Chicken and Dumplings

I associate certain foods with certain memories, as do most all people I'm sure.  That's where the term "comfort food" came from.  The food that you eat at home with all your family.  Not only does the food taste so good that it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but the surroundings and people have the same effect.  This is why if you have ever had a meal like poppy seed chicken, chicken and dumplings, lasagna, or whatever other food falls into your comfort food category at some kind of cafeteria, it is not as good.  It is not even close.  It may even be the same recipe used in your family and taste similar, but the whole experience is missing, not allowing it to be as comforting a dish as it once was.  This happened to me a lot in college.  Even though I got really excited when I would see something familiar on the cafeteria menu, it just wasn't the same.  I remember coming home from high school soccer practice and eating mashed potatoes like a teenage boy.  I remember going snowboarding every weekend and every snow day during winter, coming home and eating my mom's delicious chicken lasagna.

Although my family never really made chicken and dumpling growing up, it always has been a favorite of mine, just from getting it at restaurants and such, so I knew it would be even more delicious homemade.  This dish will hopefully become a "comfort food" dish that my family will grow to love.  Hubby and I already love it, and hope our twins (!) and other children will too.  It's delicious.  It's warm, thick and rich.  It's so good! 

Chicken and Dumplings
Adapted from SmittenKitchen 

for the soup:
5 lb chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in
salt and pepper
4 Tbsp veggie oil
4 Tbsp butter
2 med. leeks, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 lg onion, minced
6 Tbsp flour
1/4 dry sherry
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp  minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
3 Tbsp minced fresh tarragon leaves

for the dumplings:
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 Tbsp reserved chicken fat, (or butter)

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tsp of oil in a large skillet over med-hi heat.  Add half of the chicken and cook on both sides until golden, about 10 minutes.  Pour out the chicken juices and save it for later. Transfer chicken to a plate.  Repeat with other half of chicken.  

Add the butter to a dutch oven or large pot and melt over med-hi heat.  Add the leeks, onions, and 1/4 tsp salt.  Cook until lightly browned and softened.    Stir in the flour.  Whisk in the sherry. Stir in broth, milk, thyme and bay leaves.  Add the chicken, covering it with the mixture.  Cover and simmer about 1 hour, until the chicken is cooked through.   

Remove the chicken and bay leaves from the stew.  Shred the chicken, removing the skin and bones.  Skim any fat off from the stew mixture and return the shredded chicken.  

For the dumplings, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  Microwave the milk and fat (or butter if you are using that) for about 1 minute on high, just until its warmed.  Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture until its all mixed.  

Return the stew to a simmer, add the tarragon.  Season with salt and pepper.  

To make dumplings:  Make a golf-ball sized portion of dough into a spoon and push the ball onto the stew.  Repeat with all of the dough.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until dumplings have doubled in size, about 15-20 minutes.     

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