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.