Pairing: Chicken and Dumplings Paired with a 2015 Baldwin Apple Wine (Homemade)
Food: My wife and I have been raising chickens for eggs and meat for over 40 years. The chickens raised for meat are fast-growing hybrids that take about 10 weeks to reach 4-5 pounds dressed weight. The layers are heritage breeds like New Hampshire Reds, Rhode Island Red, and Barred Plymouth Rocks that grow much more slowly and reach maturity in about 4 months. They give us wonderful eggs (5-6 eggs per week) for about 3 years. When they get old and stop producing, it’s time for them to embark on their final destination. At this advanced age they are referred to as fowl, a very positive designation … a bit too tough to eat when roasted, grilled, fried, etc. However, the fowl has an unmatched deep, rich chicken flavor that is ideal for soups, stews or any long slow cooking like chicken fricassee, often called Chicken and Dumplings. If you have no source of an old hen (check with your butcher who may be able to get you one) you can substitute a regular roasting chicken. But … if you can get your hands on some fowl … well, you won’t believe the flavor.
Recipe for Chicken and Dumplings
Cut up a 4-5 pound chicken, including the back, and sauté in butter until well browned. Add water to cover, sliced onion, carrot, celery, 4 pepper corns, and simmer for 45 minutes. If the chicken is old, cook for 45 minutes more. Either way, add 2 tsp of salt at this point. Cool the chicken and strain the broth. Remove the meat from the bones. Thicken 2 cups of the broth with flour made into a roux with butter. Put the chicken into a stove-top pan (cast iron if you have it) with enough of the thickened broth to come up 3/4 of the way on the meat. Stir in the vegetables from previous cooking and bring to a simmer. Make dumplings from flour, milk, celery seed, and baking powder. Dollop the dumplings on the meat and heat uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and continue to cook for 10 minutes more. Serve.
Wine: It’s mid-November. The apple harvest season is just about over here in New Hampshire. Among the last apples to ripen are the Baldwins. A few hangers-on cling tenaciously to the now bare branches. An ancient Baldwin stands like an aging sentry still guarding our house. It has seen over a hundred winters. Its gnarled trunk with gaping holes big enough that one can pass one’s entire arm through it is testament to its tenacious resolve to survive. It fruits now about every three years. Small apples but with the unmistakeable sweet sharp snap of a Baldwin.
For 25 years, we’ve been making wine from the fallen gems of this grand old tree, always worried that this may be its last hurrah. Year after year, the extraordinary wine made from its fruit is consistently the finest apple wine we’ve ever tasted. The 2018 vintage is quietly fermenting in the carboy tucked deep into a cool corner of the dining room. And we hope for a 2021 harvest to bring us yet another exquisite, incomparable, and memorable wine from this venerable old friend.
Tasting Notes: A red-gold color (almost a blush in some years). An aroma of clean, fresh, country air and ripe red apple (no surprise there). The flavor is like biting into a Baldwin apple (another surprise!); spicy with notes of mulled cider; a pronounced taste of cream sherry (definitely a surprise!); dry, not sweet … demi-sec. The wine is a perfect complement to the deep, rich flavor of the fowl. Chicken and apples are made for each other!
Other Wines That Pair Well with Chicken and Dumplings: Gewurztraminer (Alsace), Chardonnay (California), Riesling (New York)
Other Food That Pairs Well with Apple Wine: Ham, Roast Pork, Cheese (soft and aged … actually pairs well with a whole bunch of cheeses)
A Source: Local Apple Orchards