Sunday, September 18, 2011

SlowFood's $5 Meal Challenge

This weekend SlowFood USA held a $5 Meal Challenge. Most of our meals are on a rather constrained budget so this seemed like a cakewalk to me. Since Thom was headed to a concert with his buddies I arranged to spend the afternoon with Mom and Masi. With the weather being so cold, Mom and I decided it was a perfect time for one of our favorite budget comfort foods: Chicken & Dumplings.

We all have memories embedded in the kitchen, or in our favorite foods, whether we are cooks or not. My grandmother was the queen of chicken & dumplings and Mom carries her torch well. Some of my happiest memories are eating the meals my mother and grandmother prepared together when I was a child. My mother's good friend Tanvir, whom my brother and I call Masi (Auntie), is an extremely accomplished cook as well. There is nothing like a dinner at Masi's house with her from-scratch Pakistani cooking. In fact, her food is so good we routinely invite ourselves over. We can't help ourselves - her cauliflower with mustard seed and fried onions are so good you come begging for more.

Tonight, however, was an evening channeled straight from the memory banks of my grandmother's repertoire. Her recipe not only produces a delicious meal, it consists of simple ingredients prepared in a straightforward manner.

Chicken & Dumplings - Serves 4-5
3lbs bone-in chicken, cut into parts
3 cups onion, diced
1.5 cups celery, diced
1.5 cups carrot, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2T olive oil
1t salt
1T white pepper
1 bay leaf
1T thyme 
2 large sage leaves
water or low-salt chicken stock, about 1 quart

1 cup AP flour
1/2T baking powder
1/2t salt
1.5T butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
sage, pepper & nutmeg to taste

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add chicken and brown. Remove chicken and saute mushrooms until browned. Add onions, celery and carrot. Return chicken and any juices to pot. Cover with water or stock (we used Mom's homemade chicken stock). Add herbs and simmer over low heat, covered, about 2 hours. Adjust seasoning to taste. 

For dumplings, combine dry ingredients plus butter in a mixing bowl. Combine with fingertips until butter is incorporated. Make a well in center and crack egg into well. Whisk egg and slowly add milk. Incorporate dry ingredients into wet until batter is consistent throughout.  

Drop by large spoonfuls into hot soup. Cover and let simmer 10 minutes. Serve hot. 

We were fortunate to be cooking at Mom's house where she maintains a great herb garden including fresh sage and thyme. We also indulged in the last of the summer's vegetables from Mom's garden as well and had a simple crunchy salad of homegrown tomatoes, diced peppers and cucumber dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt & pepper.
For dessert we served the Cardamom-Ginger Peach Cobbler that I made yesterday warmed up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Absolute heaven on a plate!

Since the salad came straight from the garden we estimate the entree came to $3.06 per person and dessert was about $1.17 per person. ($4.23 total). Although I think SlowFood USA will be pleased, don't call this a "value meal" - this was an evening with two of my favorite cooks and the warm, sweet memory of classic, comforting dinners with Grammie.

1 comment:

  1. It is infinitely interesting to me that for many of us, SlowFood USA's $5 Challenge was really no challenge at all. Like you, I am frequently inclined to channel my grandmother when in the kitchen, and the results are simple, delicious and completely satisfying.


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