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Friday, December 27, 2013

Chicken and Dumplings

This is the best recipe ever.  I have been waiting very patiently to share this with you favorite recipe to date.  This dish reminds me of my Bubby's chicken fricassee - but with dumplings.  She made a dumpling with gravy recipe too, but it is nothing like this.  Her dumplings were very flat and dense.  These are round, light, and fluffy.  This is the most comforting meal possible for a human being to prepare.  It's so warm and filling.  It's perfect for a cold, snowy night in front of the fireplace.  I've eaten it on a night just like this and it was pure perfection.  I've also eaten it at the table on a sunny day and that absolutely does not change the deliciousness of this meal.  So if you like comfort food, then definitely try this as soon as possible.  It's best during the cold weather months for sure.

Chicken and Dumplings
adapted so very slightly from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 6 to 8

The Stew
5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
salt and ground black pepper to season the chicken
4 tsp vegetable or olive oil
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1-inch half moons, rinsed well
1 large onion, minced
6 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry or cooking sherry
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen green peas (I use a little bit less)

The Dumplings
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
1 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp unsalted butter

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 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. For the dumplings: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.

5. Return the stew to a simmer and stir in the peas. Following the steps below, drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, about 18 minutes. Serve.

To make the dumplings: Gather a golf-ball-sized portion of the dumpling batter onto a soup spoon, then push the dumpling onto the stew using a second spoon.  Cover the stew with the dumplings, leaving about 1/4 inch between each. When fully cooked, the dumplings will have doubled in size.

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