Chicken ‘n Dumplings

It took me a long time to draft this post. Making this dish gave me such nostalia for my childhood, my mom, my grandma – just to be little again.

I have fond and vivid memories of making chicken and dumplings with my mom. I can picture us both at the stove with her telling me just when to put the dumplings in and how to know when they are ready.

My mom is not a big fan of cooking. She does it and likes it OK but it is really not her thing and Lauren is the same. They want to get in, get out and get on with it. But dumplings are different. This was a process and she always seemed to enjoy it and us with her. I know my mom made them with her mom and hence a tradition was born.

I always remember my mom telling me the story of her mother, my Granny, saying that the dumplings would be “inedible” with no salt. Never one to cave, my mom persisted and I loved to salt and pepper those flat dumplings back when I didn’t use salt and pepper at all. Foreshadowing – I should have listened to my mom not my Granny.

To start with, these are not “drop” dumplings, those gooey masses of dough but “cut” dumplings, rolled out and cut then slipped into the boiling water. I got inspired to make these (I have not in years) when I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. I knew I would like to recreate it but without the drop dumplings. And the peas. Gross, who puts peas in dumplings? People from New York apparently.

Here are the dumplings simmering away in the broth. Such a comfort food. There was a glorious afternoon when the boys were playing outside with Alex and I got to just be with my kitchen and my memories.

I halved the recipe and just used one package of drumsticks which was the perfect amount for me for two dinners and the boys for one dinner. I was not certain the boys would like it, which they did and I knew Alex would not (turns out he did as well) so half was perfect. I also totally, totally over salted them. The broth is plenty salty and you can always add (I know, Momma, I know) but you can’t take it back. Do as I say, not as I do.

Chicken and Dumplings with Leeks and Tarragon
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, February 2005 and Smitten Kitchen
5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs/drumsticks
Table salt and ground black pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
2 medium leeks , white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch pieces
1 shallot, minced
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional)
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves
2 cups flour
1 egg
Milk to moisten
1. For the stew: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the chicken and cook until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin. Pour off the chicken fat and reserve. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken. Pour off and reserve any chicken fat.
2. Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves. Nestle the chicken, with any accumulated juices, into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 1 hour.
3. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones, then return it to the stew.
4. While the chicken is cooking,make the dumplings. Pile the flour up on a large cutting board (or your counter top). Make a small well in the center for the egg and milk. Crack the egg into the well and whisk slightly. Start by pulling the outside flour into the wet mixture and continue until you have a dough like substance. Do not over mix or they will become tough. Once it is just mixed, roll out the dough and cut  2 x2 inch dumplings (or whatever size you like) with knife or kitchen shears. Do not salt. For the love of God, do not salt.
5. Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the tarragon, and season with salt and pepper. Once the stew is at a rolling boil (you might need to add more broth to get it to really boil) drop the dumplings directly into one of the boiling bubbles. Wait for it is pop back up to the top before you drop the next one. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have puffed a bit and are done, 10 -15 minutes. Serve.

Here is James enjoying the dumplings. Well, enjoying them as much as James enjoys anything while I am taking his picture. He is saying “cheese” with a mouth full of dumplings.

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