Chicken and Dumplings - PR Style

Chicken and dumplings is one of the ultimate comfort foods. It's great any time of the season, and it warms the heart and stomach. In Puerto Rican cuisine we have domplines (dumplings---pronounced dom-plee-ness) and pollo frito (fried chicken), and it's a great combination. In our tribe, the person who made the best dumplings was my grandmother, Adelaida, known to all as Doña Lala. She would make domplines for breakfast with ham and eggs, or for dinner with the fried chicken. She had it down to a science and could whip up a batch of dumplings in minutes. The domplines recipe given below is her magic creation. The fried chicken recipe is my mom's---and she cooked it too ways. The first variation was simply marinated chicken pieces which are floured and then deep-fried. That's the second recipe noted. She also had another variation in which the chicken is cooked in  its own marinade combined with chicken bouillon or broth, lending a more heady flavor. It you want that recipe, then get my cookbook Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Avalon Books - Running Press) where both versions are highlighted along with a host of other Nuyorican wonders. 

(Puerto Rican Dumplings)

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Combine flour, baking powder and shortening in a glass bowl.
2. Add salt to water and add to flour, a bit at a time, while mixing with a wooden spoon until it forms a doughy consistency.
3. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead continuously with hands until soft.
4. Form kneaded dough into a horseshoe shape and set aside.
5. Fill a cast-iron or heavy bottomed skillet halfway with vegetable oil. Heat until oil is very hot. Break off a small piece of dough and shape into a round patty. Dip patty into skillet and stir-fry until golden (about 5 minutes). Repeat until dough is all gone. Remove and drain on adsorbent paper towels.
    Yield: About 20 dumplings.
Note: If a little color is desired, 4 or 5 tablespoons of achiote (annatto seeds cooked in olive oil---again, recipe in cookbook) can be added to the flour during the first step. This will reder truly golden-yellow dumplings.

(Fried Chicken)

1 fryer chicken, about 2 1/2 pounds, cut into generous bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup flour

1. Rinse chicken pieces under cold, running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Place chicken in a bowl and rub with crushed garlic. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano and onion powder. Rub seasoning well into chicken pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Mix to combine. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes. If you really want strong flavors, refrigerate overnight.
3. Heat a generous amount of oil (1" to 1 1/2" deep) to medium temperature (about 340°) in a heavy bottomed pot, large skillet or deep fryer.
4. Remove chicken from marinade and dust lightly with flour. Use your hands to toss and coat each piece thorougly.
5. Add chicken pieces to hot oil, a few at a time and deep-fry until golden brown and crisp (3 to 5 minutes),  turning the individual pieces as they cook. Remove and drain on absorbent paper towels. Serve piping hot with the domplines.
    Yield: 4 servings.
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