challenge though, because 1) it is small and 2) I am surrounded by some of the richest agricultural land imaginable. Just an inkling of the season ahead, it is now a rolling checkerboard of overwinter grasses and grains, fields of flowers, early lettuces, trained berry bushes, orchards, groves, vineyards, and much, much more.

For some time now I have been following the Tiny House movement and am deeply intrigued by the idea of ‘living small’. For a person who lives to cook, the idea of constantly eating out is not even a remote option. I know I need a kitchen, so I need to figure this out: What are my most essential needs? Will this make me utterly crazy?

I regard my tiny space as a 10’x12’ living laboratory.  Although I rented it furnished, over the past month it has evolved from a mundane bedroom into a creative, writerly kitchen.  A piece at a time, I have replaced an old over- stuffed recliner with a desk and chair.  In the corner near the bed, a low sprawling cabinet has been swapped out for a bookcase with my most treasured cookbooks and research material.

The small fridge has been moved out of the closet to the opposite corner, between a tall cart housing a convection/toaster oven and a rolling cart with microwave and Nu-Wave burner.  A storage unit previously holding clothes now contains all my food supplies:  grains, flours, herbs spices, some dry goods and a few canned items.  In the center of it all, 2-1/2 foot folding table is now my work/prep combo dining area. It works.

Yesterday, it was only in the mid 80’s outside and quite warm in here―air circulation is not great, the sporadic air conditioning, unreliable.  For the past two days I had been planning to re-test a kale, mushroom, prosciutto, egg dish―you could say a cross between a baked Dutch Baby and a Toad in a Hole.  Tempting, but it would have to wait another day: by 7PM it was still too hot for any serious cooking.

Instead, I settled on an old standby:  Chicken Tostadas.TostadaOn my last trip to Mexico I realized I must be the last living person not using pre-baked tostada shells.  Granted, you can make your own, but as a handy back-up, they replace baked/fried tortillas quite nicely.  Simply re-heat in the microwave, layer on favorite toppings and you are done.

And I was done, too―mercifully saved by Chicken Tostadas.

Chicken Tostadas

For a quick meal or a snack, this hardly requires a recipe: use what you love!

Ingredients

For one  serving
1 packaged or homemade Tostada shell
2-3 Tbsp seasoned refried beans
2 Tbsp melting cheese:  queso asadero, Muenster, jack, or cheddar cheese, grated
Lettuce or Cilantro Slaw (cabbage/vinaigrette seasoned with lime juice, oregano, cumin, and cilantro)
½ cup roast chicken, shredded
Garnishes:   slivered avocado, cilantro, radishes, shredded cheese, salsa or taco sauce

Directions

  1. Heat the beans, shred or crumble the cheese, shred the lettuce or prepare the Cabbage Slaw
  2. Shred the chicken
  3. On microwaveable plate, spread the tostada with refried beans and top with cheese. Microwave 45 seconds, until cheese is melted
  4. Top with the slaw or lettuce, chicken and garnish as desired.

Small Space Cuisine: Gumbo

I’m fascinated by small spaces―especially tiny kitchens.  Nothing is more challenging than creating great food under peculiar conditions.

Maybe that’s why I loved my time cooking on the water and making the best of whatever came my way:  on sailboats, dive boats, mega yachts―even private tropical islands, where crucial resources such as power and water are often limited.

Smaller spaces tend to make for greater efficiency since everything is within arm’s reach.  However, planning ahead is key since success depends radically on optimizing all that is readily available.

In a limited setting one-pot cuisine is a natural solution for enticing,well-balanced meals.  It might be necessary to make a few concessions along the way, but it will still be amazing.  For example, depending on equipment and space constraints, you might want to re-consider when and where to include a starch.  Perhaps it will make more sense to add it directly to the pot rather than cooking it separately.

Nothing beats gumbo when it comes to meal-time flexibility. Gumbo

By its very nature, gumbo lends itself to tons of variation, too.  Here, nutritional value is easily bumped up by the addition of hearty greens, and full-flavored black-eyed peas, precooked or canned, become a handy, satisfying support component.

