"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Cookin' Game is a Part of Hunting
Copyright © 2002 by Bill Scifres

A strange thing happened to my pot of rabbit dumplings the other day. It became a pot of cream of rabbit-dumpling soup. But that's not all bad, I thought--licking the juice off my chin. And what, you may ask, do pots of rabbit dumplings or cream of rabbit-dumpling soup have to do with hunting which is on the minds of thousands of Hoosier outdoors folks. Easy question, coach! These dishes--and hundreds of others that utilize wild game birds and animals as prime ingredients--are our best motivation for hunting. This drive motivated our pilgrim forefathers to hunt and it seems safe to say the bill of fare probably would have been fairly skimpy for that first Thanksgiving had not somebody hunted.

"And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."--Genesis 1:28.

Now, back to those rabbit dumplings, but first I must explain that I have never pooh-poohed drop dumplings. They are very good. But I grew up on rolled out dumplings and that is my preference. For some time I have had a hankerin' for some good old, Southern Indiana rabbit dumplings. So I decided to do it. Here's how:

I placed one fat rabbit (seven pieces, four legs and three back pieces with kidneys--surrounded by fat--still attached) in a sauce pan and sprinkled the meat liberally with salt before covering it with cold water and adding three tablespoons of olive oil. I covered the pan with a snug lid, turned the heat to medium to bring the water to a slow boil, then turned it down to simmer for about one hour. The meat was turned occasionally to assure equal cooking for all pieces, especially the back legs and the back pieces.

When well cooked, and cooled a bit, the meat could be easily pinched off the bones to await further attention. While waiting for the rabbit meat to cool, I added a little water to the stock and brought it to a boil. While waiting for the stock to boil, I sifted 1 1/2 cups of flour in a shallow cereal bowl. That left the flour in a rounded pyramid-like shape in the cereal bowl.  Pushing my finger into the apex of the flour pyramid, and wiggling it a bit, I created a hole in the flour all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Then I salted and peppered the flour liberally.

When the stock was boiling, I dipped out roughly one cup of it and poured it into the hole I had made in the flour, before turning the heat off under the stock. Then, with a table fork, I stirred the stock into the flour and turned it out on a piece of floured foil roughly one foot wide and two feet long. This was kneaded lightly into a sphere the size of a tennis ball, then patted and rolled flat to about 1/8 inch thick and cut into one-inch squares with a dull table knife. Each individual dumpling then was turned over with the knife to dry a bit. Half an hour later the stock was brought to a boil again and one-by-one the dumplings were dropped in. The dumplings and stock were stirred constantly to keep them from sticking together, and when the last dumpling was in the stock, the remaining flour on the foil was stirred in. Then the pan was covered and the heat was turned down to a slow bubble. Slow cooking must continue to cook the dumplings and remove the taste of flour.

About half of the pinched-up rabbit rabbit meat was stirred in as the dumplings cooked. Slowly, as the rabbit and dumplings cooked, the stock grew thicker and when the dumplings were growing tender I exercised CP (cook's prerogative) with a sample of my dish in a small cup. "Yummy!"

That was my reaction to the first taste, but this also touched off a question. How would it be if I added some pre-cooked diced potatoes, carrot rings, onion slices, whole kernel corn and some peas? It was like waving a red flag at a bull. So I pre-cooked the potatoes, carrot rings, onions, peas and corn in another sauce pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. When they were growing tender, they were strained out of the stock which was thickened with flour and stirred into the dumplings and rabbit along with the vegetables. And my rabbit dumplings, which were nothing shy of excellent, became cream of rabbit-dumpling-veggie soup in the twinkle of a taste bud.


A Tip or Two: The flour in the dumplings and the extra flour used to keep the dumplings from sticking to the foil will help thicken the dumplings. But if you want to make the dish thicker, make thickening (the "cream" for the  soup). 

Start with four or five tablespoons of the stock in a pan. Stir in enough flour to make a paste-like substance (roux, pronounced "roo" by the big-time cooks, but it is a paste-like substance to country boys). As the paste-like substance cooks, it will grow thicker. At this point slowly stir in more stock (or even plain water or milk) and allow it to cook while stirring. 

When it reaches the desired thickness, stir the thickening into the combined dumplings and cooked veggies . . . You may, of course, use cornstarch in place of flour. But whatever you use, remember that cooking brings about the thickening . . . Don't overcook your dumplings. 

Keep the dish refrigerated and heat leftovers in a microwave--or even on the stove--in amounts you think you will use. Dumplings heated repeatedly can become mushy . . . Dumpling dishes can start with many species of game birds and animals, even venison. Combined with various fruits or berries and sugar, they become a tremendous dessert. 

 


 
All columns are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from his heirs.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Scifres Family, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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