OT: Your favorite cold weather dinners

It’s cold. Colder than what? You know the answer.

But what’s the answer for dinner on the coldest of cold days?

I know the most popular answer – good old chili.

But what I remember my mom making on a cold day – and what fired me up – was chicken and dumplings.

So that’s what I decided to make today. I do it the old fashioned way by boiling and then de-boning a whole chicken. I season the chicken with Magic Chick Dust from the Townsend Spice Store in Melbourne. The broth – and I add some heavy whipping cream late in the process – is just amazing stuff.

I’ve got chopped carrots, corn (straight off the cob), peas, celery and some onions. Oh boy, oh boy!

I am not going to pretend that I make the dumplings from scratch. I mix mine from Bisquick. That’s all I have left to do.

My favorite part of the entire afternoon in this process is the humidity it adds to your house. Boiling the chicken is just a wonderful experience. The house smells good and it feels warmer. I’ve always heard adding a little humidity to the house is good on a cold day. I just did.

What is your favorite cold day meal? And if you say a banana split, you fail the class.

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Chili or taco soup are excellent choices, but today I made a big pot of beans—mixed pintos and red beans, with chopped fresh bell pepper and about half a sweet onion. Boiled the. For about 3 hours. The secret is browning some breakfast sausage(learned this from a Louisiana friend) about 1/2 a pound and dumping it in with the beans once they get boiling, and I always add several thick slices of ham that I cut up. Add the salt late in the cooking.

Did I mention the ground sausage was running around Ashley County about 2 weeks ago? My dad’s contribution with his homemade grind!

My house smelled so good today as I cooked this! Since the roads are so bad here and no clinic, I stayed home and caught up on charts and babysat the beans!

This works best over homemade cornbread!

I’ll go with the most popular. My wife makes great, spicy chili. Also, hard to beat hearty potato soup!

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Everyone has named all my favorites, potato soup, taco soup and chili, so I’ll add a couple. I am a stew guy so a good beef stew is great, and there is never a bad time for steak and baked potato.

We had a crock pot roast last night with all the veggies included. I have some of my chili already done for tomorrow night. Just pulled it out of the freezer. Second time around on chili is better.

You’re right Clay. Second time around chili is what I had yesterday!. My wife says the same thing. Also hard to beat are twice baked spuds and spicy BBQ beans to go with that steak that was mentioned. My mouth is starting to water…

I was going to say Vichyssoise but I won’t.

Clay your dumplings sound a lot like the homemade chicken pot pie my wife just got out of the oven. All the ingredients are the same except she makes the crust from scratch mixing in a little Bisquick. Really wonderful on a cold day.

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Shrimp gumbo isn’t bad on a cold day! I was going to prepare tonight. My wife kicked me out of the kitchen. She’s definitely the cook!!

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Jerry, do you make the roux from scratch? I know that’s the proper way to do it. But I’ve been told by a Cajun – and a really good cook – that he doesn’t make the roux any more. I thought that was horrible. He said the stuff you get in the store frozen is terrific and why spend all day making roux when it’s so easy and so good bought commercially.

We had a big family Christmas (on Jean Ann’s side) three years ago at Becca’s house. My son-in-law – the fishing guide – worked on roux all day and served shrimp gumbo.

I was in charge of getting the real Christmas meat. I ordered two briskets from Wright Barbecue in Johnson. They come already cooked in pouches. All you have to do is warm them. We had 28 people there. So I thought we needed two briskets. We got one ready and had the other in the ice box ready to warm up.

To my surprise, everyone flocked to the shrimp gumbo and it was the hit of the day. Kristopher knew to have plenty ready. He had two big pots.

The brisket – and Wrights makes wonderful brisket – was only about half consumed. That left us brisket for several days.

That was one week out from actual Christmas day. We had the second brisket for our reduced family for Christmas. Oh boy, oh boy. I had planned to cook some whole chickens beneath baby back ribs on my smoker, but we elected to save that for another day.

