Saturday, January 14, 2012

Faux Chicken And Dumplings

My aunt made the best chicken and dumplings I've ever eaten, although I've learned to make a dish that tastes reasonably like hers. The chicken and vegetable part is easy. It's getting the dumplings to cook up into huge fluffy clouds that are dry in the center, but saucy on the outside that stumped me for a time. After a lot of experimentation, I finally figured out her secret. Read on....

Noodle-like dumplings
Through the years, I've tasted many chicken and dumpling offerings. For the most part, the broth and veggies were fine. The problem has always been the dumplings. Now I know a dumpling war rages, with some people liking those flat, thin things that look like dried pasta and taste just about as good. Others like those tiny balls that resemble gnocchi except that they are firm to the tooth and bear no semblance to anything fluffy or cloud-like.

Gnocchi-like dumplings
But I wasn't raised on those versions. I come from the other side of the dumpling tracks and for me, nothing but what I consumed as a child will do. So here's what I'm saying: Begin your soup as I suggest and then try my light as air dumplings and see if they please your taste buds. Made right, their consistency will remind you of those huge bakery muffins we all relish, albeit savory. If the other kind suit you better, you can always make this dish again and use your dumpling of choice.

Since chicken and dumplings has always been a favorite dish, I've been working on a vegan version for nearly a year and with the inspiration of a few vegan cookbooks, I finally came up with a recipe that's heart-warming, filling, and reminds me of those cold winter days in Minnesota when all a body wanted at dinner was something hot to warm you from from the inside out. This recipe does that for me. My hope is that it not only warms you up but makes you smile.


Soup part:

1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup pea and carrot mix (I used frozen)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 Tbs. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. dried parsley (fresh if you have it)
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. curry powder
2 Tbs. nutritional yeast (a must for flavor)
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 cup drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, often called chickpeas
dash of hot sauce
salt and pepper

Brown the vegetables in 2 Tbs. canola oil. Add the spices, milk, and beans, along with 1 1/2-2 cups of No Chicken Broth from the Health Food Market. Use Vegetable stock if the above isn't available. Set the pot on a back burner, cover, and simmer about an hour. Taste for seasoning before adding the dumplings to the broth. If the broth has gotten too low, add more stock. Dumplings need a good bath of liquid to cook right.

Once the pot is bubbling, drop the dumplings by teaspoon-full into the hot broth. Adjust the burner so the liquid simmers and leave the pot uncovered for ten minutes. Then cover and simmer another ten minutes. No cheating on the time or the dumplings will not turn out right.

NO PEEKING ALLOWED! If the built up steam escapes, the  dumplings will not be fluffy. Trust me on this. It's where I made my mistake. When the time has elapsed, uncover the pot. Put one or two of those big fat dumplings in a large bowl and ladle the soup over the top. Sprinkle with minced green onions or fresh parsley. Go back for seconds!

Serves 3-4


1 cup white flour (wheat just doesn't make a good dumpling)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. vegan margarine, melted
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

Stir all ingredients together with a fork until the dough just comes together. It will be wet and sloppy. That is how it should be. Drop by rounded teaspoon fulls into the bubbling broth. They will look small now, but will be huge when finished as they expand a lot. Cook as directed above. Serve immediately. 

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