A complaint I’ve heard throughout our long and wearing home isolation is: “I am so sick of cooking.” Even those of us who love cooking treasure nights out at favorite restaurants.

At first, we had the joy of spring’s beautiful weather and the great outdoors of our own backyards. Then came the growing season with Creole tomatoes, corn on the cob, an abundance of fresh herbs and lots of green veggies. Cooking was indeed a pleasure.

Then extreme heat knocked out cocktails on the patio, we glued ourselves to air-conditioning and boredom beset us. Because we chose not to gather inside a restaurant and it was too hot to eat outside, our cooking – that is, my husband’s and mine – began to venture from the norm. We experimented with Asian and Mexican recipes and found some of them easy and delicious. The key was shopping at international grocery stores where all the ingredients were available at one stop.

Next, we went back to our youth for ideas, including my mother’s recipe box that is still in a kitchen drawer. The best was my childhood favorite, chicken and dumplings, a dish I often requested on my birthday. It not only brought back memories, it was so good we plan to put it on our regular menus.

I’m guessing a lot of folks will come out of these days with new ideas for cooking, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the younger set are learning to cook for the first time. I hope so. As much as I love restaurant dining, especially in New Orleans, there’s a lot to be said for crafting your own meals and dining comfortably at home.


Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients

  • 4 to 6 bone-in chicken thighs
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper and Creole seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon roasted chicken base*
  • 4 to 5 frozen buttermilk biscuits
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup whole milk

Directions

1. Remove any excess skin and fat from chicken, leaving most of skin on. Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning.

2. Heat butter in a large pot with a cover such as a Dutch oven. Brown chicken thighs on both sides and remove from skillet. Sauté onion, celery and garlic in remaining butter, adding another tablespoon if needed. Put chicken back in skillet and cover with water by about 1 inch. Add seasonings, mix in base and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature to low, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Spoon off excess fat and discard.

3. An hour before serving, remove biscuits from freezer. Thaw for 30 minutes. During that time, whisk together milk and flour until smooth. Heat pot with chicken to medium-hot and gradually stir in milk-flour mixture, stirring until thickened.

4. Cut biscuits into 4 pieces each, and drop one at a time into pot, adjusted to medium heat. Cover and cook until dumplings are puffed up and tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste for seasonings, and add salt and pepper if needed. Remove loose skins and bay leaf. Serves 4 to 6, depending on how many chicken thighs and biscuits are used.

*A concentrated base for stock. Better Than Bouillon is a brand widely sold in stores.