Chicken and Dumplings Southwest Style

It has been literally months since we here in California have had a good rainfall. That all changed yesterday when the storm door finally opened bringing us a weekend filled with rain and I couldn’t be happier.

Mexican Chicken Soup with Corn Dumplings
While I would rather spend my time outside enjoying nature I’m quite content to stay inside this weekend and work on some genealogy research and cook up some comfort food. Add some time to watch a few movies and perhaps catch up on some reading and I think the weekend is going to be pretty wonderful.

After checking several comfort food style recipes I decided to try a Southwestern style chicken and dumplings recipe from Sunset Magazine, Nov 2003. Chicken thighs are simmered slowly with onion, red pepper Mexican style canned tomatoes, chicken stock and enchilada sauce producing a rich, somewhat spicy but not too spicy stew. The dumplings have cornmeal and pickled jalapeño chilies in them and are the perfect accompaniment to the chicken. You could always substitute chopped green chilies if you don’t think you’d like the pickled ones. The only thing I might add to the stew would be some sliced carrots. I also liked the addition of a little fresh cilantro just before serving. Otherwise it was very tasty and easy to fix. The perfect comfort food for a rainy evening.

You can find the recipe here.

Kumquat Digestif – The Perfect Ending To a Party!

Are you one of those people whose  friends are always giving a little bag of this or that? I am. My friends know that I don’t like to waste anything and so often their excess becomes this weeks project on how to use what ever it is they have given me.  Such was the case when a friend gave me a small sack of kumquats. I knew that they were a type of citrus and I had heard that the rind was edible and tasted sweet, but that the flesh was quite acidic and sour. Acidic is not one of my favorite flavors but I thought, there must be something I can do with these outside of making marmalade, which I don’t really like.

The answer came amazingly not after an Internet sleuth but after digging around in my recipe clippings, Kumquat digestif. A digestif, for those of you who might not be familiar with the term, is it is a drink that’s imbibed as an aid to digestion after a meal and is often more alcoholic than an aperitif which is served before. Armagnacs, cognacs, scotch, brandies and whiskeys and some heavy and sweet wines such as, Madeira, port, and sherry, all of which I like, are digestifs. So based on how much I like all of the aforementioned,  I thought the Kumquat version would be perfect. I also had a party coming up and thought it would be fun to try the Kumquat digestif on my friends.

The recipe is from Sunset Magazine, November 2009 and I find it interesting that I had clipped a recipe for a fruit I had never tried and one that I knew to be acidic in taste. Funny how some things happen.


Kumquat Digestif

Makes 2 ½ cups

Time About 20 minutes, plus infusing time of at least 3 weeks

½ cup sugar

2 cups vodka

10 kumquats cut in half lengthwise, plus 5 to 6 whole

Several branches fresh thyme

In a medium saucepan, heat sugar with ½ cup water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

Stir in vodka. Pour mixture into a decanter or jar and add kumquats (halves first) and thyme. Chill at least 3 weeks. Serve ice-cold, in shot glasses.

I’d definitely try this again and my guests gave it a “two thumbs up” rating too. The article said that this was good over ice cream too.

A little history: There are several kinds of kumquat, round and oval. The kind I was given was the oval variety. Kumquats come from trees that are native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific. The earliest historical reference to kumquats appears in Chinese 12th century literature. They were introduced to Europe in 1846 and to North America shortly thereafter. The English name “kumquat” derives from the Cantonese word kam kwat, which translates to “golden orange”.

An interesting article: Here’s an interesting story written in 2008, by Susan Russo for NPR, Kumquats: Discovering the Sweetness of Sour. It contains a lot more information and some tasty sounding recipes.

When The Season Hands You Lemons – Bake a Danish Lemon Apple Tart!

This weekend I picked up some plump, juicy Eureka lemons at the Farmers Market knowing just what I was going to use them for. Lovingly tucked away in my recipe files is a clipping, from Sunset Magazine circa 1970, highlighting a scrumpshish Danish Lemon Apple Tart. The clipping is yellowed, the paper is limp when you handle it and there are numerous little spots spattered about from years of use. It’s just one of those keepers I find I use over and over.

First you make the pastry crust by placing 1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour into a bowl with 2 tablespoons sugar. Add 6 tablespoons butter and crumble with your fingers until mixture becomes fine and crumbly, Stir in 2 egg yolks with a fork, then work dough well with your hands until it forms a smooth, non-crumbly ball.

On a lightly floured board, roll out dough to fit an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a 1-inch rim.

Press dough in place and prick with a fork.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on rack.

