We did a freezer inventory on the morning after we got home. (Also one of the pantry, and of the shelves in the garage. We’d made a quick stop at the market on the way home from the airport, but planned no shopping until we cleared the 14-day better-safe-than-sorry-since-we’ve-been-out-of-the-country hermitage. We were in good shape, and would continue to be so, but it’s always good to know what’s where.
I found two bags of chicken bones I was saving for stock. Now is the time. They went straight into the Instant Pot along with some celery, onion, and carrot. I covered it all with water, sealed it up, and let pressure do its thing for an hour. I removed the bits and pieces, turned on the slow-cooker setting, and left it ‘til the next morning. A little straining and a little skimming later, and I had two quarts of really good chicken stock. It felt like insurance against hunger—or, at least, against bland food.
I’ve been using it a bit at a time—for rice, gravy, and whatnot—but there was a quart left. “How about chicken and dumplings?” I asked. “Would it be more like stew than soup?” she replied. I confirmed that it would. She was in. I took out a pair of chicken breasts, crossed them off the inventory, and set them to defrost. I knew I’d have to look up the dumplings recipe to get the proportions right, but the rest would be easy.
Chicken and Herbed Dumplings
Set a quart of chicken stock to warm in a big pot. Check the fridge.
- The last carrot. Okay, then, one carrot it is. (I added carrots to the grocery list.)
- A couple ribs of celery. (Plenty of that left; I crossed it off the list.)
- Half a package of mushrooms that need to be used. Yup.
- A big, fat onion. Check.
- A little jar of gravy made from the same stock. Definitely; it’s already got some thickening power. (Barring this, you might want to add a little cornstarch slurry to the stew before the dumplings go in.)
- A third of a tub of store-bought pesto (divided). This is your time, my friend. A fat tablespoon of it went into the pot—hey, I would have used fresh herbs, but it’s been two weeks since we’ve been to the market!
- Salt and pepper to taste, and a bit of Worcestershire sauce to bolster the umami.
Simmer until the carrots are not quite tender, then add the chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces, and simmer until the chicken is poached (another 10 minutes or so).
At this point I fed the cats, who had been very patient during all this peeling and chopping and stirring.
I prepped the dumplings, mostly according to The Joy of Cooking, stirring together in a big bowl:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- A good grind of pepper (hey, I said mostly according)
And bringing to a low simmer in a small saucepan:
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tbsp butter
- The rest of the pesto (definitely not part of the original recipe, but what fun to have herbed dumplings!) if you don[t have leftover pesto but like this idea, add some chopped herbs and grated Parmesan cheese to the dumpling dough.
Pour the wet into the dry, stir just to combine, turn out onto a board and knead very slightly. Working quickly and lightly, form into 18 or so balls. Don’t compress the dough.
Lay the dumplings atop the stew, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Serve in warmed bowls, topped with the last bit of parsley in the fridge.
Would I have thought of chicken and dumplings if I didn’t have a quart of really good stock? Probably not. I was kind of in the mood for pizza, but that for another day. Same with the pesto. Resources are not scarce, but it would have been a terrible shame to let that stock go sour, or the pesto spoil. What could have been clean-out-the-fridge night turned into a rich, comforting meal.
I look forward to our next market trip; I really look forward to a day when we can go back to feeling like we can go to the market whenever we please; but, meanwhile, cooking with what’s at hand is pretty much what I do. Knowing that I can might be the biggest comfort of all.