Chicken and Dumplings
Nothing says warm, hearty, soothing comfort like a good ol' pot of Chicken and Dumplings. While this dish feels like a classic piece of Americana, it is surprisingly multicultural; there are recipes of stewed meat topped with floury, boiled dough that come from Europe in the 1600s, long before America was colonized. And chicken, which is now relatively cheap, particularly if you buy it whole, was once very expensive. In 1928, just before the start of The Great Depression, chicken was more than twice as costly as chuck roast. It's only with the advent of commercial farming that chicken has become the affordable meat we know today.
We started this recipe by building solid flavors. First, we cooked the chicken in butter, and we did that for two reasons. One, we wanted to give the chicken a jump-start, so that it's almost cooked through when we add it back in later. And two, we wanted to impart some of that great, chickeny flavor into the cooking oil, so it could infuse into the rest of the dish. Keep an eye on the chicken, though, because you really don't want it to start browning. Drop the heat if it starts to brown too quickly, and remove the chunks of chicken from the butter once they start to turn white. Set aside.
Add more butter if the chicken has absorbed a lot of it, and then make your mirepoix, a classic, aromatic base of carrots, onions, and celery. Though we do confess, this is a bit of a play on a standard mirepoix. Usually, the vegetables in a mirepoix are cut to approximately the same size, but we wanted the carrots to be nice and chunky in our stew, so we cut them a little bigger. Because they'll all boil together they'll still cook through, even if they don't saute together at the same rate. We let that cook until everything turned soft, and then seasoned it with our Vegetable Soup Mix. After giving these a few minutes to work together in the pan, we added 1/3 cup of flour to create a roux. A roux is a thickener made from fat and flour, and it adds richness and and almost nutty backbone to the flavors in a soup or stew. Stir constantly, because you don't want the flour or butter to burn, until it's just turned golden. This is called a "blond roux", and it's a tried-and-true way to create thick, hearty, white meat dishes. Once your roux is ready, whisk in the broth a little at a time, and again, stir it to prevent lumps from forming. You could warm the broth if you'd like before you add it, since it's less likely that warm broth will make the butter and flour seize together, or you could just add slowly and stir all the while. Let that come to a boil for a few moments, and then add the chicken back to the pot, along with any juices that have collected under it on the plate it rested on. All those buttery juices are pure flavor, and you don't want to lose that. Let the stew boil again for a few minutes, then add your green beans, salt, and pepper. Keep it at a low simmer while you make the dumplings.
Your milk and butter should be fairly cold when you start making the dumplings, and work quickly here; warm butter won't hold the flour together properly in the soup. If you don't have a food processor you can cut in your flour using two butter knives, or smush it all together with a fork. Stir in the milk to make a rustic, thick dough, and lumps are OK here. It should only take a few minutes to bring the dumplings together. Take big, heaping spoonfuls of dough and drop them directly on top of the stew, then let the dumplings cook through for a few minutes. You can try and turn them once during cooking, so both sides of the dumpling are face-down in the stew. Once they're cooked, garnish with the remaining parsley, and enjoy this stew and its extraordinarily cozy embrace.
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1-1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 3/4 inch pieces
- 1 small onion, minced
- 3 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons Vegetable Soup Mix
- 1-1/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons Coarse Sea Salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon Finely Ground Black Pepper
- 1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley, divided
- 2 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup cold whole milk
- First, par-cook the chicken. Melt butter in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot, over medium heat. Let chicken start to cook, without letting it brown, for 5 minutes. Turn as needed. When chicken is entirely white on the outside, pull it from the pot and set aside. It will finish cooking when you return it to the pot.
- Add more butter if necessary then add carrots, celery, and onion. Turn the heat up a little, to medium-high, and cook for 5 minutes, until vegetables are soft and onion has started to turn translucent.
- Add Vegetable Soup Mix and cook for 1 minute.
- Add 1/3 cup flour and cook 4-5 minutes, stirring steadily. The flour and butter should turn smooth and start to take on a golden color.
- Gradually add broth, a few ounces at a time, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil. Add chicken and bring back to a boil.
- Let it boil for 4 or 5 minutes, then reduce to a simmer.
- Stir in green beans and season with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Keep at a low simmer.
- Next, make the dumplings. Whisk together remaining 1 cup flour, baking powder and remaining salt; then whisk in parsley.
- With a food processor or other method, cut butter into flour until mixture resembles a coarse meal.
- Stir in milk with a fork until a dough forms.
- Drop batter by heaping tablespoon on top of stew.
- Cover and simmer just until dumplings are cooked through, about 2 minutes.
- Garnish with more parsley and serve.