Thursday, October 19, 2006

Chicken Stew with Sage Dumplings

It's finally that time of year when the cold fronts move through Texas and cool us off a little. But when those fronts move through and the air gets a little crisp in the mornings, it makes me want to eat something very special that my mother only makes once in a blue moon. She has withheld the recipe for this particular treat for all of my 28 years until I have finally figured out how to make it. And what is this delectable treat that makes my mouth water at its name? Chicken and Dumplings. Yes, something so simple makes my stomach growl in anticipation hours prior to the meal. And now I finally have a recipe.

When making the dumplings, you have several options. Option 1: Cut the dough into strips 1x4". Option 2: Use a 1½" biscuit cutter to make little rounds of dough. Option 3 (the one I used): Use a fancy Japanese cutter to make little flowers. All of these will yield the same delicious results. My mom uses option 1 since it's the easiest.

Chicken Stew with Sage Dumplings

1 5-pound chicken
1 stalk celery (including leaves), cut in thirds
1 small onion, quartered
1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise, then into thirds
15 leaves fresh sage
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
8 large leaves fresh sage, chopped finely
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Remove any internal organs from chicken and place in a large pot. Stuff cavity with 10 sage leaves. Add celery, onion, carrot, and 5 remaining sage leaves to the pot. Add water to cover chicken. Heat to boiling over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for an hour and a half, or until chicken is tender.

Remove chicken from broth and let cool. When chicken is cool to the touch, remove skin and discard. Pull meat from the bone in finger-size chunks and set aside. Discard bones (or use them to make chicken broth for other dishes). Cool chicken broth and refrigerate until fat collects on the top. Strain the fat from the top and then return the broth to the heat. Add chicken back to the broth.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sage in a medium bowl. Heat butter and milk over medium heat until milk is hot and butter is melted. Pour over dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until moistened. Turn out onto a floured surface and, using a floured rolling pin, roll to 1/4" thickness. Cut into strips, rounds, or other shape. Bring broth to a boil. Drop dumplings in one at a time in different areas of the pot so that the dumplings do not stick while cooking. When all of the dumplings have been added, let the broth boil for another five minutes, then turn down the heat to medium.

In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch with broth from the pot to form a thin paste. Add back to the pot and stir until the whole mixture thickens moderately. Serve hot.

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