Sometimes, your choices for dinner are compromised due to time, money and accessibility. The other night was one of those times. I was running very late getting home and needed to stop at the grocery if we were going to have any chance of eating dinner that evening. I was rushed, tired and not in the mood to plan a meal so I did what I assume most women would do in this situation – I headed for the prepared foods section of the market and grabbed a hot, fully cooked chicken. In my defense, I was in my local organic market, so I can only hope the chicken was organic too. To the left of the chickens were containers of already made side dishes including a tray of mashed potatoes with herbed butter. The phrase “in for a penny, in for a pound” danced in my brain as I threw the potatoes into the cart. It was guilt that made me pass on the cooked vegetables and grab a handful of fresh green beans to serve with the chicken. (Here’s what it sounded like in my head: “Really, Debbie? You can’t trim a few beans so that SOMETHING on the plate will be fresh?” My head sounds a lot like my mom.) Oddly enough, I had no guilt AT ALL when loading up the cart with wine.
Once home I made some country cream gravy for the chicken, steamed the beans and we had dinner in 10 minutes flat. Yeah! Fast forward 24 hours to find myself in the exact same boat as before, except now I have a scrawny, picked over chicken carcass, cold mashed potatoes and a pile of green beans to pass off as a meal. Honestly, even the dog would have turned his nose up at that sad little plate. Instead, I made chicken and dumplings. Frankly, the meal was better this time that the first go-round. Plus, Karen came over and we talked about porn for a while.
Chicken and Dumplings
1/2 or 1 whole roasted chicken from the deli counter
1 cup prepared mashed potatoes (country gravy is a bonus but not required)
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced thick
3 ribs of celery, peeled and sliced thick
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1 cup milk (plus 2 tsp cornstarch if not using mashed potatoes)
1 tsp each oregano, marjoram, salt and pepper
dumplings made from 2 cups Bisquick (Buttermilk baking mix and 1 cup milk)
Place the cold chicken in the basket of a steamer over boiling water. (If you just brought the chicken home from the store and it’s still warm, you can skip this step.) Steam for about 15 minutes and remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, remove all the meat from the bones, separating out the skin and gristle. Pull the meat into bite sized portions.
Heat the butter in a large pot until melted, add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Stir and cook until the carrots begin to soften and the vegetables brown slightly. Add 4 cups of the stock and simmer rapidly until the carrots are completely cooked. Add the mashed potatoes and stir until completely dissolved in the liquid. Add the spices, milk and chicken. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes and adjust the liquid with more stock if needed. (The liquid should cover the meat and vegetables.) Bring to a boil. Add the dumplings in golf-ball sized portions to the boiling pot. Cover and cook approximately 10 minutes or until the dumplings are no longer wet inside. (cut one open to be sure.)