It’s been rainy and gray. Yesterday we sat in the encroaching twilight, still doing school as darkness fell, listening to the rain. The dog refused to be walked because of being a nincompoop about getting his paws wet. Had to force him into the back yard only to have him run back in snuffling and apparently angry about his damp fur. Is that what dogs have? No, it must just be called hair. I worked until nearly 8 o’clock, hunched over one child’s desk, as he perched next to me, not on a chair, but on the neighboring desk.
I am straying from my point. I did not wake up this early to tell you about the dog sitting on a desk next to me. I wanted to divulge that, because of the gray and the rain, it was serendipitous that I had happened to have written on a tiny note card, for Tuesday, the words ‘Chicken and Dumplings’.
Some few years ago, sitting in my mother’s kitchen in Kenya, my enormous pregnant girth smacking into her lovely table, my two little girls perched up in front of steaming bowls of golden chicken elixir, I had it in my mind that making dumplings shouldn’t be that hard. I would come home, I thought to myself, and often make dumplings, because it’s so easy and delicious.
Let’s see, that was 2009. Now I’m in a waning 2015. ‘Often’ was perhaps not the propitious word.
So, the best reason that I know of to make chicken and dumplings is because your husband roasted two whole chickens for Sunday dinner but then only two children happened to be there to eat them. Everyone seems to run in their own direction after church, going to whatever more fun house they can find, rather then staying home for the elegance of a boring Sunday table. We did the best we could, with only half a family, and a goodly measure of chicken, therefore, remained. That, and the gorgeous gravy, went into a pot, yesterday, bones removed of course, along with two cups of stock. Then it occurred to me to roast all the asparagus. So that went suddenly into a hot oven with olive oil and a splattering of salt. Also, the children are growing to be huge and ravenous so I climbed up on the kitchen counter and dug around in all the old bags of bread and found a reasonable quantity of tiny bagels. It seemed to be the right thing. Then, finally, after calming myself with a small half tumbler of nondescript boxed red wine, I set about the dumplings, under the guidance and wisdom of the Joy of Cooking. Two cups flour, 1 T baking powder, 1 t salt, 1 c milk, 3 T melted butter…only I essentially doubled it. The dough forms easily and quickly. Too quickly, really, because the whole question of rolling it out or spooning it in confronted me before I was ready to make a carefully considered judgement. I stared at the bubbling pot and stared at the dough and stared at the words on the page which had numbers and inches in unhappy proliferation. Closed the book and bashed it back onto its shelf and, bare hands at the ready, wildly flung round balls of dough into the steaming pot. Realized, too late, that the pot was too small and the dumplings too many. Mushed them closer together and eased the lid on and then watched them grow, the lid rising up alarmingly. Shouted at the children to set the table and be at the ready. Just as it seemed the liquid would definitely spill over the sides and the dumplings rise up like Godzilla, I poked them and found they were done and rescued them from the heat of the stove.
Oh my word, so delicious. Even the children who felt that something bad was bound to happen to them, the anxious lines of surety that Mother Made Something Ghastly spread over many faces, after being forced to open their mouths and Just Try It, discovered the combination of light, fluffy dumpling and rich golden chicken soup too compelling to resist.