For an authentic gumbo flavor, be sure to include the roux process.  Although it is time consuming, this is not a step to skip, and can be done well ahead.  Begin by slowly browning the oil and flour; when you’ve developed a rich, deep mahogany color add the vegetables to the roux.  Include protein such as ham, sausage, or chicken plus some handy dried herbs like thyme and bay; you can even add rice for toasting at this point.   Dilute it all with a good chicken stock, throw in your greens if desired, and let it all simmer 20-30 minutes, until the greens are tender.

If serving rice separately, consider one of the easy microwaveable pouches of basmati― ready in less than two minutes.  Here’s a basic recipe which allows for plenty of adaptation.

Gumbo with Black-eyed Peas and Ham

Ingredients
2-3 Tbsp. oil
¼ cup flour
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 cups smoked ham, cubed
2 cups sausage, andouille, polish, or garlic sausage of choice, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 -2 jalapeno peppers, seeded minced
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tomato, seeded and chopped, or 8 oz can diced tomatoes
1 qt chicken stock, or more
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne, to taste
14 oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1-2 lbs tender greens, kale, collard or spinach cleaned, stemmed, cup up
2 tsp file powder, optional
Add-ons:
2 cups cooked basmati rice, 1/2 cup chopped green onions, hot sauce

Directions

  1. In a soup pot over medium, heat the oil; add the flour and stir occasionally for 20-30 minutes until it reaches a deep mahogany color.
  2. Add the onion and garlic to the roux, stirring until aromatic and the onion has softened.  Add the jalapeno pepper, the dried herbs, the ham and sausage, and cook briefly to combine.
  3. Add the tomato and slowly stir in the stock, season with salt, pepper and cayenne; add the black-eyed peas and the greens if using, and cook until they are tender 20-30 minutes.  Stir in spinach just before serving.
  4. To thicken gumbo further file powder can be added just before serving, allow it to briefly simmer until it thickens.  Adjust seasoning and serve hot topped with hot rice, green onions and hot sauce.  Serves 4 or more.

To the Power of 3: Chicken, Lemon and Garlic

Here is an excellent one-pot dish from Jenni Fleetwood’s book One-pot, Slow-pot and Clay-pot Cooking.  This pot-roasted chicken is French-country cuisine at its best:  the flavors literally jump off the plate with an abundance of garlic and lemon, plus lardons or bacon, and cannellini beans.  Chicken, Lemon and Cannelini

The beauty of this rustic composition is that despite the generous amount of garlic and lemon, neither dominates.  The assertive smoky bacon and a leisurely sojourn in the oven see to that.  The pot roasting process serves to moisten and infuse both the chicken and the cannellini beans with all the luscious additions.

Yes, it is a feast to behold.  With thickly sliced artisan bread to mop up the juices, it is simple, sumptuous, and stylish.

Pot Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Garlic

Inspired by One-pot, Slow-pot and Clay-pot Cooking by Jenni Fleetwood
Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup bacon, chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled, whole
2 onions, cut 1/8’s
2 tsp all purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 lemons, washed and thick sliced
3 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
3 lb. chicken, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and pepper to taste
2 – 14 oz. cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Directions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a heavy oven and stove proof casserole large enough to generously hold the chicken, coat the bottom with oil and add the bacon; cook until lightly browned and remove from pot to drain on toweling.
  2. Pour off any excess fat, leaving enough to coat the bottom of the pan, and add the onions and garlic to brown over medium high heat.  Stir in the flour and then the stock.  Return the bacon to the pot with the lemon and thyme.  Bring to a boil stirring until thickened.  Place the chicken on top and season well.
  3. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.  Baste twice with pot liquid.
  4. Baste the chicken again. Gently stir in the cannellini beans to surround the chicken.  If the chicken is not browning, leave the lid off and continue to bake an additional 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and it is tender.
  5. Carve the chicken into thick slices and serve with the beans.  Serves 4.

