Friday, March 12, 2010

Peas and Dumplings

The dumplings in this recipe are egg dumplings-- smaller and heavier than the dumplings in chicken and dumplings -- more like spaetzle. The broth is lighter and more broth-like, and soupier (like chowder) than the broth in chicken and dumplings. This is an old family recipe from northern New York State, handed down by my mother and grandmother. It is best made when fresh peas are in season, but can be made with frozen peas.

Peas and Dumplings
From the kitchens of Mary Jane Zahn and Elta Zahn
(Makes 4-6 servings)
8 oz. fresh peas, shelled
½ cup water
2 tsp. salt, divided
1 ½ quarts milk (6 cups) -- for broth
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 eggs
Extra milk (1/2 eggshell full) – for dumplings
1 cup all-purpose flour, very slightly round, approximately – add more or less, as necessary to achieve correct consistency.
(NOTE: there is no baking powder in this recipe)
Peas and broth:
In a large pot (6-7 quart), bring ½ cup water to boil. Add peas and gently stir, only so they are hot, not cooked. Add milk, butter and 1 tsp. salt. Taste for flavor. Bring to a simmer and drop dumplings when ready.
Mix together the cup of flour with 1 tsp. salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the 4 eggs with the ½ eggshell full amount of milk. Add the flour/salt mixture by tablespoonfuls, mixing thoroughly after each addition. The final consistency should be something like cream of wheat, but maybe a little stiffer (when dumpling drops from a spoon, the consistency should not hold it’s shape like a biscuit, but be softer – and should easily drop. Too much flour makes a tougher dumpling; too little flour will cause dumplings to cook into the broth like gravy).
Cooking the dumplings:
Drop by small amounts (about 1/2 tbsp) into the simmering broth. Cook -- simmering and uncovered -- for 15 minutes. After a minute or two, gently stir to make sure they are not sticking to the bottom (may have to scrape them off the bottom) and gently stir from time to time until they are done. Broth should simmer and gently bubble around dumplings. The final consistency of the broth is like chowder. Serve in bowls immediately when ready.