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Don't forget the dumplings

March 16, 2009|By KATHIE SMITH / Toledo Blade

Dumplings were a special occasion food when I was growing up. My mother made stewed chicken and fluffy dumplings only once or twice a year.

It's a tradition I've adopted. But I've discovered there's another world of dumplings.

The common thread of dumplings: loosely shaped balls of dough are dropped into liquids such as soups and stews, according to "The Food Encyclopedia" by Jacques L. Rolland and Carol Sherman (Robert Rose, $49.95). For the semolina dumpling, the hot liquid is the sugar water.

(The Food Encyclopedia also notes two other types of dumplings: a dough-wrapped parcel of savory filling common in Asian cuisine, which is boiled separately and added to soups. There is also the baked dessert made by wrapping fruit in a sweet pastry dough.)

Making fluffy dumplings whether they are for entrees or for desserts is a technique that shouldn't be lost.

My mother made her fluffy dumplings with Bisquick; my mother-in-law makes hers from scratch using flour, one egg or two egg whites, baking powder, salt, and milk. Both mixed the batter and dropped it into a gently boiling pot of stewed chicken, whole pieces of chicken on the bone. It's a wonderful winter meal, especially when a household is battling flu and colds.

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The chicken cooks in 40 minutes; the dumplings cook in 20 more minutes (10 minutes with the lid off and 10 minutes with the lid on was my mother's method; 20 minutes with the lid on is my mother-in-law's method for a fluffy dumpling).

These old-fashioned recipes are being updated with fresh herbs such as Chicken with Dill Dumplings from "American Regional Cuisine 2nd Edition" by The Art Institutes (Wiley, $45).

Cookbook author Dawn Hall has adapted dumplings to several recipes in her latest cookbook, "Busy People's Super Simple 30-Minute Menus" (Thomas Nelson, $18.99). "With dumplings you are able to take an entree to another level," she told me in a phone interview.

"Dumplings are a comfort food," said Hall, whose latest cookbook has time-lined instructions for the entire meal. "They're homey and old-fashioned."

I think that dumplings need to be served as soon as they are ready, although my husband's grandmother always held the dumplings in a warm oven as she made batch after batch, so there would be enough to serve everyone at the table.

Old-fashioned dumplings are not likely to be found on restaurant menus, but that doesn't mean professional chefs don't make them at home.

High-profile chef Jamie Oliver (a.k.a. The Naked Chef) includes dumplings in recipes. "In Cook with Jamie" (Hyperion, $37), The Best Dumplings Ever are made with self-rising flour and paired with rabbit stew. His book is designed to make the home cook a better cook.

Enough said: One way to be a better cook is with dumplings:

Dill Dumplings



1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dill, chopped
1/2 cup milk
Cooked whole chicken pieces in broth, heated to boiling

Cook's note: Cook a whole chicken (cut in pieces) covered with water in 6 quart-pot seasoned with half onion (sliced) and 2 stalks of celery, salt, and pepper and other herbs as desired.

Mix ingredients together to form a thick batter. Drop a tablespoon at a time into simmering chicken. Cover tightly and cook chicken and dumplings an additional 20 minutes without removing cover. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: American Regional Cuisine Second Edition

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