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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, July 19

Gapers Block

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I've got the sniffles, a sore throat, and a craving to have my mom hand me orange juice and a bowl of something steamy and yummy. But alas, my mom is hundreds of miles away, so I'm left to my own devices to make something that will satisfy my craving for some comfort food. And since every Jewish person I spoke with told me to have chicken soup, I decided to venture down that path.

But I got waylaid. I'd already had chicken soup at a diner, so I wanted something similar but different. So I flipped through the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook my mother gave me and stopped when I got to the page that said "Chicken and Dumplings." Of course! How perfect! It was exactly what I wanted. Chickeny, flavorful, served steaming in a bowl, and comforting.

The recipe called for me to start by steaming a chicken. But since I wanted to eat dinner in less than an hour, I knew that wasn't feasible. Thankfully I had a package in the freezer that contained about 3 cups of chicken bits I'd pulled from a roast chicken. And I had 8 cups of frozen chicken broth. I found an onion, two cloves of garlic, a carrot and a stalk of celery. I had the basics, now to just turn the ingredients into a meal.

Chicken and Dumplings
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium sized yellow onion, chopped
2 clove of garlic, smashed
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
3-4 cups of chicken, shredded
8-12 cups of chicken broth
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

1 egg
1/4 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 cup of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper
2 teaspoons of dried oregano (thyme, basil or marjoram would also work)

1/2 cup of flour
3/4 cup of cold water

Place a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the onion to the pot. Let it cook for 5-7 minutes or until the onion is translucent and just starting to turn brown. Smash the cloves of garlic and add them to the pot. Stir and let it cook for a minute. Now add the carrot and celery and let it cook for 2-3 minutes or until the celery just starts to soften. Add the chicken and the broth to the pot along with the bay leaf, place the lid on the pot and let it come to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat to medium, replace the lid and let the broth cook for 15-20 minutes. This will soften the vegetables more.

While this cooks, prepare the dough for the dumplings. In a small bowl combine the egg, milk and vegetable oil. Stir until it is well combined and then set aside. In a larger bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and spices. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and then stir. It's better to actually fold the dough together instead of stirring and stop once the dough just sticks together. A few lumps are OK since they'll cook through in the pot.

Turn your attention back to the pot on the stove. Once the vegetables have softened, use a slotted spoon to move the chicken and vegetables to a strainer placed over a large bowl. Cover the chicken and veggies to keep them warm and set it aside. The broth should be boiling. Drop the dough into the broth about a tablespoon at a time. Once you've got all the dough into the pot, cover it and let it come back to a boil. Once it does, reduce the heat to low and let it cook for 14 minutes undisturbed. Don't lift the pot lid. Once the dumplings have cooked, remove the lid and scoop the dumplings over the chicken. Cover again to keep warm while you turn the leftover broth into a gravy. Use a whisk to break up any bits of dumpling floating in the water. Turn the heat to medium. Stir the 1/2 cup of flour into the cold water in a small bowl or a spouted cup. Use a whisk to keep the broth in the stock pot moving vigorously and slowly pour the flour mixture into the pot. Keep stirring until all the flour mixture is poured into the pot. Stop stirring just until the edges of the broth start to bubble. Whisk quickly and let it rest for a minute before whisking again. The broth should begin to thicken into gravy. Once the gravy is almost as thick as you'd like, reduce the heat to low and scoop the chicken into bowls with 1 or 2 dumplings. Stir the gravy and pour it over chicken and dumplings.
Serves 8-10.

While the chicken and dumplings haven't made my sore throat, headache or sniffles go away, they did make my belly all warm and happy. And that's about all I can hope for right now. And I'd apologize for giving you such a short column this week, but I don't have the energy to muster up a convincing plea for forgiveness. So instead, I'll promise that coming up in the next few weeks I'll share with you all the tamale recipe that a coworker's mother passed on to me. She's been making these tasty Mexican treats for almost 30 years, and her mother made them before her, and her grandmother before her and possibly another generation or two before that. Until next week, take your vitamins, wash your hands frequently, and stay away from people coughing. I wish I had.

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About the Author(s)

Cinnamon Cooper is an untrained cook. Most of what she's learned has been by accident. The rest has been gained by reading cookbooks, watching The Food Network and by scouring the Internet. Oh, and she also hates following recipes but loves the irony of writing them down for others to follow.

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