Thankful? Yes, indeed, I am! I am so very thankful for many, many things in my life…one of which is this group of extraordinary women with whom I get to blog on a regular basis…and now, without further adieu…my installment of the Fall 2012 Idiosyncrazies Throw Down…
Growing up, Chicken and Dumplings was not part of my mom’s repertoire of recipes. Therefore, I kind of stumbled upon this recipe on my own…straight from the Medford Mail Tribune Ala Carte section on some random Wednesday. It sounded so “comfort-food-ish” that I just had to try it. From the first time I prepared it, I was hooked and loved tweaking the recipe along the way. Since then, I have made this dish to “comfort” some very special people; once for a friend for whom I was part of a “meal train” while she was undergoing cancer treatment, and once for my in-laws when my dear mother-in-law was out of commission for knee surgery. And away we go…
Homely Chicken and Dumplings
(I will first provide you with the recipe as it was written and then, where appropriate, provide my notes and tips in “red.”)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I actually cut these into more like 1/4 inch dice)
2 cups peeled and cubed (1/2 inch) butternut or other winter squash (my family members are not big fans of squash, but love broccoli, I substituted 1-2 cups fresh broccoli florets for the squash)
2 cups diced, boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, or cooked, diced or shredded chicken (the first time I prepared this, I used a store-bought rotisserie chicken, removing chicken meat from the carcass, since then, I usually roast a chicken, see below for instructions)
1 cup frozen peas or small broccoli or cauliflower florets (because I use broccoli in place of the squash, above, I use peas at this point)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley or dill (I love the flavor of dill, and did not have fresh on hand, I used 1 tsp dried dill weed)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces (here’s a tip for every recipe that calls for chilled butter, cut into pieces…from pie crusts to biscuits to dumplings…using the large grater side of your box grater, grate the appropriate amount of butter (using a stick of butter straight from the refrigerator) and place grated butter in the freezer for a few minutes to chill)
1/2 cup milk
To make chicken: Melt the butter in a dutch oven set over medium-high heat (I added 1 large, finely chopped shallot and 2 stalks of finely chopped celery to the melted butter and sautéed for about 5 minutes before adding the flour. Because of this addition of the shallot and celery, I increased the butter by 1 Tbsp). Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth, a little at a time, letting the roux absorb the liquid and become smooth before adding more. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the carrots and squash (broccoli). If using uncooked chicken and broccoli or cauliflower, add it now (if using cooked chicken or frozen peas, add it later). Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes while you make the dumplings.
To make dumplings: Place flour, baking powder, salt and herbs, if using, in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until reduced to tiny pieces. Add milk, pulse to combine. Gather dough into a ball and pinch off chunks the size of a golf ball and roll into balls (ok, OCD admission here…because I’m all about uniformity and whatnot, I use a mini ice cream scoop here to portion and shape the dumplings. I like the size (a bit smaller than a golf ball) and uniformity).
Remove the lid from the pot, stir and then add the dumplings, spacing them evenly. Cover the pot and cook, without peeking (as my co-authors have posted, this is all about “steaming” the dumplings), for 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of a dumpling comes out clean. If using peas and cooked chicken, stir them in now and continue simmering until they’re heated through. Note: Because I use cooked chicken and peas and I don’t want to disturb the lovely dumpling “top,” I add these right before I add the dumplings.
Spoon into bowls and enjoy!
Now, for some additional notes: This is a recipe that is easily prepared and frozen. I have prepared this up through the preparation of the chicken and, separately, the dumplings. Depending on the number of servings, the chicken can be divided into appropriate freezer containers. Freeze the dumplings on a cookie sheet and then store in a freezer container. When ready to prepare, thaw the chicken mixture and the number of dumplings desired. Re-heat the chicken mixture and, when heated, add the thawed dumplings. Continue cooking, as above.