Muddled by the Book
After renting both seasons of Nero Wolfe, I was completely and utterly hooked. Apparently, Santa also received word, as DucCat found a copy of the Nero Wolfe Cookbook in his stocking on Christmas morning.
Filled with not only recipes, but a great collection of relevant quotes from the books, it was irresistible. It sat on our nightstands for months, making for great bedtime reading. Perhaps it was one of those late-night reading sessions that gave me a twinkle of recognition when DucCat was toying with the idea of chicken and dumplings.
Ah, yes right here on page 177: Chicken Fricassee with Dumplings.
The recipe at first glance seemed straightforward enough, and I set about chopping the veggies, while DucCat hacked apart the chicken. It all went smoothly, until I realized that the vegetables were to be strained out, a pan sauce made, and then put over the reserved chicken.
No veggies? I went ahead and chopped more onions, carrots, and celery, sauteeing them in a bit of butter in another pan. I added them back to the simmering stock, and took a taste.
Heavy cream and egg yolk? It may not be fricassee anymore, but they seemed completely unnecessary additions.
The dumplings proved particularly vexing. Even after almost two hours in the fridge, the balls never seemed to get quite firm enough, and all but 3 completely dissipated when added to the boiling stock. The colour looked good, though, and the aroma was heady, so I checked the flavour once again.
I think we can safely file this one under "cold remedies".
Chicken Fricassee with Dumplings
1 4-5 pound chicken
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 small carrot, sliced
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Cut the chicken into serving pieces, and place them in a large pot.
Add the celery, onion and carrot to the chicken, along with the peppercorns and bay leaf.
Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the chicken is tender, about an hour.
Add the salt. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add the flour. Cook for 3 minutes, and gradually pour in 2 cups of the strained chicken stock, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened.
Blend the cream and egg yolk, and add to the sauce. Heat thoroughly, and season with lemon juice and more salt if necessary. Arrange the chicken pieces on a warm platter, and pour the sauce over.
½ pound fresh spinach
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 Tablespoons
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons melted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
Wash, trim, and blanch the spinach in salted water. Drain well, and chop fine.
Mix with the cheeses, salt, pepper, egg and half the butter. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Shape the dough into balls, roll them in flour, and drop, a few at a time, into gently boiling chicken stock.
As soon as they rise to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon to a hot buttered baking dish.
Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the dumplings with additional Parmesan cheese, drizzle with melted butter, and broil under a hot flame until the cheese browns.
Makes 12 dumplings
s'kat's notes: I didn't let the stock cook down, nor did I add the heavy cream or egg; this made for a wonderful soup. Also, I just boiled the 'dumplings' in the stock I was already using. Most burst apart, but still added a great flavour.
"Archie, I must thank you"- Wolfe puts his napkin down-"for suggesting the fricassee. It is superb. Only female Americans can make good dumplings, and not many of them."
-from the Nero Wolfe Cookbook