Polar Vortex? Arctic Blast? Bitter Wind Chill? Let’s just call it what it is. It’s COLD!
As the Young One says, “C-O-L-D spells Brrrrrrr!” While I waited with her at the bus stop this morning (warmly sheltered in my cozy SUV), the thermometer on the dashboard told me C-O-L-D also equals three. That equation, however, proved to be indefinite because 30 minutes later when I checked my phone’s weather app after returning from a brisk (although abbreviated) walk outside with the Fluffy One, it told me C-O-L-D = 1.
Fluffy is now snoozing by the fire. The sun is shining brightly, and the temperature has soared to a balmy seven degrees! However, when you factor in variables for wind speed and “snow pack” effect, C-O-L-D now equals some value that is less than but not greater than -1…or something like that.
Any way you calculate it or spell it, it’s just plain cold outside, and at least in my part of the country, the Bluegrass State, we are currently experiencing the third wave of bitter temperatures. During last week’s negative temps, I resorted to everything in my arsenal in an attempt to keep the family warm–thick socks, high-necked sweaters, layer upon layer of just about anything in the closet.
By day three, I peered out at the Hubs from beneath the blanket I reserve for chilly football games, looked him in the eye and declared, “It’s time to bring out the big guns.”
Something in my voice must have told him I was serious. He met my eye, gave one quick nod, and said, “Do it.”
I pulled myself from my chair, reluctantly tossed the blanket aside, and reached for the book high on the shelf. I was determined, and I knew I was doing the right thing. This is my family. A momma has to do what a momma has to do, no matter the consequences.
With the book clutched to my chest, I turned to the Hubs for reassurance. “I need to do this.” I saw the gleam in his eye and felt a wave of exhilaration. I smiled, raised the book one-handed to the heavens and cried, “Chicken and Dumplings for dinner!”
Okay…it didn’t happen exactly like that, but I did make our favorite cold-weather one-pot meal for dinner, and it had the desired effect. It warmed us from the inside out, and the leftovers proved to be even more effective on day four of the cold blast.
My chicken and dumplings recipe is really a mashup of ingredients pulled from three or four dogeared recipe books and cooking magazines combined with some wise advice from the personal chef of my childhood (aka my momma). I’ve taken the best parts from each source, added my own high-heeled twists, and come up with a cold-weather comfort food sure to thaw even the coldest snowman.
If your toes are cold and just looking out the window makes you shiver, give this a try. When you factor this into the cold weather equation, all you get is, “Mmmmmm!”
Momma’s Best Chicken and Dumplings Recipe
Broth and Chicken
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 cups water
- One 4-pound chicken, quartered into two leg pieces and two breast pieces
- Kosher salt
- 3 carrots, thinly sliced
- 3 stalks celery with leaves, thinly sliced, leave roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Add broth and water to a large soup pot, and bring it to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- While the broth is coming to a simmer, quarter the chicken (Or do what I do, and buy it pre-quartered at the grocery store, but be sure to use only the leg/thigh pieces and the breasts. You can save the back bone to make stock if you are ambitious.) Remove the skin. (Use a paper towel to help grasp the slippery skin, and pull it off easily.) Sprinkle each piece with Kosher salt.
- Add the chicken pieces to the broth, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook until the breast and tenderloin start to separate (about 10 – 15 minutes), then remove from the broth and set aside to cool. Continue simmering the leg pieces until the meat pulls away from the bone (about another 10 minutes). Remove the legs from the pot, and cool.
- Add the carrots, celery. Season to taste with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, and continue to simmer while you make the dumplings.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 1/2 teaspoons table salt
- 2 1/4 cups skim milk
- Combine all ingredients, and stir until smooth. (The dough will be sticky.) Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- Spoon the dough into a one-gallon zip top bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag, and seal. Cut about a half of an inch off one corner of the bag.
- Squeeze the bag over the simmering broth, and pinch off about a half inch of dough for each dumpling. Continue until all the dough is pinched off into the broth. (To keep the dough from sticking too much to my fingers, I keep a small bowl of flour on the counter beside the pan and use it to coat the tips of my fingers as needed. As an alternative, you can roll the dough out to a half-inch thickness, use a pizza cutter to cut out half-inch cubes of dough, and drop one cube at a time into the broth.) As they simmer, the dumplings will partially dissolve and thicken the broth into a nice thick gravy.
- Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often to separate the dumplins.
Bring It All Together
- While the broth thickens, shred the chicken by hand into bite-sized pieces.
- When the broth has reach the desired consistency, drop the chicken pieces into the pot. Simmer another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the fresh parsley prior to serving.
- Best served in large bowls and enjoyed on a frigid cold winter day with your favorite people.
What’s your favorite cold-weather recipe?