If you think about chicken, it’s quite an interesting bird, wouldn’t you say? I can’t think of any food that is as versatile. There’s chicken soup, fried chicken, chicken pot pie, chicken fricassee, and butter chicken. There’s lemon chicken, chicken teriyaki, stewed chicken–you get the picture.  Look at the All Recipes database and you will find over 3910 chicken recipes. There’s no doubt about it, chicken is definitely one of the most popular global foods, which is why it sometimes bores me silly. There’s something that is inherently limiting in having so much choice. It’s like trying to choose between 100 different brands of cereal at the supermarket. Faced with so many options, I get confused and often walk away with none. This is how I feel about chicken.

But the other way I was trying to think of what to serve at a family dinner. I wanted a one-pot deal, something easy-peasy, requiring few ingredients and little time, but something that would still comfort and satisfy. Although I hadn’t made it in years, chicken and dumplings came to mind and I got out my dusty old Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book–which is exactly the type of cookbook you should have on hand when you want to make good ol’ American comfort food. It goes over all the basics of ingredients, kitchen appliances and equipment, and even includes shopping strategies for shopping, menu creation, and saving time in the kitchen. It’s one of those type of cookbooks that you always forget you seem to bypass for the glossier, high-profile ones, which is really too bad, because it contains a lot of useful information and tasty recipes galore.

The next time you’re wondering what to cook, pull out one of those classic books that are gathering dust on your shelves. You may find something new to add to your repertoire.

Chicken & Dumplings

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

2-2 1/2 pounds meaty chicken pieces (thighs, breasts, drumsticks)

3 cups water

1 medium onion, cut into wedges

1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 bay leaf

1 cup sliced celery

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

1 beaten egg

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1/2 cup cold water

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

1) Skin chicken, if desired. Rinse pieces. In a large pot combine chicken, the 3 cups water, onion, basil, the 1/2 teaspoon salt, marjoram, pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for 25 minutes.

2) Add celery, carrots, and mushrooms. Return mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for ten more minutes or until the chicken pieces and vegetables are tender. Discard the bay leaf.

3) T make the dumplings, combine the 1 cup flour, parsley, baking powder, the 1/4 teaspoon salt, and oregano in a mixing bowl. In another bowl combine the egg, milk, and oil; add to flour mixture. Stir with a fork until just moistened.

4) Drop the batter onto the hot chicken in broth, making 6-8 dumplings. Do not drop the dumpling into the liquid. Return to boiling, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a dumpling comes out clean. Do not lift the cover while simmering. Transfer chicken, dumplings, and vegetables to a serving platter. Keep warm.

5) To make the gravy, pour the broth into a large measuring cup. Skim the fat from the broth and discard. Measure out 2 cups of the broth and return to pot. Combine the 1/2 cup cold water and the 1/4 cup flour. Stir into the broth.

6) Cook and stir until the mixture is thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for one minute more. Serve gravy over chicken and dumplings.

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