The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Really sometimes I amaze myself with my cooking it’s just that bad. And so we begin with the bad and the ugly for this week. Grabbing the next cookbook from our shelves I came up with a favorite of mine, the New England Cook Book, 1956. Since I prefer baking, most of the recipes I’ve cooked from this book are desserts. So I branched out to Meat and Cabbage, essentially a stuffed cabbage dish.

I won’t go into the details or give you the recipe. I imagine if I hadn’t screwed up so badly it might have tasted good. But as it is, it went into the trash before eating. Here were the two problems. First problem was their direction for making the dish. You mix up all the ingredients. Then it says to wash cabbage leaves and boil them. Anyone ever try to pull off whole cabbage leaves from an uncooked head of cabbage? It doesn’t work. So instead I had tiny pieces of cabbage.

Before cooking

I salvaged enough to roll the ground beef mixture into the leaves. Then the next BIG mistake. I didn’t have any toothpicks but the pretty decorative colored ones. What was I thinking? Yes, as the meatballs cooked in the tomato sauce, the color from the toothpicks leached into the food. Not wanting to kill us, we dumped the recipe.

After cooking - note nice blue color in the cabbage roll!

Lessons learned: cook the head of cabbage enough so that the leaves pull off easily and then roll your cabbage leaves with meat and don’t use colored toothpicks!

After this disaster, I knew I needed to cook something tasty (not that night, however. We went out for pizza).

Next cookbook on the shelf was The Cook’s Illustrated Complete Book of Poultry. I used to subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated but eventually got frustrated with it. So often the recipes didn’t come out as described. But this recipe was excellent and easy to make.

Quick Chicken and Dumplings

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 c. chicken stock
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 6 boiling onions, peeled and halved
  • 4 tbs. butter
  • 6 tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tbs dry sherry or vermouth (this was the ingredient that made this dish sing!)
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 3/4 c. frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/3 c. minced fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper

Put the chicken and stock in a 5 or 6 quart Dutch oven over medium high heat

Cover and bring to a simmer

Simmer until chicken is done for 8-10 minutes

Transfer meat to a large bowl reserving 4 cups of stock in a measuring cup

When chicken is cool enough, tear the meat into 2-3″ chunks

Wipe the Dutch oven clean with a paper towel

Bring 1/2″ water to a simmer in the cleaned Dutch oven fitted with a steamer basket

Add celery, carrots, and boiling onions, cover and stem till just tender, about 10 minutes

Remove and set aside

Wipe the Dutch oven dry

Heat the butter in the empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat

Whisk in the flour and thyme, cook, whisking constantly until the flour turns golden, 1-2 minutes

Continuing to whisk constantly, gradually add the sherry, then the reserved 4 cups of stock

Simmer until the gravy thickens slightly, 2-3 minutes

Stir in the optional cream, the chicken, and the steamed vegetables

Return to a simmer

Next you will make the baking powder dumplings!    

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 1 c. milk

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl

Heat the butter and milk to a simmer

Add to the dry ingredients

Mix with fork until the mixture just comes together

Divide dough into 18 pieces.

Roll each piece into a 1 1/2″ round ball

Lay the formed dumplings on the surface of the chicken mixture, cover, and simmer until dumplings are done, about 15 minutes

Gently stir in the peas and parsley

Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper

The result was divine! While the recipe looks daunting it really isn’t. It came together easily, and I was thrilled to serve something that tasted deliciously homemade and comforting.  And so we end with the good from this post on the good, the bad and the ugly!

Oh and of course I need a nod at the history of this important American delicacy. Most consider it a southern dish, and indeed I can attest to the fact that they know how to cook a mean Chicken and Dumplings in the south.

According to Food Time Line, the recipe date to around the Depression although dumplings go back to Roman times. Whatever the origins, I do love this dish!

 

 

 

 

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