I don’t know about all of you, but I am thoroughly enjoying the New Year thus far. Michael and I have been having a splendidly relaxing time up north at our cabin for the last week or so. One of the highlights would definitely have to be cooking over the campfire. For Christmas, I was given a nice, big cast iron Dutch Oven and a tripod for using it over the fire. We couldn’t wait to try it out, so we didn’t let the frigid 14-degree Michigan temperatures sway us from our mission.
Chicken and Dumplings was the very first meal that I cooked for Michael when we got married. Truth be told, it was not received to the rave reviews that my current cooking is. He was exceedingly polite, and very grateful for my well-intended home cooked meals. I ate it too, and knew I had my work cut out for me to get more comfortable and adventurous in the kitchen. (Boy oh boy, a lot can change in 10 years!) I was very young and nervous to cook for my husband. I used a dumpling mix, canned stock, and frozen vegetables. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but in comparison to all fresh vegetables and from-scratch dumplings they are two very different meals. This time we both genuinely loved the flavor and the experience. Plus, I wasn't nervous, so that was nice too.
We had so much fun all bundled up in the freezing cold. We cooked by the light from the fire, and a few candles on the picnic table. I no sooner got my tray of prepped ingredients arranged, and set the table before it started to snow. Our bowls began to fill with snow while we cooked and kept warm by the fire. It was sort of magical. It may sound dramatic, and may be something that many people would not find much enjoyment in, but it was one of those times where all was right in our little world.
This recipe can easily be made indoors on the stove if you don’t happen to have a campfire nearby. For best results, use homemade chicken stock. If you’ve never made your own chicken stock before, I encourage you to try it at least once. All you need to do is simmer a pot of water with the scraps and bones from roasting a chicken, and throw in an onion and some carrots and celery. Simmer for a few hours, then strain. Homemade stock freezes really well too. My freezer is jammed with turkey stock to last me quite a while.
If you don’t have the time to make homemade chicken stock from scratch in time for dinner, another great thing you can do to sort of amp up the flavor of store-bought stock is to bring it to a simmer and add in some bones from roasting a few bone-in chicken breasts. Simmer it for about 30 minutes or so while you prep the rest of your ingredients, and you’ll have a much more flavorful stock that could easily pass as homemade. It works really well.
I hope all of you had a great holiday season. Stay safe and warm!