July 23, 2014

Victory dumplings

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 3:45 pm by chavisory

When I was in college in Athens, GA, there was absolutely nothing as good, when you were sick or sad or cold, as a cup of the chicken and dumplings for $3.00 at Five Star Day Cafe. One of the drawbacks of having lived there is that when you’re hit with a craving for Athens food, there’s precious little you can do about it if you are anywhere else in the world. (Buttermilk feta dressing for French fries? Forget it.)

I spent several years pining for chicken and dumplings before it hit me that I could probably make them, and that as my roommate Emily #2 is a southerner, there were probably multiple recipes already in our apartment.  I tried a few.

But no dumpling recipe approximated the Five Star Day dumplings, which, being the first and only dumplings I had ever had, represented the quintessential ideal of dumplings in my head.  And they were doughy and filling…every dumpling from a recipe I tried turned out like some kind of fluffy bread on top of the soup, which to my mind was not the point at all.

I don’t make it back to Athens often, but at least, I thought, I could get a bowl on my next visit.

And then last spring, Five Star Day closed, not even a week before a planned visit to a friend, and on top of all kinds of layers of indignation and grief over the loss of that place, I despaired of ever not eating inferior dumplings.

Then this week I had a frozen chicken carcass I’d been meaning to turn into a summery chicken soup with mushrooms and green beans (I’d actually wanted asparagus, but asparagus is expensive this late in the summer).  I was looking for a dumpling recipe I’d used before involving an egg, but couldn’t find it. (The recipe, not the egg.) The Better Homes and Gardens recipe I vaguely remembered as being inferior, but I had everything in it except for like six herbs that I never actually have on hand (my herb of choice is thyme, and I use it gratuitously, in everything).

I was in a fuck measuring mood so I wasn’t leveling off measuring cups or spoons.  I was trying to get soup finished and eaten before my call time that night, so I wasn’t being careful at all.

So I was flabbergasted when I took a bite, and…that was the flavor of the Five Star Day dumplings.

To the best of my recollection, this is what I did:

-2/3 cup of flour, plus a little more, because fuck measuring.

-1 teaspoon baking powder, plus a little more, because fuck measuring.

-1/4 cup milk

-2 tablespoons cooking oil

-Large pinch of dried thyme  (LARGE.  I’m not kidding.)

-1/8 teaspoon salt

-Lots of pepper

I think part of the secret is in sinus-clearing, heart-warming quantities of pepper.  The texture is still not the same, but now I have ideas about that, too.  Anyone who’s had any further success at recreating Five Star Day-style chicken dumplings, hit me up.

Addendum:  Hopefully obviously, but I can promise no equivalent results.  It was an accident.  I more or less did it again yesterday, but tried again this afternoon and the dumplings practically fell apart in the soup.  Could be the heat?  (Yes, I’m the kind of person who eats soup when it’s 90 degrees outside.)  I made the mistake once of refrigerating dumpling dough and that was the biggest soup disaster I’ve ever caused… Anyway.  I wish you luck.

July 7, 2013

Tonight’s sauciness

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 12:51 am by chavisory

A lot of times in the summer, the heat makes me too lethargic to eat, or at least to do the work required to eat, much more than cereal with blueberries.  (And I go through blueberries like I’ll never see them again in the summertime.)  But tonight I was feeling a little creative and decided to make up a real meal.

This is actually only a slight variation on a sauce I’ve made before, and the thing I like about it is that it’s hard to overcook.  You probably could…but I haven’t managed yet.

About 1/3 stick of butter
About 1/4 cup heavy cream
About 1/3 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay, because that’s what Whole Foods had for $2.99 a bottle.)
3-4 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
Half of 1 large shallot, sliced
Black pepper
Pinch of cardamom
Dash of salt
A few leaves of fresh basil

Melt the butter slowly over low heat and add the shallots.  Cook till softening and fragrant, and add the mushrooms, and cook they’re soft and fragrant, too.  Add wine, stir it well into the butter, and one or two of the basil leaves, and cook till they’re wilted.

Add the cream, stir well into the winey butteriness, and cook and stir gently until it’s thick and bubbly.  Add a pinch of cardamom, just a dash of salt, and as much black pepper as you want.  (I like black pepper…a lot.)

(This is also where I stirred in about a tablespoon of flour to get it to thicken up a bit.)

I poured it over a pork chop and halved zucchini that I had grilled on our grill pan, and garnished with the remainder of the basil leaves.

And then I sat down to start watching Community…only to find that it is not available on Netflix instant.  Bad planning on my part.  But the saucey pork chop was just as good with Supernatural.  I have leftover wine and cream, and am contemplating something similar but involving walnuts and berries later this week….

