Okay, as promised, my recipes for Chicken & Dumplings, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Peach Cobbler.Chicken & Dumplings
Somewhere in between a stew and a pot pie, but better. Don't take my word for it, try it for yourself and see. I know it sounds very involved, but consider that this recipe serves many people and if there aren't many of you to partake, you'll have at least two separate meals and maybe even a couple of lunches to make out of this. I've spent hours trying to perfect the dumplings, and have alternated between several different variations - this one is my favorite. It's the same basic recipe I use to make home made, flaky buttermilk biscuits. This is my favorite thing my mother ever made, and I would always help her in making the dumplings. I prefer to make this with chicken breast only, but you can use any a combination of white and dark meat if you like. Perhaps the best thing about this recipe is it's pretty cheap to make and serves a crowd.
For the chicken stew:
- 4-6 chicken breasts, split (skinless but bones still intact)
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 1 large onion, cut into quarters
- 5 stalks celery, cut into pieces (leaf tops are okay)
- 2 tsp thyme leaves
- 10 black peppercorns (or 1 tsp ground)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 quart chicken broth
salt & pepper
For the dumplings:
- 1/3 cup shortening (regular or butter flavored, it is entirely up to you - I prefer unflavored shortening)
- 2 cups self rising flour
- 3/4 cup buttermilk (or put 2 tsp. white vinegar in a 3/4 cup measuring cup and fill the rest with milk - that'll do in a pinch)
- 1/2 cup extra flour for cutting the dumplings out on
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- Place everything for the chicken stew into a large pot or Dutch oven, making sure there is enough broth to cover everything completely, bring to a boil over high heat - then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
- With a slotted spoon, remove all of the chicken breasts from the pot, allow to cool and remove all meat from the bones, coarsely chop chicken into large pieces and refrigerate. If you want to leave all of the vegetables in the stew, go ahead - or strain the broth through a colander, discard the solids, and return the broth to the pot. Either way, make sure to discard the bay leaves. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning with the salt and pepper as necessary.
- Make the dumplings: with a pastry blender or large fork, cut the shortening into the flour until it resembles small pebbles the size of peas. Add the buttermilk and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead 3 or 4 times, then pat or roll the dough out to about a 3/4" thickness. Cut the dough into 1" dumplings using a knife or a pizza cutter, drop the dumplings into a bowl with the remaining flour - tossing them to keep them separate.
- Heat the broth until boiling. Stir the cornstarch into the evaporated milk, add to the pot and stir the broth until it comes back to a boil and thickens a bit. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the chicken back to the pot.
- One at a time, drop the dumplings into the simmering pot and gently stir them every 15 or so dumplings. Try to drop them in at different places so that they won't stick together. Once the last dumpling is in, gently stir once more and allow to cook on low heat for another 10-15 minutes.
Fried Green Tomatoes
This is one of my favorite things, ever. I always feel like a complete glutton when they're finished, because I'll invariably eat them until they're gone. A lot of people in these parts use either flour OR cornmeal to batter these amazing things with, I like a combination. I only use yellow cornmeal because I prefer it, the same I also use to make polenta and cornbread with. Buttermilk is essential for this, in the event that you cannot find it just add a tablespoon of white vinegar to each cup of milk you use.
- firm green tomatoes, fibrous stem part cored away and sliced as you would for sandwiches. (I personally like them about 1/2" thick)
- 1 cup (more if necessary) buttermilk
- 1 tsp. each salt & pepper
- 1-2 tbsp. hot pepper sauce or 1-2 tsp. cayenne (red) pepper
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- oil, for frying
- Combine all wet ingredients in a large bowl and add the tomato slices, making sure each gets dipped - set aside.
- Combine all dry ingredients, stirring well to blend evenly, and place in a pie pan or on a plate.
- Heat 1/2" of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
- Dip each tomato slice into the buttermilk mixture, then shake off the excess. Dredge each side in the flour/cornmeal mixture, and place gently into the hot oil taking care not to crowd too many at a time in the skillet.
- Gently turn each tomato slice over in the oil taking care not to knock off any batter, and cook until evenly golden on all sides. Drain on paper towels or paper bags (they work best), salt them evenly and serve immediately. They get soggy fairly quick, so eat them while they're still moderately hot. That's yet another favorite thing I learned to make from my Papa Jack.
Peach Cobbler is one of those things that makes me kind of giddy, really. In part because it is so authentically southern, in part because it is just so easy to make, and in part because it's just so damned delicious! I've used peaches, blueberries, raspberries, apples, you name it - but peaches are my favorite for this. I use a combination of peaches and raspberries when the berries are in season and not as expensive, adding them fresh and just before the whole thing goes into the oven. I recommend using a glass pan for baking cobblers, and set the glass pan on a shallow baking pan in case the syrup bubbles over the sides of the pan - this will save you cleaning your oven later.
- 6-8 ripe, fresh peaches - peeled* and cut up OR 2-3 cans of sliced peaches in heavy syrup
- 1 cup sugar, divided (you can use regular granulated sugar or light brown sugar, it's entirely up to you)
- 1 cup water (if using fresh peaches, otherwise use the syrup from the canned peaches and omit the sugar in step #2)
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional - some like it, some don't. I personally don't, so there you are)
- 1/2 stick REAL butter - no exceptions
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup milk
- Preheat the oven to 350° with the glass pan inside.
- In a large saucepan, bring the water and 1/2 cup of the sugar to a boil. Add the vanilla and peaches and reduce the heat to low. Allow to simmer until ready to use in the cobbler.
- Mix the flour, baking powder, & remaining 1/2 cup of sugar together until evenly combined, then add the milk and stir until well combined.
- Add the butter to the glass pan and allow it to melt completely. Once it begins bubbling and before it has a chance to turn brown, remove the pan from the oven and place on top of your stove, carefully tilting the pan to butter the sides.
- Pour the batter into the pan over the sizzling butter, it should begin puffing up around the edges. I do this in a steady stream swirling the batter around into the butter to distribute it evenly.
- With a slotted spoon, scatter the peaches over the batter - they might disappear entirely, which is just fine. Most of the batter will bake up and enfold the peaches into it, so no matter. Gently pour the vanilla/peach syrup over the peaches and batter, taking care to let it run down into the sides of the pan as well.
- Bake on top of the shallow baking pan for 30 minutes to an hour or until the top is nicely browned, allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before serving.
Peach Cobbler is traditionally served with vanilla ice cream on top, but you can also do whipped cream or just a good dose of heavy cream over it as well. It's also just good on it's own.
*To peel the peaches, first make sure they are nicely ripened. Ripe peaches are very fragrant and firm but will yield to gentle pressure when squeezed gently. Bring a large pot half full of water to the boiling point. While the water is coming to a full, rapid boil, place a large bowl of ice water in the sink. Cut a 1" wide X mark into the bottom of each peach, and drop them into the boiling water one right after the other. Allow them to cook for 30 seconds, 45 at most, but no longer. With tongs or a large slotted spoon, remove the peaches from the pot and plunge them into the ice water. The skins will loosen and you can peel them easily from the X mark. This is the same process you would use to peel ripe tomatoes.