Don customizes a fab recipe; he can't seem to help himself
I can't seem to leave other people's recipes well enough alone.
Toni Tipton-Martin, in her award-winning cookbook: "Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking," shares her recipe for chicken and dumplings. Her chicken and dumplings picture looked mouth-wateringly delicious. She hooked me.
I hit the brakes, though, when I realized that dumplings weren't something I wanted to try again. Years ago, I tried making dumplings since good ones can make a meal. My first try ended in a soggy mess nearly as bad as my second try. Right there, I decided dumplings just weren't for me.
Later on, I learned that if you're going to make dumplings keep the pot in which they're cooking at the lowest simmer possible and don't lift the lid until they're done (steam is part of the process).
Since I stay away from wheat, I permitted myself to pass on those dumplings and just make chicken, no dumplings.
Tipton-Martin's recipe required a whole chicken, a classic. I wanted to make dining on my chicken as easy as possible without having to work my way around an entire chicken's bones.
Thighs are my favorite chicken part; hard to overcook and, if prepared right, almost melt-in-the-mouth. I also decided to use organic, boneless, skinless chicken thighs. And, contrary to popular belief, a chicken thigh is lower in fat than most believe. A 3-ounce boneless, skinless chicken thigh delivers just 3.2 fat grams. Yes, you read that right: 3.2 grams.
Also, Tipton-Martin's Chicken and Dumplings looked more soup-like in the picture since the recipe's vegetables were all diced into ¼-inch pieces. I wanted my version to have bite-size vegetable pieces. In addition, without the starchy dumplings, I added potatoes and a "meaty" flavor boost with quartered mushrooms.
It's tricky cooking with meat and vegetables and getting them cooked at the same time. I cooked the thighs whole, and the veggies cut into small chunks to accomplish that.
Finally, Tipton-Martin used butter to brown her chicken but suggests bacon drippings or olive oil. I save bacon drippings from organic bacon and used that to make my chicken no-dumplings.
Tipton-Martin's seasonings struck just the right balance. Besides the usual salt and pepper, she used sweet paprika, which helped the skinless thighs brown nicely and thyme and a bay leaf, which married beautifully with the chicken.
Yes, it took some time to brown three pounds of thighs and soften all the veggies a little. However, the aroma in my kitchen rewarded that effort.
Chicken broth and white wine provided the perfect liquid, and I slightly thickened everything at the end with potato starch (cornstarch works well, too).
How did my new no-dumpling chicken turn out? Sensational, thanks to Tipton-Martin's creativity and my tinkering.
Sometimes it's okay not to leave well enough alone.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at don@ theleanwizard.com.
Don Mauer's take on a classic becomes Chicken and No Dumplings.
- Courtesy of Don Mauer
Chicken and No Dumplings
3 pounds skinless, boneless organic chicken thighs
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or bacon drippings, chicken fat, or olive oil)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 medium carrots, peeled sliced into ½-inch pieces
2 medium organic Russet (baking) potatoes, scrubbed and cut into small chunks
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, cleaned and cut into quarters
4 large stalks celery, sliced into ½-inch pieces
½ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 small bay leaf
3 cups organic chicken broth or stock
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons water
4 teaspoons potato or corn starch
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
Lay the chicken out on a clean sheet pan and season with the salt, pepper, and paprika.
Add the bacon fat (or other fat or oil) to a large heavy pot or Dutch oven and place over medium-high heat. When the fat begins to shimmer reduce the heat to medium and, working in batches (don't crowd the pan), add a few thighs (4 or 5) at a time, and cook until a golden brown, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the thighs to a plate and repeat with the remaining thighs.
Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the carrots and potatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and celery to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the thyme, bay leaf chicken broth (or stock), and wine, stirring and scraping up any browned bits that are stuck to the pan's bottom. Return the chicken to the pan, bring to a low simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes.
In a small bowl whisk the potato (or corn) starch with the water and pour into the pot, stirring it in. Stir in parsley flakes, adjust the seasoning and serve. Serves 8.
Nutrition values per serving: 435 calories(26.8 percent from fat), 13 g fat(5.5 g saturated fat), 17.9 g carbohydrates (15.5 net carbs), 3.3 g sugars, 2.4 g fiber, 36.8 g protein, 151 mg cholesterol, 790 mg sodium.
SaltSense: Omitting the added sea salt reduces the sodium per serving to 209 milligrams.
CarbSense: Omitting the potatoes reduces the carbohydrates per serving to 8.3 grams.