Sunday, December 8, 2013

Two-Soup Icepocalypse! ('Cause, Baby, It's Cold Outside')

Wow, is it cold in Dallas this weekend. As a native Texan, I'm much more prepared for 60+ days of triple-digit weather than I am anything below about 50 degrees. And yes, I've seen all the memes about how Texans overreact to severe weather. They're funny. I would like to state for the record that I did not run to the store and clean them out of milk and bread. I got kale for the rabbits, a whole bunch of flour and sugar to make cookies with, and a Jesus candle that struck my fancy.
So during day two of being shut in, I ran out of anything interesting to eat. And my toes WOULD NOT get warm. I'd been flipping through some back issues of Cooks Illustrated, and came across a recipe for chicken and dumplings. Yum. I love chicken and dumplings, though my expertise rests on eating rather than cooking this dish. But I thought, why not? However, I didn't have any chicken thighs, wings, or breasts. All I had was some ground chicken, so I mixed it with salt, pepper, thyme, an egg, and some Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs to make meat balls. So really, I made meatballs and dumplings. I browned them very well in a non-stick skillet and deglazed (what little there was) with sherry. While my dumplings were browning, I had finely chopped a half of a large onion and one garlic clove, which were sweating in olive oil in a pot. When they were translucent, I added the sherry from the skillet until my onions were a lovely, sweet-sherry, soft mass of bits.

Then I added my meatballs to the pot, along with a bit more sherry, about four cups of water, and chicken Better than Bullion to make faux stock/broth. I let that warm together, tasted for seasoning, added some more Bullion, salt and pepper, and brought it to a low simmer.
In the meanwhile, I had mixed up buttermilk, butter, an egg, salt, four, sugar, and baking soda into dumpling dough. Let me tell you a secret: I never have buttermilk. I don't buy it because I'll never use it beyond what I need for a recipe. So let me tell you what my mom advised me to do many years ago. Measure out the milk you need. Add a teaspoon of vinegar per cup of milk. Stir, let it sit for a few minutes, and you have a pretty decent buttermilk equivalent. I'm sure finer chefs would be horrified, but it's worked out for me so far. 
When the dough was ready and my pot was simmering, I started dropping my dumplings in. Remember to spray your spoon with cooking spray so the batter will slide off. 
Plop, plop, plop. Cover, let simmer for about 15 minutes, and there they were! Dumplings! I was very excited. 
My friend Carolina says this looks like matzo ball soup. I was hoping to see how it fared into the next day, but that night, my husband ate the ENTIRE POT.

The next day, due to the continued ice and decided dearth of dumpling leftovers, I decided it was time for potato soup. I had a bag of potatoes from my Bountiful Basket that looked about one day away from the trash, so I decided to make a pot of potato soup that even my honey couldn't get through in one day.

Easy-peasy. I peeled and chopped five large Yukon Gold potatoes and one enormous onion and threw them in a pot with water and salt to simmer away.

When the potatoes were soft enough to pierce with a fork, I drained the whole thing and dumped the veggies back into the pot. To this, I added about 1/3 cup cream, 1 1/2 T butter, about 1 t. of chicken Better than Bullion, salt, pepper, and boiling water in 1/2 cup increments until I got the consistency I wanted. Using the immersion blender, I blended this up until it was a silky-smooth, potato-ey dream. Fortunately, it was great on its own, because we were out of bacon and cheddar cheese for toppings due to the movie-fest, slumber party fueled by grilled bacon and cheese sandwiches the night before. Did I mention we're not having a low-cal icepocolypse?

Normally, I would thin it out more, but it's cold, so our soup was pretty thick. Rest assured, I did make the troops eat the rest of the apples left in the crisper as well. Right before we made s'mores. Stay warm, y'all!

Recipes after the break...

Chicken Meatball and Dumplings 
For the meatballs:
  • 1 package ground chicken
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 t. thyme
For the dumplings: (from Cook's Illustrated, Sept and Oct 2009 issue)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg white
For broth:
  • 6 cups broth (you can use home made or Better than Bullion, chicken flavored)
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1 finely chopped onion 
  • 1 finely chopped clove garlic
  • 2 T. oil
**This is another great, versatile recipe. You could get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, shred the meat, and make stock out of the carcass. You can get chicken breasts, thighs, and wings to make both out of. You can omit the chicken part at all and use veggie stock, lots of veggies, and have veggies and dumplings for my veggie-inclined folks.**

Start by mixing your meatball ingredients. I made about tablespoon sized meatballs and browned them really well in a non-stick skillet. Set aside. Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup sherry. 

In a soup pot, sweat onions and garlic with the oil over a low heat until they're translucent. Add the sherry with the brown bits from the deglazed pan and let it reduce a little. 

While your onions and garlic are sweating, mix up your dumpling mix. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar together in a bowl. In another bowl, mix buttermilk and butter. The butter will get clumpy, and that's okay. Whisk in your egg white. Mix your wet ingredients to the dry and incorporate together with a spatula until it's a dough ball. 

Once it's reduced, add your broth, remaining sherry, and meatballs. Let it get warm, and check for seasoning. I added some more thyme, salt, pepper, and a dash of dried rosemary at this point. Bring your broth to a low simmer. I used a tablespoon to measure out the dumplings, but they were a little large. Remember that they will expand to about twice the size you drop in. A teaspoon might be good. Make sure you spray whatever you're going to drop your dumplings in with cooking spray so the batter will slide off the spoon. 

Drop your dumplings in the simmering broth, about a 1/2 inch apart. Put a lid on your soup and let simmer (remember, barely simmer, not boil) for about 13-16 minutes. Yum!

Potato Soup
  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large, same-size pieces
  • one large onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cups water (to boil your potatoes and onion)
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 3 T. butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chicken or veggie stock to thin the soup, 1-3 cups, depending on how soupy you want it. 
Put the onion and potato in salted water and bring to a boil. Boil until you can easily slide a fork through the potatoes. Drain. Add cream, butter, and a cup of stock. Blend in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. Keep adding stock in 1/2 cup increments until you like the consistency. You can throw in a handful of grated cheddar cheese, bacon bits, or scallions at this point or just add them as garnish (optional). 

For a lower-cal version, you could omit the cream and sub in yogurt or more stock.