Nov 13, 2007

Chicken & Dumplings, And Overcoming My Fear Of Biscuits

Dinner tonight was a highly rated recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken & Dumplings, which I discovered thanks to Lynnae over at Being Frugal. The recipe is simple and calls for 4 chicken breast halves, 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup, 1 onion, combined in the crock with enough water to cover. For the last six or seven years, I've avoided condensed cream of anything under the theory that it's unhealthy, but I recently decided that it's less healthy to eat out. So I bought the cans of cream of mushroom before I read the reviews, many of which recommended one can of cream of mushroom and one can of cream of celery. I did read the reviews in time to substitute some chicken stock for the water. I loaded up the crock last night so that all I had to do this morning was stick it in the cooker and set it to low before I left for work. I substituted 1.3 pounds of chicken breast tenders for the chicken breast halves, added some diced carrot, some black pepper, tarragon and thyme, and left out the onion (on purpose) and the butter (by accident). Don't ask me why Trader Joe's organic chicken never comes in true one-pound packages - I don't know. As soon as we got home, I added some frozen peas. And before serving the chicken, I shredded it, since neither Marc nor Alex likes chunks of chicken. This had the benefit of making the mixture wonderfully thick.

The recipe calls for putting torn pieces of refrigerated biscuit dough on top of the chicken mixture and cooking it on high for 30 minutes or until cooked through. I wasn't surprised to read in the reviews that the dough took much longer than 30 minutes to cook and/or was gooey. That kind of grossed me out so I decided to bake the biscuits according to the package directions, but the store brand I bought tasted okay at best. The ones I over-baked were downright awful.

But we have leftovers. And Marc vetoed my idea of serving it over rice. He said he'd rather have the over-baked biscuits. Which I can't tolerate. And that's okay, because earlier today, I read Amy's post at The Mother Load about overcoming her fear of canning by, well, canning. It spurred me to make my own biscuits tonight, something I've avoided doing for close to five years. I've only made biscuits once, and they came out like hockey pucks. They were so bad, I've been afraid to try again. But I decided that tonight's the night.

Since I want fresh biscuits, though, I made them up to the point of cutting them out. They're now sitting in the freezer on a baking sheet and tomorrow when we're ready to eat, I'll put them in the toaster oven to bake up. Hopefully, they'll be good.

For the recipe, I turned to my trusty reference book, Brilliantby David Joachim. Here are the ingredients called for in the recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits: 1 1/3 cups cake flour, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons chilled butter, 3 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening, and 3/4 cup buttermilk. The recipe says to combine the dry ingredients, cut in the butter and shortening, fold in the buttermilk, knead until the dough just comes together, then roll out and cut. But I'm not one to follow a recipe exactly.

Especially since I don't have cake flour. I used all all-purpose flour, minus two tablespoons, and I added two tablespoons of cornstarch, which is similar to the substitution for cake flour. I also don't have vegetable shortening, so I used all butter.

Now, I hate cutting butter into flour. The butter gets soft long before the mixture reaches the coarse meal stage. So I did what Martha Stewart does with her pie dough: I used my food processor. First I combined the dry ingredients and pulsed to get them mixed together. Then I added the pieces of butter and pulsed just a few times to get to the coarse meal stage. Then I poured in the buttermilk and pulsed again, just a couple of times. I turned the dough onto a cutting board lightly dusted with flour and pressed the dough out. The recipe yields 12 biscuits but I only got 10 (probably because my dough was too thick). I put the cut out biscuits on a baking sheet and parked the pan in the freezer. Hopefully the biscuits will bake up beautifully tomorrow (at 425 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes until the tops are a light golden brown - mine will probably take just a couple more minutes since they're frozen). I'll let you know how it goes.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for reviewing the recipe! I haven't made it yet, and now I know what to watch out for. I think I even have an extra can of cream of celery hanging around here. Especially since I have store brand biscuits, too!

Amy said...

That is so great that you made your own biscuits! That is another fear that I have. I even have the biscuit cutter that my great-grandma used and I still can't muster up the nerve to do it.

I am so glad that my canning attempts helped to fuel your desire to tackle a domestic challenge. You go girl!!

Let us know how the biscuits taste!!!

mapgirl said...

Try a savory scone recipe instead of biscuits. Scones are denser, but much more forgiving than a biscuit recipe, if you ask me.

My favorite was from a cookbook for cheddar and chives. It was rootin' tootin' tasty as an after school snack. (I don't like sweets like other ppl do.)

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

Lynnae - Don't forget to add the spices, I think they make a big difference in flavor!

Amy - Thanks for the inspiration!

Mapgirl - The scone idea is a great one. I'm sure I have a recipe in my huge "recipes to try" file, I'll have to dig it up!