For the filling, beat four eggs in the top of a double boiler, then beat in ¾ cup sugar, 4 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, and grated lemon peel from 1 lemon.

Place over simmering water and cook, stirring constantly, until lemon mixture becomes thickened. Remove from heat; chill.

For apple topping, peel and core  four large apples and slice into 1/16ths. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a frying pan, add 2/3 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and the apple slices. Cook over medium heat, lifting apples with a fork to cook them evenly, until they turn transparent, about 10 mintes cooking time; cook down juices until they almost disappear.

Spread the cooled lemon filling in the baked crust; with a fork, lift hot apple slices one at a time onto the filling, arranging them as in the first photo. Spoon any remaining apple syrup over the apple slices. Chill before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market


Apples – Any of these varieties are recommended: Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Jonagold, Jonathan, Liberty, McIntosh, Melrose, Newtown Pippin, Rome Beauty, Spartan, or Winesap


Postscript: It only took a second, as most accidents do, and my beautiful Lemon-apple tart  had  a large candle smashed onto one side of it. Apparently I bumped the candle when I was moving around trying to get the best angle.  Well, thank goodness I still had three good sides to photograph. The photography complete I fixed myself a cup of hot tea and I ate the broken pieces. When I brought out the tart that evening my grandson didn’t even ask why there were pieces missing. He was just happy I had dessert to offer.

The Squash Soup Throwdown!

After climbing into my car the other night after a meeting I checked my phone for messages. There was just one message; I received a voice mail from a friend asking me over for for dinner. She had cooked up a nice squash soup and wanted to share. Unfortunately, I had eaten dinner before the meeting and I had too had cooked up squash soup that very day. So, when I called her back she said, “then how about a squash soup throwdown lunch”. Great idea, I said, I’ll be there. For those of you not familiar with the phrase “throwdown” it comes from the cooking show Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, in which celebrity chef Bobby Flay challenges cooks renowned for a specific dish or type of cooking to a cook-off of their signature dish. In this case my friend, Tammi, was challenging me to bring my soup and compare it with the one she had made. I love a challenge and I love Tammi’s cooking. The throwdown was on.

The day of the throwdown arrived. I packed up my soup, the premixed dry ingredients for the Cheddar Scallion Drop Biscuits and some buttermilk and headed out into the drizzle, and over to Tammi’s place. As soon as she opened the door I could smell the wonderful scent of her soup and the cornbread she was baking. She poured us a glass of a very nice White Riesling. We toasted and then I busied myself heating up my soup, adding the buttermilk to the biscuit dry mix and dropping spoonfuls of the batter onto the baking sheet. Tammi’s cornbread was ready so we pulled it out of the oven then popped my biscuits in. Then we waited.

The soup I brought was from the Squash Bisque recipe I highlighted on a previous post. A creamy mixture of acorn squash, onion, carrots and potatoes simmered in chicken broth, then blended with some half and half. I also brought along some Cajun Style Andouille sausage that I diced and placed in the bottom of our soup bowls. The soup would be hot enough to heat the sausage eliminating the need to dirty up another pan. The Cheddar Scallion Drop Biscuits are from an Epicurious recipe I recently found that I wanted to try. I halved the recipe, but doubled the cheese and scallions on the advice of several readers’ comments. These little gems were the perfect accompaniment to my soup. They were crisp on the outside and moist and flavorful on the inside. The only thing I would change next time would be to use an extra sharp cheddar cheese instead of just sharp. They might also taste great substituting chopped green chilies for the scallions.

Tammi’s soup was a thick, earthy combination of roasted ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­butternut squash, sweet potato, apple, onion and garlic all spiced up with a little curry and Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, all simmered to perfection in coconut milk, sherry and chicken stock. When it was all tender it was blended. It was marvelous, as was the cornbread that was made with blue corn meal. I had just been reading the January issue of Sunset Magazine the day before and remembered reading an article that listed blue corn as one of the Top 10 Feel Good Foods. The article said that blue corn contains protein, iron and zinc in higher ratios than white corn and the corn’s blue anthocyanin is an antioxidant. After eating Tammi’s blue cornbread I would certainly agree that it was definitely a delicious, feel good food.

The throwdown was over.  Winner? I would like to think there were two very happy tummies at the competition that day and that they were both winners. And so I headed back to my place with a container of Tammi’s soup, some cornbread and the rest of my leftovers. Yesterday I mixed Tammi’s leftover soup with my own and feasted on the most marvelous soup I have had in a while. Sometimes teamwork is the best solution.  The leftover cornbread and biscuits weren’t bad either.

Pick up some winter squash this weekend at the Farmers’ Market then call a friend and throwdown a challenge. It’s great fun.