Devouring Dumplings

Dumplings are one of the world’s great comfort foods.  In a single handcrafted portion a dumpling can provide us with an immediate, compact, soothing taste of home.  Made from traditional ingredients and often ritualistic methods of preparation, a dumpling can be viewed as a true cultural touchstone and provide a window into the heart of a cuisine.

Dumplings come in all sizes and shapes, ranging from savory to sweet.  They can be steamed, boiled, simmered, or fried.  In general, you could say a dumpling consists of dough wrapped around a filling; in some cases, a dumpling is made with ingredients directly incorporated into the dough.  Depending on regional availability the dough can be based on potatoes or other tubers, a flour or grain, such as wheat, corn, farina, or rice.

For variety, consider the vast choices in Chinese dumplings: from steamed or fried won tons and pot stickers, to the elaborate array of steamed dumplings used in diverse dim sum offerings.  By contrast, the baked or fried empanadas of Spain or Latin American can vary widely, too; instead of dainty morsels, they are frequently sumptuous enough to rate full meal status.

Molded and simmered dumplings such as Italian gnocchi, German spaetzle, and French quenelle are all precursors of our own colonial dumplings.  Here In the United States Chicken and Dumplings remains a regional favorite.  Hailing from South Carolina, our Cornmeal Dumplings include both egg and baking powder―promising moist, airy pillows, and not heavy gobs of dough.Dumplings

In the old days a tough old bird may have been the appropriate choice for this homey dish, but today we tend to opt for something that does not require hours of simmering to tenderize it.  A whole cut-up chicken can be used; if particular parts are preferred, include some dark meat for a richer flavor.Chicken and Dumplings in bowl

Since Chicken and Dumplings are regarded as a full meal, use plenty of vegetables like carrots, onion, potatoes, celery, and turnips, even a few green peas, if available.   For ease, prepare the chicken and vegetable mixture ahead and reheat it; add the cornmeal dumplings and cook them just before serving.  They are the crowning glory, and the perfect foil for this hearty chicken stew.

Chicken and Cornmeal Dumplings

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, minced (optional)
1 chicken, cut up or 6 chicken thighs, skinned
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
8 baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, quartered
1 tsp mixed dried herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, marjoram
1 bay leaf
2-3 carrots, peeled cut into bite-sized chunks
2 turnips or rutabagas, peeled, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 medium red potatoes, skins on, cut into bite-sized chunks
½ cup parsley, chopped
3 cups chicken stock, approximate
1 large handful of frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste
Cornmeal Dumplings (follows)

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat; add the onion and toss to coat, then add the garlic and jalapeno, and cook until aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the mixture.
  2. Lightly dust the chicken with the flour lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.  Over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp more oil to the pot and toss in the chicken pieces; cook to quickly brown all over, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the mushrooms; when they begin to release their moisture stir in the herbs.  Add the carrots, turnips, potatoes, the reserved onion mixture, and the parsley.  Pour in enough chicken stock to cover the vegetables and chicken, add a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook until vegetables and the chicken are tender, about 30 minutes.  Add water or stock as needed to keep the chicken covered with liquid. Stir in the frozen peas just before adding the dumpling.
  4. Prepare the cornmeal dumplings.  Drop by teaspoonfuls on top of the simmering chicken, cover and cook additional 20 minutes.  Serves 4.

Cornmeal Dumplings

Ingredients
½ cup cornmeal
¾ cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp parsley, minced; or 1 Tbsp fresh herbs, minced (marjoram, thyme, rosemary, etc.)
6 cups soup or stock

Directions

  1.   Sift dry ingredients, cut in butter with fork or knives.  Beat egg and milk together and add liquid to the dry ingredients until just blended, the batter should be stiff.
  2. Wet a teaspoon and dip it into the batter; drop spoonfuls into simmering stock until barely touching.  Cover the pan tightly and simmer without lifting lid, about 20 minutes.  Serve hot.