Monday, February 20, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings

These dumplings are light and airy, not heavy
and glutenous--and certainly not "biscuit-like."

While chicken and dumplings is a meal I did not grow up with, it's one I plan to grow old with. I really didn't discover it until mid-age. Think of it as a de-constructed pot pie. It's comfort food at its best: warm and filling. And it goes together pretty easily.

For some people, "dumplings" are a rolled-out affair similar to pasta and can be purchased pre-made and frozen. I prefer the dropped-type--soft and airy to soak up the broth. I don't shred the chicken but leave it whole on the bone. And I use chicken thighs for their meaty, juicy character. They usually come four to package, perfect for this recipe. And they are inexpensive.

I used baby carrots . . . but still cut them up.

I do recommend a heavy-bottom Dutch oven. I use cast-iron, enamel-lined. For light dumplings, use part all-purpose flour and, if you access to it, White Lily flour; if not, use cake flour. Some people prefer to add part cornmeal for a sturdier dumpling. 

Serves 2-4

Chicken Base

  • 1.5 - 2 pounds, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion (part leek works well, too)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons sherry (optional)


  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup White Lily Flour or cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons shortening, lard, butter or chicken fat
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut along the bone on the underside of each thigh being careful not to go all the way through. this release the meat and allows it to cook evenly.

Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture. Heat pan. Add about 1 tablespoon peanut oil if you have it, or cooking/olive oil. Brown chicken evenly on both sides, about 10 minutes or so, working in batches, if necessary. Remove to a plate.

Remove the oil/fat from the pot and, if desired, use some of it to form your dumplings. Wipe out the pot.

Add a bit of olive oil to the pot and add the onion, half the carrots, and the celery. Saute until soft. Add the pressed garlic, thyme, and turmeric. Stir until fragrant.

Add the chicken broth and, if using, the sherry. Bring to a simmer and then nestle the chicken pieces in the "soup" mixture, returning any juices that have collected on the plate. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes until meat is tender, adding the rest of the carrots about half-way through. When done, add the frozen peas just before adding the dumplings.

Make the dumplings:

Add dry ingredients to a small food processor. Pulse.

Add whatever fat you are using. I used 1 tablespoon lard and 1 tablespoon chicken fat. Pulse just until blended. Place mixture in a small bowl and add the buttermilk, stirring gently until flour is incorporated.

Drop by heaping tablespoons on top of chicken, using one spoon to dislodge the dough from the measuring spoon. Allow to cook uncovered for ten minutes. Cover and simmer for ten more minutes.

The steam will cook the dumplings and they will have doubled in size. They will also thicken the "stew."

Now, if you'll excuse me . . . I have a plate to lick . . .

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