Okay, my beloved pa-in-law is out of the hospital after we thought we'd lost him over the New Year, and I had a bunch of high-calorie stuff in the fridge that I had to use up before we go back to Square One on the South Beach. So I decided to make some kickass chicken and dumplings to feed the in-laws for dinner tonight. It's based on both the classic Midwest dish and some deeply consequential chicken/mushrooms/noodles en casserole I got at Chez Julien in Paris mmmmmany years ago. Here goes:
For the chicken:
1 lb. assorted mushrooms, cleaned and chopped in chunks
2 lb. slightly undercooked chicken, chopped in chunks
1 onion, sliced and diced
2 cups heavy cream at room temperature
2 Tbs. butter or good substitute, plus 1 Tbs. olive or canola oil
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce
Heat oil and butter in large sauté pan until sizzling good and hard. Put in mushrooms, dash in some salt, pepper and cayenne. Toss and turn until mushrooms are quite limp and the juices they've given off have begun to thicken and evaporate. Scrape into a bowl and reserve.
Add a bit more oil if needed and cook the onion gently for about 15 minutes, covered, until it's soft and transparent. Raise heat to high, pour in cream. Using a flexible silicone spatula, scrape and boil cream (reduce heat it it's threatening to scorch) until it's quite thick and has reduced by over half. Stir in the Worcestershire during this process.
Now return the mushrooms and add the chicken. Stir over medium heat until it's all warmed through, and set aside.
For the dumplings (these will be raggedy):
2 cups sifted self-rising flour
1/4 cup butter or equivalent, preferably cold
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup rich milk or half-and-half
1 quart+ of rich, strong chicken broth
Sift flour and measure two cups into a large mixing bowl. Add and whisk in the salt, then add butter in small pieces, scattered throughout. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until it's all nice and fluffy and homogeneous. Stir the thyme in evenly. Pour in milk, stir with a fork to blend, then beat for several turns to stiffen the dough.
Bring the stock to a steady boil in a pot with a lid, preferably a glass one so you can keep an eye on these babies. With a large spoon and a scraper (although I'm thinking an ice-cream scoop would be a good idea) scoop out small-egg-sized wads of dough and drop them into the seething broth. This should make about a dozen dumplings.
Cover the pot and adjust the heat to a steady simmer. Keep the lid on for about twenty minutes, then uncover the pot and remove the dumplings to a platter. Pour the chicken and mushrooms into the now very goopy broth, stir to blend, then replace the dumplings on top. Replace the cover, raise the heat back to a simmer for few minutes, then serve.
Green beans are great with this, cooked in the French manner by blanching and then finishing by sautéeing in butter. Yer basic green salad would work, too.