Monday, August 29, 2011

Not your Mama's Chicken and Dumplings

No one makes Chicken and Dumplings like my Mama. Of course, Jonathan would say the same about his mama. It’s only natural that I want my future kids to say the same about me. So I decided to stop being intimidated and attempt chicken and dumplings for myself.

Problem is, everyone seems to have a different version of how to make dumplings. Also, nobody writes this recipe down. I’m a rule follower. I’m a measurer. I need hard and concrete facts when trying a new recipe. My mama and mama-in-law were little help in this department. I transcribed their oral dictation of their recipes and realized I had no concept of what their instructions meant. So I googled it, of course.

Do you know the Pioneer Woman? I just love her recipes. Mainly because she couples her step by step instructions with step by step pictures. Now, for someone who just loves to follow instructions, I’m not so good at actually reading through them. If I had, maybe my attempt at chicken and dumplings wouldn’t have been such a complete failure.

My problems began at the grocery store. Now anytime before I try a new recipe, I scan the ingredients. If I don’t know where to locate it in the grocery store- I throw the recipe out. I usually have some concept of all the ingredients Pioneer Woman uses in her recipes, which is another reason why I love her blog. This particular recipe had me slightly confused on two ingredients 1) whole chicken, 2) turmeric.

Turmeric is a spice, for those of you who like me had never heard of it before. And typically, spices are listed in alphabetical order in the grocery store. Jonathan let me in on this little secret and it is blowing my mind. No longer will it take my 15 minutes to spot my desired spice on the baking aisle. Now it will only take the length of the alphabet song- does anyone else do that? Anyway…

As for the whole chicken, if I had read ahead into the instructions I would have heeded PW’s advice to buy a pre-cut-up chicken. Since I did not, that task was up to me. Now during a game of “I’ve never”, I can no longer say that I haven’t pulled out a chicken’s innards with my own bare hands.

That was the first step.

Then I was struck with the question of- how does a 110 lb woman cut through chicken bone? Answer: she doesn’t. Instead, I had to break the bones at the joints and then pull them apart. It’s sickening, take my word for it. Both of these tragedies could have been avoided by buying a pre-cut chicken. Noted.

It was about this point that I put away my pride and enlisted my husband to help me. This is where the recipe really turned disastrous. I told him to brown the chicken and veggies in a little bit of oil and butter. Apparently he could of used more specific instruction because a “little bit” turned into 1 cup of olive oil and a stick of butter, 4 Xs the recommended amount. Once the chicken is browned, you are then supposed to mix the chicken and juice in with the chicken broth. Oh yea, mix it right in with 1 cup olive oil and 1 stick of butter. Healthy. But at least I could blame that one the hubby. And really, we weren’t gonna recover from that one .

The worst part was, that if I had just read the instructions- the ‘browning with a little bit of olive oil and butter’ step can be completely skipped if you are going to shred the chicken. Which I was.

The rest of the experience went smoothly enough. The dumplings, which I was most intimidated by, was super easy and delicious. However, the final product was so buttery and rich that I could hardly eat it. Jonathan went for seconds, because he loves me.

But you know it’s an unsuccessful cooking attempt when you’re cleaning the kitchen and see that your husband has thrown the recipe away. True story. I pulled it out of the trash though, because I feel like I can learn from my mistakes. The recipe really has potential and I made it so much harder than it had to be.

If you would like to see Pioneer Woman’s professional Chicken and Dumpling how-to, you can find it here:

When making a new recipe, I always jot down personal notes as I go. The margin notations on this recipe read: “No butter. Pre-cut chicken. Don’t brown.”

And the moral of the story is: read the instructions all the way through before you begin. Noted.

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