>Pantry Chicken & Dumplings

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I’m working on an article for Foodwhirl about cooking on a budget and keeping a well-stocked pantry.  As I’m looking around for things to make during this last week of the month (when I’ve already maxed out my grocery budget for the month), I realize that I really don’t have a lot of easily discernible meal options.  I mean, what’s a girl to do when she opens the fridge to discover this?

Enter the pantry and freezer.  Looking through the freezer, I find the 4 chicken thighs left over from when I made Coq au Vin last month, and 3 chicken breasts stashed in the back.  I also see some frozen peas.  Hmmmmm…what can I make with that?

I’m really craving something warm and hearty, since it’s kind of cold and rainy outside. My mind immediately turns to chicken and dumplings.  But I don’t have any chicken stock in the pantry.  Hmmmm….what can I do about that?

Well, in my crisper I have part of a wilted bunch of celery and a few wilted green onions.  I also have an old yellow onion in dry storage.  Those are aromatics.  The chicken thighs are bone-in.  Well, there you go, the makings of an impromptu chicken stock.

I roasted the thighs and breasts and then pulled the meat off the bones.  Added the bones, along with the aromatics (plus a bay leaf, some salt and a few peppercorns) to a pot of water and set it to simmer for a few hours.  It won’t be the richest stock I’ve ever made, but it will do the trick in a pinch.

After the stock was done simmering, I removed all the veg and bones and in a separate pot made a light roux with 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons oil.  Whisked that together for a few minutes, then added the stock by ladles-full until I’d emptied the stock pot by half (I’m guessing it was about 6 cups of stock).  I added the shredded chicken and frozen peas (2 cups) to this slightly thickened broth and checked for seasoning.  Let that simmer for a bit while I mixed up the dumpling dough.

For the dumplings I turn to my favorite quick-drop biscuit recipe.  I’m using whole-wheat flour and adding some spinach I whirred up in the food processor to the dough to increase the health benefits.The end result was a light, fluffy dumpling with beautiful flecks of green, which nicely complemented the  frozen peas I put in the broth.  This pantry meal actually turned out better than a lot of the well-planned and carefully executed meals I’ve made in the past.  It just goes to show you that with some ingenuity and handy ingredients, you can make just about anything.

Pantry Chicken & Dumplings
measurements are approximations
6 cups chicken stock (you can use store-bought or make your own)
2 T flour (for roux)
2 T oil (for roux)
3 cups shredded chicken meat
2 cups frozen peas
For the Dumplings
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 T baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen, drained spinach, 
or 2 cups fresh spinach, whirred in food processor
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1. Make a roux in a large heavy-bottomed pot
2. Add stock, whisking to avoid lumps
3. Add chicken and peas – taste for seasoning
4. Whisk dry ingredients for dumplings together in a mixing bowl
5. Add wet ingredients, stirring to combine
6. Drop dumplings by teaspoons into simmering broth.
7. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until dumplings are cooked through (will be biscuit-like in the center)
8.  Enjoy!
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