I tried out my mom’s chicken and dumpling recipe last week. It turned out pretty well, but not perfect. I’ve determined that she only wrote notes for herself disguised as a full recipe. For instance, I never remembered my mother using a pressure cooker for chicken and dumplings, but the only instructions listed for cooking the chicken are, “If chicken frozen, pressure cook for 30 minutes.” She only wrote it down because she never did it that way and couldn’t remember the time.
However, I did think it was cool that there were instructions to cook the chicken frozen because I rarely have the foresight to thaw meat. I decided to follow what was written and intentionally left the chicken in the freezer. I thought I’d have to borrow a pressure cooker, but then was shocked to find one in my utility closet. You never know what might wiggle out of your storage when you’re a third generation packrat. The only problem was that the thing looked like it might have witnessed all three of those generations, and I’ve read that faulty pressure cookers can explode.
But I live life on the edge. Also I had already decided not to thaw my chicken, so I was committed.
It was faulty. Thankfully it was just missing the gasket, so rather than exploding it just became a large, heavy-duty pot with some useless equipment attached to the lid. And it took FOREVER to cook the frozen chicken, the outer bits drying out by the time the inner bits thawed.
The broth was bland. What I usually do when I make broth is boil the chicken until it is perfectly done, then strip the meat off and continue to boil the hell out of the bones and skin and whatnot. But I wanted to see what would happen if I followed what I now realize are half baked instructions, so I ended up adding the fat from the top of some broth I’d made for something else in order to make my chicken and dumpling broth flavorful.
There were no instructions on how to turn the whole chicken into the soupy part of chicken and dumplings. Not that I needed them. I got the idea. But instructions need to be there in the recipe I write. This was demonstrated when, because it was getting late and we were effing hungry, I had David remove the meat from the bones and add it to the soup. I did not really instruct him in doing this, so it ended up a bit chunky. I had a bad feeling about how it was going to turn out anyway, so I wasn’t worried about it. He also thought it would be an excellent idea to put the skin in too, and still holds to this conviction. I told him that fried or baked skin equals delicious, and boiled skin equals slimy, jiggly, and barfy. But he’s been eating the soup ravenously all week so whatever. I just picked mine out.
To make the dumplings, the card said to mix 2 cups self-rising flour and 1 cup broth. I had to add significantly more flour than that to make it remotely handleable. Still it was too gooey, and resulted in dumplings that were a bit too doughy. I remember my mother rolling out the dough perfectly and easily cutting it into tiny, firm squares to drop in the broth. Obviously she improvised the mixture and never updated the recipe. Bitch.*
What resulted was tasty, but not quite right. I certainly didn’t get what I needed to write a recipe, and I’ll need to take a new, less chunky photo.
*David said, “You called your mom a bitch? Your sister’s gonna read this.” I said, “She’ll think it’s funny.” “Would your mom think it’s funny?” “Yeah, but she’d tell me if I’d cooked with her more I’d know all this stuff already.”