Well, the rain is back. It feels right, really. Like, the only thing that’s made sense so far this year is the return of the grey skies and precipitation to this PNW town. (Aw, man. I hope I didn’t jinx it–after all, it’s only September…) I ponder this as I sip my spicy chai and munch on a slice of sourdough layered with ricotta cheese and homemade concord grape/serrano pepper preserves. It’s good to have a roof over my head. It’s even better to have whole milk cheese and spicy grape jelly. It’s comfort food season, and for me, that means chicken and dumplings.
I’d never made chicken and dumplings before this year–in fact, had never tasted it–but I saw Alison Roman’s recipe with the New York Times and had to give it a try.
I was reminded of Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon as I scraped browned bits of meat from the bottom of my Dutch oven and wondered briefly if this humble American staple perhaps had French roots.
A Google search informed me it’s accredited to the southern United States and gained notoriety during the Great Depression. It kinda makes sense. The chicken is cooked in such a way that the meat falls off the bone, so it’s easy to use whatever animal scraps are on hand; and the hearty, flour-rich broth and steamed dumplings make for a cheap, filling meal. Plus, it’s actually a very satisfying bowl of stew, if I can call it that. It’s kind of its own thing. You’ll just have to make it for yourself and see.
Chicken and Dumplings (Based on Alison Roman’s Recipe)
I happened to have a whole chicken from my foray into the local farmer’s market this past weekend; thus began the adventure of “butchering” my own bird into recognizable pieces.
I watched a slew of instructional Youtube videos and channeled my inner Julia Child as I held my knife to where the leg meets the rest of the bird, daring it to challenge me.
Turns out, it’s actually kinda fun. Carving out two thighs, two drumsticks, two wings, and two breasts rewards you not only with the palatable meat, but the carcass (perfect for making stock!!) which I immediately sealed in a ziplock back and placed in the freezer.
I don’t know if it was the crunching of bones or the smell of raw meat, but both animals hovered around me as I cut.
After carving the bird and seasoning the pieces with salt and pepper, I gathered the necessary ingredients to make the quick stock.
Well, I should add everything here is organic, mostly local, and free range–I am referring, of course, to the thyme! (Stand down, Chris D’Elia. This girl’s got jokes!)
I can feel your eye rolls from here, so I’ll carry on to the meat browning in my beloved Le Creuset!
Then, drain the fat into a liquid measuring cup and set the seared meat on a plate with a paper towel.
Then, add celery, onion, and half the carrots. Cook for a few minutes, then add water, thyme, and seared meat. Not to worry–those brown crusty bits end up coating the veggies as they release moisture during the cooking process. Mmmmm!
This gets cooked at a simmer for a little over a half an hour, or until the liquid has reduced by 1/4. Then it’s time to make and add the dumplings!
Once you dollop the dumpling dough into the broth, it’s time to cover and steam for about 20 minutes! Check a dumpling by cutting it in half to make sure it’s cooked through all the way–and boom! You just made chicken and dumplings! 🙂
Chicken and Dumplings
- 1.5-2 lbs skin-on chicken on the bone, preferably thighs or other dark meat
- 2 Tbs canola oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 5 celery stocks, chopped
- 6 medium or 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch slices
- 5 sprigs thyme
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbs butter (add more as needed)
- Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Dumplings and Presentation
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- ¾ cup buttermilk, or 2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar added to milk of your choice, equaling ¾ cup
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 Tbs melted butter (I used salted)
- ½ cup parsley, chopped (for garnish)
Season chicken generously on all sides with salt and pepper and let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. Heat canola oil in a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven (I used Le Creuset) and place the chicken skin side down in the oil. Cook about 8 minutes, or until chicken skin appears golden brown and fat is rendered from the meat. Flip and cook another 5 minutes or so. Using tongs, transfer chicken to a plate with a paper towel, and pour the rendered fat into a liquid measuring cup or bowl. Ideally, you will have 5 Tbs total. If your chicken was not so fatty, add the necessary amount of canola oil to make 5 Tbs.
Return 2 Tbs of fat to the pot and add onions, celery, and half of the carrots. (Don’t worry about the browned bits on the bottom of the pot—as the vegetables cook and release water, any chicken “crusties” will dissolve and their wonderful flavor will be incorporated!) Season vegetables with salt and freshly cracked pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pot with thyme and 8 cups of water. Simmer uncovered until the liquid has reduced by about ¼, about 35 minutes.
Pull chicken from the pot and transfer to a plate with a fresh paper towel. Strain the stock with a colander over a bowl and throw the vegetables and thyme sprigs out; you should have about 5 cups of liquid. Wipe out the Dutch oven, if you feel so inclined.
Heat the last 3 Tbs of chicken fat with 1 Tbs of butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk until it is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil, being careful to work out lumps. Add remaining carrots and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Lower heat to a simmer as you pull apart the chicken meat from the bones. Cook and stir until the mixture is thickened and the carrots are tender, around 10 minutes.
As this mixture is thickening, make the dumplings. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Mix buttermilk and beaten egg together, and add to the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Mix until just incorporated with a rubber spatula, being careful not to over mix. (Being careful to gently mix during this time makes for tender dumplings!)
Dollop the dumpling dough into the hot liquid in a heaping tablespoon, taking care to give the edges an opportunity to make contact with the broth and absorb the flavor. When all of the dough has been placed into the pot, cover and cook for 18 minutes, or until a sacrificial dumpling is fluffy and cooked all the way through when cut in half. Scoop your chicken and dumplings into a bowl and enjoy with chopped parsley or the herb of your choice.