Chicken and Dumplings

Circle B Kitchen

Perhaps the quintessential comfort food, chicken and dumplings, if done well, is as about as heartwarming a dish as there is.  In order to achieve the "done well" part, I've learned a few tricks that I've noted below in the recipe.  The first and foremost is to not lift the lid while the dumplings are cooking.  They need steam to create rise which will be lost and escape forever if you lift the lid too soon.  I actually leave the lid on until after I've removed the pan from the heat and the sauce has stopped bubbling.  That keeps your sauce and dumplings nice and moist.

Serves 4 

1 to 1 ½ lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5 thighs)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup diced carrot
½ cup diced celery
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 bay leaves
½ cup flour
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups whole milk (I combine 1 2/3 cups of 2% lowfat milk and 1/3 cup cream)
1 cup frozen peas
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Chopped chives for garnish

Dumplings

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons butter 

Add the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to a Dutch oven, or 12-inch sauté pan (it will need to be at least 2 to 3 inches deep) and heat  over medium high heat.  Add the chicken thighs, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and cook until the thighs start to take on a little color, about 5 minutes or so.  Turn and brown the other side for a couple of minutes, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and let the chicken cook through, about 15 minutes or so.  You can add a little chicken stock or water to the pan if it seems to be drying out. 

Remove the cooked chicken from the pan, cover with foil and let rest for a few minutes and then shred or cut the meat in chunks.   

Add the 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and then add the carrot, celery and onion.  Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the flour to make a roux.  Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste.  

Slowly pour in the chicken stock and let it simmer until it has thickened, about 5 to10 minutes.  Stir in 1 ½ cups of the milk, the bay leaves and peas.  Heat through.  The sauce should ultimately be the consistency of cream soup; not too thin, but certainly not too thick.  It will continue to thicken as the dumplings cook.  Stir the cooked chicken into the sauce.  If the sauce seems a little too thick, add as much of the reserved milk as needed.

Make the dumpling batter…Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Stir in the milk and melted butter with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.

Using a soup spoon, scoop up about 2 tablespoons of the dumpling dough and then push the dumpling onto the sauce using a second spoon.  Continue with the rest of the batter, leaving about ½ inch between the dumplings.

Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes. The secret to a light and fluffy dumpling is the steam, so once the pan is covered, do not uncover while the dumplings are cooking! 

If I can tell that the dumplings have doubled in size and are about done, I remove the pan from the heat at about 13 minutes and let it sit for about 10 minutes or so.  If you let the sauce cool down just a bit so it’s not actively bubbling, you won’t lose all the moisture when you lift the lid. 

To serve, spoon the chicken and dumplings into bowls and sprinkle with the chopped chives and parsley.  (Be sure to remove the bay leaves from the sauce before serving).