Today was the first day in a very long time that some semblance of warmth enveloped Northern New Jersey. It was absolutely glorious. I can only blame myself, full of procrastination and a roaring upper respiratory infection, for not updating sooner. I’ve even had the pictures for this update uploaded to flickr for nearly two months. You’ll notice the Christmas tree lights in the background… Bad blogger is bad.
At the beginning of the month, we spent a week in Florida to celebrate my 30th birthday. 30 isn’t so bad, so far. There are some things I thought I would have accomplished by now, but there are even more that I never imagined would be under my belt, so I really can’t complain.
Turning 30 had me thinking a lot about when I was a kid. And the things that take you back to being a kid, like the foods of your childhood. One of the first restaurants I ever remember vividly liking and wanting to go to was a homey old place called Po’ Folks. Mom and Dad loved this place because they welcomed kids, and they were cheap enough (hence the name). A quick googling told me these restaurants still exist throughout the Southeast, but they’re no longer in Texas.
The signature dish at Po’ Folks? Stick to your ribs Chicken and Dumplings, served directly over creamy mashed potatoes. I think this is what kept them so stalwartly in my memory. Chicken, Gravy, and Carbs? On top of more carbs? Oh yeah.
In these last vestiges of Winter (I hope), we all still want this stick to your ribs fare. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dreaming of when the deck won’t be covered in snow, the grill within easy reach, and a steak sizzling upon it. But savory chicken n’ dumplings with mash will sort me out while there’s still snow in the forecast, in between mild Spring days.
Enjoy it, dolls.
Po’ Folks Chicken n’ Dumplings
For 4, or 2 with leftovers (and believe me, you’ll want leftovers)
1 tablespoon oil
4-6 skinless chicken thighs, cut into bitesize chunks
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 stalk of celery, whole (remove before serving)
A handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
6 cups chicken broth
kosher salt, Lowry’s or Nature’s Season-All, black pepper to taste
Cut chicken thighs into bitesize chunks. In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil (canola or olive is fine). Add chicken and allow to brown on all sides, for approximately 5-6 minutes. Add in diced carrots, allowing them to sweat down for a few minutes. If you fancy onion, this would be the time to add it, but I don’t think it needs it.
Add in chicken broth (stock in a box is fine for this), parsley and celery stalk, and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes at least.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
For dumplings, combine the flour, baking powder, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and milk in a medium bowl. Stir well until smooth, then let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes. When ready, use a regular tablespoon to create rounded mounds, and drop directly into your stew. The dumplings will swell at first, and then slowly shrink as they partially dissolve to thicken the stock. Simmer another 20-30 minutes until thick. Stir often.
4-6 medium Yukon Gold, Red Bliss, or Idaho potatoes
Chicken Stock (or water and a couple of bouillon cubes)
Milk, Cream, or Half and Half
Peel and chop potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Fill to covering the chunks in a medium sauce pan. Use either more stock in a box, or water and some chicken bouillon cubes (2 should suffice). Cook on high for 15-30 minutes, until potatoes split apart when plucked with a fork. Drain away water, and mash with a potato masher. Add in 2 tablespoons of butter, a splash of milk or cream, and salt and pepper to taste, and mash again.
When the dumplings are to your liking, turn the heat off to the stew and remove the celery stalk. First, place a large spoonful of mashed potatoes into your bowl. Then cover with chicken and dumplings, and enjoy! If you like this, try putting any kind of soup on top of mashed potatoes. Vegetable beef, Beef Stew, Chicken Noodle, you name it, they’re pretty damned amazing served over mashed potatoes.