Part the First
As I’ve mentioned before, my Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal fellow regards Soup As Meal with more than a little skepticism. He seems to think that I serve him soup as a punishment for something dire, and addresses his bowl with furrowed brow and a slightly wounded look on his face. Should I buy her flowers? it seems to say. Maybe that would get me real supper, with slabs of meat? Shall I apologize for something? What have I done?
I happen to adore soup in practically all its forms, so coming up with ways to eat soup, without being inundated by the flower-buying of a slightly-unsure man, becomes a bit of an exercise in creativity.
Part the Second
If soup has something solid to it, like dumplings, then that fellow I married feels a little better about it. However, to make soup for our family requires a bit of a vat or cauldron. Few home-use vats and cauldrons are more than 12″ wide, so that naturally limits the dumpling space, all the way down to “not going to make an impression on the appetites of my family.” And, I’ve had a few too many experiences with sneaky dumplings that grow exponentially in the pot, and boil over. Remember, I make soup as a Slacker Mom Supper. Scrubbing the stove of the scorched remains of sneaky, suicidal dumplings does not figure in the Slacker Mom Life Plan, and I can’t quite bring myself to have my minions do the scrubbing, as I blame myself for not anticipating the sneaky tendencies common to all dumpling-kind.
Part the Third
Contemplating Parts the First and Second brought me to this: what if I bake little drop biscuits (known for their more domesticated temperament, quite different from their rebellious simmered brethren) separate from the soup, place the biscuits in a bowl, and pour soup over the top? That gets me all the happiness of soup with dumplings (soft bready bits to soak up delightful broth), without any of the mess or fuss dealing with simmering sneaky dumplings. But, could it pass muster with my husband? Could this reversal of roles be the magic combination?
The Chicken & Vegetables
In a large stock pot, brown about 3 pounds of bone-in chicken thighs until the skins are deep brown in spots. This takes patience; be willing to walk away for 3-4 minutes at a time. Pour off the fat (keeping the browned bits if possible), and add in water to cover the chicken (about two quarts–you can use broth for this, if you like; you’ll end up with a very enriched flavor that I happen to like.) Drop in some rough-chopped garlic (at our house, “some” is generally about 5-6 cloves), a good tablespoon of salt, and generous grinds of black pepper. Cover, and let it boil lightly until the chicken meat comes easily off the bones.
Remove the chicken pieces and let them cool a bit. Skin and bone (discard this detritus). Shred or coarsely chop the chicken and return it to the broth. Saute a chopped onion and several stalks of chopped celery, cut a few carrots into coins, and toss that in with the broth, too. Let it all simmer until the carrots are tender, but not mush (otherwise, you can’t reheat this for Slacker Lunch the next day). Toss in a fat handful of fresh parsley, more pepper if desired, and possibly some granulated garlic to boost the flavor there if you like.
Thicken the broth your preferred way: a flour-cold water slurry, or a bit of cornstarch- cold water slurry, or even a little butter/flour roux ball (I should probably blog about those soon, I think.) Return the pot to a nice simmer and let the soup thicken.
Pre-heat the oven to 450* and lightly oil or grease a foil-lined cookie sheet. You could use any drop-biscuit recipe you like (possibly even a store-bought baking mix version, though I wish you wouldn’t), but here’s mine:
- 3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 fat tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
- 1/3 cup fat (butter, shortening… I’ve even used part butter, part lurking cream cheese from the back of the fridge. Just make sure it’s a solid fat, not oil)
- 1/3 or so cups fine-shredded medium or sharp cheddar cheese (totally optional… I do this when I don’t have butter, for a richer flavor.)
- 1 cup sour cream blended with 1 cup water
Blend the dry ingredients (and optional cheese), then use your fingers to rub in the fat. Stir in the sour cream/water mixture briefly to bring it all together.
Use a teaspoon to portion the dough on the baking sheet. A semi-heaping teaspoon makes an adorable mini-biscuit, adult bite-size or kid two-bite-size and delightful. Place the biscuits close together; it’s okay if they do touch.
Pop into the 450* oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the mini-biscuit not-dumplings are browning on top, and quite deeply golden underneath. The sour cream in the dough helps a lot with developing a nice color on the bottoms.
Remove from the oven, and invert immediately, peeling off the foil to reveal the gorgeous ranks of crispy, browned not-dumpling bottoms.
To serve, break off a few not-dumplings and place in a bowl. Spoon the hot soup over the top, and enjoy. It’s very easy to vary the portion size for small, middling, and Neanderthal-sized appetites.
And yes, my Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal fellow willingly ate a bowl, went back for seconds, and didn’t gripe at leftovers, either. He’s not been skulking about trying to find ways to make up for whatever it was he did that got him punished with soup, so I think the Reverse Dumpling method may work.