Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hmmm – A Tyler Version Of Chicken And Dumplings And A Neely Version…Which One Will I Prefer?

Part One – Old Fashioned Good Guy, Tyler, Prepares Classic Chicken And Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings is such a homey, delicious meal that I was happy to see it done recently on two Food Network shows. The first was on Tyler's Ultimate

Ultimate Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings

Apple Brown Betty with Ice Cream

Tyler was psyched when he was a kid and he came home and knew it was Chicken with Dumplings Day. Now, HE'S the one getting kids off to school and he wants to create that same warm family feeling. (A man who is a good father is sooooooooo hot!) 

Tyler says he’s dusting off the recipe and making two classics – Chicken and Dumplings and Apple Brown Betty. (This is about chicken, but I may have to find time to mention the dessert.) 

He starts with an organic, free-range chicken and slow simmers it until it’s falling apart. He’s going to make his dumplings with buttermilk. Sure sounds like home to me…

Tyler explains that the poaching will give a beautifully cooked chicken AND a great broth that will be used in the final dish. 

He places his 3½ pound chicken in a big pot. He always looks for one that has a yellowy color. He adds peppercorns, bay leaves, fresh thyme and a halved HEAD of garlic and a little salt. He pours over water, just to cover, and simmers it for an hour “low and slow”. 

(That’s what should be on your stove if you’re trying to sell your house. It will smell fantastic! And The Apple Brown Betty coming up wouldn’t hurt either. ) 

I can’t help myself, I have to tell you about the dessert:

First, Tyler tells us the difference between an Apple Brown Betty and an Apple Crisp. A Crisp has apples with a cinnamon, brown sugar streusel-type topping. A Brown Betty dates back to Colonial America and has 2 ingredients – fruit and bread. It’s almost like a bread pudding without the custard. (The ONLY part of bread pudding I like is the custard, so this is going to be a bit of hard sell for me.) 

He slices the crusts off a day-old brioche. It will absorb more butter if it’s a little stale. He melts a stick of butter and slices the bread and then shreds it into similar-sized small pieces. (I guess it has THREE ingredients.) He likes the buttery eggy taste of the brioche in this dish. He pours over the hot melted butter and stirs it thoroughly.

Then Tyler peels and cuts up 6 Granny Smith apples. He adds 1 tablespoon cinnamon and “a nice little shower” of freshly ground nutmeg with 1 cup of light brown sugar, which he likes because of its molasses. He adds lemon juice to brighten the flavor. He adds Calvados. Don’t worry if you don’t have it, he says, but, “It’s really going to hit that apple note home.”

He also adds a bit of salt…like everyone else on earth and stirs it all together. Tyler butters a baking dish with butter and coats it with white sugar and begins to layer it all together, starting with the brioche. He adds a layer of apples, more brioche and then the apples on top with all their juices. 

He sprinkles sugar over, places the dish on a baking sheet and bakes it at 375°F for about an hour. 

Back to chicken dish. To a Dutch oven, Tyler adds olive oil (for high cooking temp) and butter (for flavor). He adds chopped carrots, celery and garlic (no onion?) to the pot to sauté. 

Meanwhile, Tyler removes the chicken from the other pot and shreds the meat using two forks, removing the skin. 

He whisks in a quarter cup of flour to the sautéed vegetables, while telling us that adding hot stock to the mixture will make it easier to make a lump free base for the dish. He says heating up cold stock or boxed, (if that’s what you’re using) will make your life easier. He pours in the entire bowl of stock from the poached chicken. (The recipe says 6 cups.)

He stirs it well and adds a splash of cream, salt and lots of coarsely ground black pepper. He folds in all the chicken and adds peas and pearl onions. This is like Ina’s Chicken Pie. He cooks it for 15 minutes. 

Now Tyler gets to work on the dumplings. He measures 2 cups of flour with 1 tablespoon baking powder and salt. He mixes together the wet ingredients – 2 eggs and a cup of buttermilk. He adds some chopped chives. He mixes the dry ingredients together and makes a well with his hand. 

He adds wet ingredients and stir until he has a nice spongy mixture. He doesn’t emphasis not to overbeat, but don’t overbeat. (The recipe does, though.) 

Tyler uses a big spoon to scoop out a big tablespoon of batter and uses a second spoon to push them off “the gang plank” and into the simmering stew. They cook on one side for 5 to 7 minutes and then are turned over to cook until they’re 3 times the original size. 

He plates up the dumplings and adds stew to the plate. He sprinkles over more chives.  He spoons out a BIG serving of still-steaming Apple Brown Betty. Wait, he’s adding even more of the Betty. He says you can serve it with a “splash” of heavy cream or ice cream as he’s doing today. He scoops the ice cream beautifully and covers the top with powdered sugar. We leave him debating which to taste first. He opts for the chicken. Perfect, he says. 

He’s right about these being American classics. And Tyler is well on his way to becoming one himself.

Cooking notes: I made Tyler's recipe and the only change I made was to leave out the cream in the stew part. It really didn't need it. I was hesitant to add the amount of salt he called for to the poaching chicken, but I was glad I did. Some reviewers noted they didn't add it all and it was a bit bland. 

The dumplings definitely took longer to cook than ten to fifteen minutes. Tyler says on the show, not in the recipe, to turn them over, which isn't easy. I think I would go with the Neelys here (see next post) and cover the pot, although I'm not sure they need 25 minutes. James says 15, covered.

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