The weather here in our part of New York has been wild, to say the least. We had days of 70 degrees and higher last week, followed up by torrential rains and the wind and then a plunge back down into the 20s today. It is no wonder that we are all fighting colds here now! So what is better to make when you are fighting the sniffles than a nice stew or soup? I had recently made some homemade chicken stock and was ready to take advantage of it when I decided this would be a very good time to break out some chicken and dumplings. It gave me a great way to use up the leftover chicken I had and combine it with some vegetables, an excellent broth and wonderful dumplings to top it all off. I had seen this recipe in Bon Appetit for the best chicken and dumplings, so it only made sense to give the best a try.
The Best Chicken and Dumplings
4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
1 leek, pale-green and white parts only
4 carrots, 1 whole, 3 chopped into ½-inch rounds
4 celery stalks, 1 whole, 3 chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped, divided
3 garlic cloves, smashed
4 sprigs thyme
Parsley stems from ½ a bunch
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
½ cup chicken fat (schmaltz) or butter, melted, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
½ cup heavy cream
Chopped chives (for serving), optional
Bring the chicken, leek, whole carrot, whole celery stalk, half of the onion, garlic, thyme, parsley stems, bay leaf, peppercorns, and 3 quarts of water to a simmer in a large wide pot. Cook, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 40–50 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and let it sit until it is cool enough to handle. Shred the meat from the thighs and legs, discarding the skin, bones, and excess fat. Cover the meat with foil to keep warm. Alternatively, shred any leftover chicken meat you may have (a mix of dark and white meat is great, but use whatever is available).
Strain the chicken stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; discard the solids. Wipe out the pot, pour the stock back in, and bring the stock to a simmer. Stir in 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of salt. Alternatively, use homemade chicken stock that you have made previously and bring it to a simmer.
Heat ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of the schmaltz or butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook the chopped carrot, chopped celery, and the remaining onion, occasionally stirring, until the vegetables are softened but not completely tender, about 8–10 minutes; season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Add ½ cup of the flour and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are coated, about 1 minute. Scrape the vegetable mixture into the simmering stock and whisk until the liquid is thickened and no lumps remain, then continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10–15 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the baking powder, baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and the remaining 1 cup of flour in a medium bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and the remaining 3 tablespoons of schmaltz or butter in a small bowl. Fold the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients just until the dough comes together (be careful not to overmix, or the dumplings will be tough).
Add the heavy cream and the reserved chicken meat to the stew and return the mixture to a simmer. Drop tablespoon-sized portions of the dough into stew (don’t worry if they aren’t perfect, they will puff up as they cook). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes. Uncover the pot and check the dumplings for doneness: They should be about 5 times larger and should cover the entire surface of the stew. To be extra sure, you can remove a dumpling and cut it in half to see if it’s cooked through; the interior should look like a soft dinner roll. If they’re not fully cooked, cover and cook for about 2 minutes more.
Divide the chicken soup and dumplings among the serving bowls, then top with the chives, if desired.
This is a very hearty and filling stew/soup. The flavor from the broth is splendid and you get a broth that is just thick enough to provide you with everything that you want. The dumplings are also perfectly soft and tasty and add just the right touch to the dish. I used butter since I didn’t have any chicken schmaltz, leftover chicken and previously made stock to simplify the process even more. All of these shortcuts allowed me to save a lot of prep time and get the dinner on the table in about 35 or 40 minutes and it still had all the flavor you want. This recipe makes plenty; Bon Appetit says it is 6 servings, but you could easily get more out of that, and we had leftovers available for lunches for days. The stew actually gets better the next day, and you can thin it out with a little water or stock to get it the way you want it. It is a nice change of pace from the traditional chicken soup when you want something a little different without a lot of extra work.
That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!