It was 9 °F when we arrived at Pipestone Canyon Ranch in Eastern Washington’s Methow Valley. Greeted by icy mountain air and curls of campfire smoke, we stood in awe of the snow-blanketed property. Thick cloud cover helped keep the temperature bearable, while a trio of bonfires warmed our hands and cheeks. A pristine sledding hill beckoned the offspring—and a few brave adults. At the foot of the sledding hill, not far from the barn door, Chef Grant Crilly tended the fourth and most crucial fire. This one supplied heat to an immense Cowboy Cauldron and its enticing contents: Grant’s Campfire Chicken and Corn Dumplings. More than 25 gallons of the rich brew roiled away inside, enough to feed a whole growing company—and then some. We all hovered in close around the soup, inviting it to steam our noses. When we got too cold, we ducked into a nearby tent outfitted with a wood-fired stove, or headed to the barn for mulled wine or hot toddies studded with star anise. Everywhere, the air was heavy with aromatics that can only come from a long, slow cook.
By sunset, the soup was almost ready. But first we had to make the dumplings! A few at a time, ChefSteppers and their families helped scoop the prepared mixture into the massive cauldron. Grant showed us how to form the dumplings with a spoon and flick our wrists just so, landing the batter neatly into the soup. Then we made sure to clean our spoons in the boiling liquid. “Clean spoons make good dumplings,” Grant advised. (His were, of course, perfect.) When the dumplings puffed up and floated to the top, it was time to dig in. We lined up, bowls in hand, giddy with the anticipation of what promised to be a highly memorable meal. But first, there was a toast: “I have come to believe that there is nothing more human and more family than cooking and sharing a meal together in an intimate setting,” said Grant. “Cooking a meal for someone is as close as I know how to really nurture another person. I want to spend my life helping others find that as well, learning how to slow down, be present, and give a little of yourself to someone else you love.” All that _and_ he can cook? No wonder we love this guy.
Now, who’s hungry for some chicken and dumplings?