The point of all of this is that shrimp gumbo can trump about anything when done right, including Wright’s brisket and that’s a tall order.

I cheat the other way on my chicken and dumplings. I make the dumplings from scratch and it’s actually pretty easy. But anymore, I just buy a rotisserie chicken and tear off all the white meat and add it to the pot of dumplings cooked in chicken broth. I was never able to get the chicken and broth to be as good as my mother or grandmother, and my sister suggested I try the rotisserie chicken. So glad she did. It’s way easier and tastes better than my earlier attempts.

I’ve been told that’s a great way to do it. I get thumbs up from my wife with the way I’m cooking my chicken and dumplings now, so I’m not going to change. One of my fishing buddies said I’m wasting time – buy the rotisserie chicken at Harps as you say. He said, “You will be happy with the roasted lemon pepper chicken.” Just throw it in vegetable stock, as you do.

I’m good with the way I season it now. So I probably won’t change.

I started trying to do the chicken and dumplings about 15 years ago on nasty cold days when Jean Ann was an elementary PE teacher. The gym was never warm enough on those cold days. She’d come home needing something to warm her up. I’d surprise her with the chicken and dumplings. She knew it as soon as she came in the door from the garage that something great had been cooked.

I start preparations about 2 p.m. for a 6 p.m. dinner. It’s fun for me.

I have a short list of things I do well in the kitchen. One of the things that surprises some folks is my ability to bake a cake. I am not fancy, but I can produce a good cake for special evenings. Only problem with that is I love to eat the cakes. Jean Ann will have one small slice and that leaves the rest of the cake for me to eat over the next three or four days. It’s better that Becca and Kristopher live up the hill so I can give them half now. I’ve given half to neighbors in the past to keep from eating the whole thing.

Other things I love to cook: apple pancakes, baby back ribs, smoked whole chickens and steak. I’ve dabbled with the Sous Vide water cooker on thick pork chops. And I’ve been coached by Gage on shrimp and grits. So I’m expanding a little.

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As with any meal, the dessert must be the crowning part of the meal. One of the many good selections for this time of year is to open your freezer and mix half Brazos blackberries (from my back trellis) and half wild dewberries with just a touch of orange zest (my own secret which I am now sharing with you) and of course enough sugar for perfect sweetness and enough corn starch for thickening. After cooking in the microwave, I spoon on a cake type topping made from Pioneer baking mix (and sugar and melted butter and whole milk), sprinkle on a little more sugar and dust with cinnamon and finally brown in a 350 degree oven (middle shelf). (Fortunately, any of the fine main courses already discussed are excellent with this ending.)

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Gumbo -crawfish and wild game. If there will be guests, Mexican cornbread with chunks of quail meat in it (Clay, ask your younger Faulkner Co friend who’s a member at Blytheville Hunting Club)

I cooked a big pot of chicken and dumplings yesterday. I cheat on the dumplings and the chicken stock. I brown the chicken in butter and seasonings then bake in the oven while I cook the veggies in the pot…also in butter.

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Clay, I have to admit we use Kevin Beltons recipe for shrimp gumbo and andouille sausage. Saw it several years ago on tv. It’s unbelievable!

Wrights brisket is wonderful. The best (by far) that I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve traveled a lot especially all over Texass where they claim to have the best.

And the Wright family were very kind to our family when my niece passed almost 2 years ago. They were neighbors of hers. Really fine folks.

Tinker?

Tamales. I made up a recipe a few years ago. I buy the tamales frozen (I can hear the groans from all the made from scratch folks). Thaw the tamales. Put them in a pan in the oven and warm them up. Take out and add enchilada sauce (mild, medium or hot to your liking) and put back into the oven until the sauce is hot. Then take out and put (put, not sprinkle) cheese on top and the place in oven till cheese is browned to your liking.

Simple and really good.

JCS

JCS, I will try that. Whose tamales do you recommend?

oh yes