Saturday, May 9, 2015

We'll All Have Chicken And Dumplings When She Comes

Hmmm...Do you ever wonder what the significance is of the verse in She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain?  Why are we going to have chicken and dumplings when she comes?  Is there some kind of meaning behind the dish, or did the author of song just like chicken and dumplings.

"Oh Rachel," you scold.  "Just get in the kitchen and cook and stop your useless brain meanderings."

Fine.  I'll do that.

It's spring.  It's the time when cooks are celebrating with ramps and radishes and asparagus and fiddleheads and micro greens.  How do I celebrate?  I celebrate with chicken stew.

This blog has documented well over the years the ways in which I tend to not eat seasonally.  It's not that I don't choose fresh, seasonal, local food on a regular basis.  It's just that I sometimes have bizarre out-of-season cravings.  Ice cream in January and coq au vin in July happen frequently in my kitchen. 

I blame my husband for the chicken stew craving.  He keeps talking about his favorite lunch spot when he is at work.  He loves their chicken and dumplings.  I began thinking about chicken and dumplings.  I really began to want some chicken and dumplings.  I had to have chicken and dumplings.  It was decided.  Here we are in early May, the temperatures are in the 70s and occasionally the 80s, the leaves are growing on the trees, and the flowers are blooming, and I made chicken and dumplings for dinner.

My recipe is pretty straightforward and not too different from anyone else's.  It consists of chicken, chicken stock, vegetables, and dumplings.  I had a lot of fun making it though.  It was fun to play with flavors and see what I could add to it.

I had a bit of trouble with the dumplings.  My batter ended up somewhat loose and there was a fairly large amount of it.  I tried making individual dumplings, but by the time they were cooked, they had all joined together in one layer over the stew.  I was even afraid that they wouldn't be cohesive.

When I went to serve the stew, I cautiously broke up the dumpling layer on top.  The crust broke apart into soft, airy, but jagged-shaped dumplings.  I considered making less batter, or using more flour, the next time I make this, but I changed my mind.  I rather like the rustic look of the broken-up dumplings.  I'm leaving the recipe as it is.

I have some notes about the recipe.  I used fresh rosemary and dried sage because that was what I happened to have in the kitchen at the time.  Feel free to play with fresh or dried rosemary, sage, and thyme for the recipe.  The carrots I bought were huge, so there were only 2 in my recipe, but if you buy smaller ones, you might want to use more.  I know that many chicken and dumplings recipes use peas. I used corn because it reminds me of the delicious Pennsylvania Dutch-style, knoedel-filled, corn chowder that they used to serve at my college cafeteria.  Also, peas are gross. 

The recipe was quite a success all around.  The chicken flavor is intense.  After dinner was over I received the request to put this in the regular rotation.

The Short (dis)Order Cook's Chicken and Dumplings


For Stew
  • 8 whole chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 4 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 10 oz. package frozen corn
For Dumplings
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 Tbl butter, melted
Keep the stock warm on the stove.

Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt on both sides.  In a large pot over medium heat, brown the chicken thighs well on both sides.  Remove from the pot and remove the skins from the chicken.

Add onion to the pot and cook until it begins to soften.  Add the celery and the carrots and continue cooking until they begin to soften.  When the vegetables have reduced down a bit, add the garlic, sage, and rosemary.  Cook two more minutes.

Add the flour to the pot and stir well.  Cook another 3 minutes.

Slowly whisk in some of the stock.  It should begin to tighten up when it's incorporated into the pan.  Slowly whisk in the rest.  Taste the stock and check for seasoning.  You will likely want to add more salt at this point.  Add the bay leaves.

Bring the stew to a simmer and add the chicken thighs back to the pot.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile make the dumplings.  Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.  Stir in the milk and melted butter.  Mix just until all dry ingredients are moistened.  Do not mix until smooth.

Remove the chicken from the pot and shred or chop the meat.  Return to the pot.  Add the corn and the parsley.  Carefully drop tablespoonfulls of dumpling batter into the pot.  Don't worry if they run together. You can break them up at serving time.

Cook another 12 minutes.  To serve just break up the dumpling layer on top of the pot and ladle into serving bowls.