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Your Humble Ruler, Rajah Cheech Beldone, King of the Gypsies.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The OTHER Stew

OK, well the Krautmaster General wants me to tell him the recipe, but I don't really HAVE a recipe, but I'll tell you what I did and how it worked and what I'd do different next time.

North Carolina Chicken Stew w/ Cornmeal Dumplings

(NOTE: there are certain ingredients here that may, unfortunately, require visiting a specialty/import store, depending on your location; some things just can't be substituted)
(NOTE: this setup doesn't really incorporate any vegetables, and no potatoes. There's one place where you can huck in some veggies as long as they're diced and will cook quicky. Carrots, chopped green beans, peas [if you don't fucking live in Taiwan], corn, all are OK. but actually it's fine without.)

I got 2 stewing hens from the Day Market, the kind they call "dirt chicken" here.
They're pretty small, about 1/2 the size of a normal fryer.
I threw them in a pot, head, feet, and all.

You know, old school.

Anyways, cover the chickens with water and set to boil.
In this case, that took about 2 1/2 hours, and I had to top the water off a couple times to keep them covered.
Timing here can be tricky, if they're not cooked enough, you'll have a bastard of a time getting them off the bones, BUT if you overcook, you lose a lot of flavour and tenderness.
Watch your ass (more on this later).
This next part is where things get pretty labour intensive.
When the chicken is tender, take them out and (if applicable) cut off the head, feet, wingtips, and arseholes

(Give them to he fucking iguana

to eat, or if you're farm raised, set them aside to munch on with seasoned salt mayonnaise and a brewski while you watch Escape From New York).

Separate all the meat from the bones and denude the fowl of all skin (mostly, there were a couple spots where it was too fussy so I left it on).
(At this stage I realized I had WAY too much fucking soup in there, so I skimmed off about a third, we'll discuss this later)
Cut/tear all the meat into bite-sized pieces and throw back into the pot.
Add like a medium sized onion, chopped, and 7 or 8 cloves of garlic, also chopped.
Coarse is fine.
If Gordon Fucking Ramsey shows up and criticizes your technique

you know, as always, give him a fucking boot in the goolies and shove him under a 266 to Bei Tou.

Bring back to a boil and then simmer until it starts to thicken.
Depending on your taste, you may want to thicken it up to be more "stew-like".
I took about a half cup of flour in a bowl and added milk until I got a thick roux going. You got to mix the fuck right out of it, make sure there's no lumps (heating the milk can help with this, although I couldn't be arsed). Once you have a nice smooth consistency, increase the heat under the pot until you got a nice rolling boil going.
Stir in the thickening

(Highlander 5: The Thickening, sorry, I just piss down both legs laughing every time I see this picture, nice fucking earring there, Sir Seannery...)

Really stir it in good or it'll lump the fuck up, and nobody wants that.
If you like it soupy, just leave it.
Now, you can go with Plan A or Plan B.

Plan A (what I did)
Once the stew was fairly consolidated, I turned off the heat and covered it. When it was cool, I stuck it in the fridge. The next day I took it out and reheated it (slowly!), and then seasoned to taste, as follows.
Plan B
Once it starts to get less soupy, reduce heat and season to taste, as follows.

OK, bear with me, I don't have clue fucking 1 about amounts here, but you want it to taste the way you like any fucking way.
The stuff you'll want to use to season will be:
Pepper (I use a combination of coarsely pre-ground black pepper and red/green/black peppercorns hand ground)
Sugar (I'm not kidding)
In roughly descending order of amount.
First off, I had to salt the fucksteaks out of this stuff.

You know, I have a really seriously low tolerance to salt, and by the end, I'm pretty sure I'd added like 3 or even 4 fucking tablespoons.
Whatever you do, do it gradually, for the love of fuck.
You can always add more, taking it out can be tough.
I probably seasoned this stuff 5 separate times, with good solid stirring and simmering between each before I was satisfied.
Tasting continually all the way, of course (did I REALLY need to say that???).
It's OK, because the long time really brings a depth and fullness to the flavour, you'll be glad you took the time.

OK, when you think you're about where you want to be with the taste, throw in any vegetables you fancy, as mentioned. I tossed in a can of (drained) kernel corn, since my fuckin kid is on a no-carrot rampage currently. Stir them in and keep a reasonable simmer going.