November 19, 2012

About that apple cranberry sauce from last night…

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 5:15 pm by chavisory

I’m blushing a bit that this was the hit that apparently it was at last night’s Harvest Celebration potluck.  A few people asked me for the recipe, so here it is! (Not being a closely guarded national secret or anything.)

2 tablespoons butter*
4 smallish apples, sliced
1 bag cranberries (12-16 ounces)
1 cup liquid (I used a mix of water and some pomegranate juice drink I wouldn’t normally have bought, but had leftover from Hurricane Sandy preparations.)**
2/3 cup sugar
Spices (cardamom, cinnamon, Chinese Five Spice, black pepper)

Wash the cranberries and pick out the bad ones.  In a saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat.  Add apples and cook till fairly tender, but not falling apart.  Add water and bring to a low boil.  Add sugar slowly and stir till dissolved.  Add cranberries.  When the liquid returns to a low boil, the cranberries will start to pop, and the apple slices are probably starting to fall apart by this time, too.  Continue simmering and stirring until liquid is mostly cooked off and cranberries are all exploded.  Spice as desired.  (I used a dash of cinnamon, about 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice, and a lot of black pepper.  I don’t know how much, but I like black pepper.)  Let stand and cool for about half an hour.

And even though I ate so much last night that it literally hurt to breathe, I am now going to make another batch of this just for me.

*This recipe is not vegan but could easily be made so.  I think the butter adds a depth of flavor that I like, but you could probably use olive oil, grapeseed oil, or vegan butter substitute with good results.

**I wish I could tell you that it’s worth using wine in place of water for the liquid in this recipe…but it’s pretty much not.  I’ve tried with both red and white.  Most of the liquid boils off in cooking, and the flavor is really lost under the intensity of the cranberries.  Save your wine for making other recipes inappropriately boozy.

October 19, 2012

Pumpkin chowder

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:30 am by chavisory

The end of actual summer tends to be slightly preceded every year by me getting literally bored of eating summer fruits and vegetables, falling into a malaise in which I can’t even figure out what to eat, and then developing a craving for large, serious squash.

I was inspired to try this for the first time last year, when I was in a similar mood and craving a hot, thick soup, and thought first that I’d try my hand at potato soup or potato chowder.  I can’t say where the inspiration came from to make it pumpkin instead, but I thought of Barbara Kingsolver’s lamentation in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, that in most recipes involving pumpkin these days, the recipe will call for one 15-ounce can of pumpkin.  No one knows how to hack up a large vegetable to eat rather than use for decoration anymore.

I asked advice of a couple friends, followed some of it, and setting forth without recipe, hacked up a pumpkin.

We’ve been enjoying a crisp, lovely fall in NYC, and so I made this for the second time last week, refining my technique slightly from my first experience.  (Protip: using the food processor for this is not worth it.)

You will need:

A large stock pot
One smallish cooking pumpkin
One or two large onions, sliced
One large white potato, or 3 or 4 small red potatoes, diced
About 4 cups chicken stock (I make a batch from the leftovers every time I roast a chicken, so I always have some in the freezer and don’t have to buy it.)
Half a stick or so of butter.  Or more.  Usually more, in my case.
A couple tablespoons olive oil
A couple tablespoons flour
About half a pint of half and half or heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 400.  With a sharp, sturdy knife, cut the pumpkin in half.  Scoop out the seeds, and cut the halves in half again.

I always forget how long that part takes.

2.  Put the quartered pumpkin sections on a baking sheet and rub with olive oil.

And put into the oven.  Roast till tender and starting to caramelize, probably around an hour.

3.  When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the skins and shred well with a fork.  It should be soft enough that this is fairly easy.  (This is where I discarded advice to use a food processor, which I tried my first time through, and made a mess.)

5.  In the stock pot, melt the butter, and sauté about half the onions until tender.  Move the onions off to one side, add the flour to the butter, and whisk until it’s incorporated.  This creates a roux that will help the soup thicken later.

6.  Now add the chicken stock and bring to a low boil.  Add the diced potatoes and cook till those are tender.

And now start adding the pumpkin, in small amounts at a time, cooking till each addition is incorporated.  It’ll disintegrate a good bit as it cooks, but I like it to keep some of its rough, shredded texture.  I’ve wound up only using about half the cooked pumpkin in the chowder, and saving the other half for use in other delicious baked things.

Add the rest of the sliced onions, and cook till tender.  Add salt to taste.

7. Turn the heat down so the pumpkin-y broth at this point is just simmering, and slowly add and stir in the cream.  Cook on low heat–don’t boil–until the chowder is heated through.  More salt and pepper to taste.

And I garnished mine with fresh thyme.

It’s fabulous with some toasted crusty bread and glass of white wine, and presidential debates or Doctor Who on television.