Now you should do the dumplings. Now there's a timing issue here, you don't want to be waiting to serve once the dumplings are done, so don't start this stage unless you're going to be ready to eat in 30 to 40 minutes.
Dumplings, well.
I remember me Great Grandma (mother of the Drunken Inattentive Grandma, not the Evil Satanic Abusive Grandma) made stew and dumplings when I was a kid, she'd run a boarding house for years and could cook you fucking dizzy.
I recall her dumplings as being these massive spheroids of dense compacted spongy breadyness about the size of your fuckin head.
Not bad, but a pretty serious carbo loading.
Also they were straight white flour ones.
Over at The Palace, with the Ranee being your basic Asiatical and the Ranette a bastardised miscegination of same, there isn't much tolerance for huge honking softballs of pure starchohydration, so I wanted to go easy.
Cornmeal dumplings are much tastier, less oppressive, fucking yellow for jumping the fuck out loud, and just plain fucking awesomely good.

I did use this recipe:

Cornmeal Dumplings
  • 1/2 Cup Cornmeal
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Butter
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter with pastry blender or a fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and stir. Drop onto hot stew.

Cutting that butter in can be a bit of a bitch, but cowboy the fuck up already.
One thing different I did, because, you know, I fucking CAN, is I tossed a fistful of grated cheese into the dumpling dough after it was mixed.
Once you got a good mix, get the bowl close to the pot of bubbling stew, and drop in heaping tablespoonfuls until the batter is gone.
They'll sink below the surface at first, don't worry about it. Cover the pot and DON'T fucking open it for ten minutes.
This means, of course, that the heat has to be adjusted high enough to keep the simmer going, but low enough to not stick. Once you figure that out, you can probably go work for fucking NASA.
After 10 minutes, uncover, and the dumplings should have magically expanded to at least twice their size and be floating on top of the stew.
Fucking hydrothermal dynamics is your fuckin pal, yeah?

Only, you  know, wetter

Another 10 minutes, uncovered, and it should be chow time, hogs. Now don't fuck with the dumplings TOO much, but you can certainly baste them in a bit of the gravy, this flavours them up a wee bit more.
Spoon into bowls with one or two dumplings per.
Magic, Jimmy.

We had this Chrimbo night (I went with Plan A and did most of the work Saturday because we had tickets to a piano recital on the Day, fucking blind-ass boring that was, so when we got home at like 5:30 there was a minimum of effort required), it was still pretty cold and wet out, we had it with a nice green salad on the side, and both wimminz had seconds plus.
After the three of us'd had our fill there was one full bowl left.


OK, to start, using the 2 whole chickens was a pretty serious pain in the ass:
  • structurally they took up a fuckTON of pot space, needing a shitload of water to boil in, resulting in me having WAY too much liquid, in fact more than a third of it is in a bag in the freezer as we speak; but even after drawing off a lot, I still had a motherfucker of a time getting the stew thick
  • boning and skinning them was brutal and complicated, and
  • it took for fuckin ever for them to cook
Instead, next time I'd just grab a bunch of whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick attached)

say about 5 or 6, I reckon. They'll take up considerably less pot space, will cook a lot faster, are a (relative) snap to bone and skin, and require much less water to cook in. I think the meat is better tasting and stays tender longer too.

Adding the cheese to the dumplings kind of cut both ways.
They tasted fucking great, but they didn't really hold together too well, even after they were cooked.
I reckon next time, if I wanted to add cheese (Hmmmm...CHEESE!!!), I'd cut the butter in half, I figure there was too much oil going on for the dumplings to set up right.

Honestly, you could do pretty much any fucking thing you wanted with this and it'd turn out OK.
It's a pretty traditional cold weather yum yum in the Carolinas, so we didn't fuck around with any Asian or otherwise inauthentic ingredients, but, you know, go nuts.
Oh yeah, most recipes call for a big old blob of butter to be hucked in and mixed up before serving, but I can't really deal with that much animal fat anymore, I just wake up the next morning with gout.
Other popular serving conventions include adding a big whack of Tabasco or other hot sauce during cooking, but, as we've discussed before, when you have kids you stop eating "de pep-ah"

as George from the Kingston Soul Kitchen

would say.

Also (when no dumplings are made), folks apparently like to eat this with saltines (that sounds kind of fucked to me) or grilled cheese sandwiches.
That last one's kind of odd, but I guess I could see it.

So there you go, now go fucking make it for someone you love.



  1. What are different options for movies while munching on arseholes, feet, head and wingtips? Or must we always go with Escape From NY? Obviously not the LA sequel.

  2. Nothing with Billy Bob Thornton.
    Serenity the movie probably goes OK, but I wouldn't recommend any of the series episodes.
    Bit of a containment issue, really.


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Readers' opinions and feelings are fucking important to me.
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