I can teach you, but I have to charge.
Nah, I like you so much, I’ll tell you for free. Maybe then this TERRIBLE TERRIBLE song will get the fuck out of my head. It’s lodged there quite firmly, because SOMEONE in the house insists on singing it repeatedly – or at least, the 17 words that he knows, not that there are so many more words than that – in preparation for karaoke next week.
I won’t name names, but it’s really starting to get to me. Let’s just say that his name rhymes with “cryin'”, which is what I want to do whenever he sings that damn song.
Luckily, that song has zero to do with chicken and dumplings, which is what was on the menu tonight.
Note to self: an enormous pot of chicken and dumplings, while delicious, is perhaps not the most efficient meal to cook when one is on one’s own for the evening. Oh well, one will simply enjoy the leftovers for some time to come, and will make a pact to improve one’s skill at cooking for one. Apparently, I have no happy medium between “I’m Alone and Eating Cheerios for Dinner” and “Cooking for Eight.”
So: chicken and dumplings. I’m deeply ashamed to say that my only experience with chicken and dumplings has been at The Cheesecake Factory in 1997. The Cheesecake Factory is where we’d go in college when we wanted a fancy dinner. We didn’t know any better, because college kids are kinda dumb, and often hungover. Luckily, I don’t think I missed out on anything; it’s not like Chicago has much of a food scene or anything.
I recall enjoying those chicken and dumplings. Of course, I also recall a time when I thought it would be a good idea to minor in Slavic Studies.
So all I really had to go on were the recipes that came recommended to me (thanks, Facebook- and Twitter-verses!), the others that I looked up online and a 14-year-old memory of something eaten at The Cheesecake Factory, which certainly should never form the basis for a recipe worth making.
From my extensive research (read: the three blogs I read), it seemed pretty straightforward. Cook chicken. Make roux-based gravy. Mix up dumpling batter. Poach dumplings. Easy, right?
Right! See, you thought I was leading you down a garden path, to then regale you with a tragicomic tale of chicken and dumplings gone horribly awry. Au contraire: I came up with my plan, everything proceeded apace, and chicken and dumplings were duly produced.
Of course, they were pretty basic chicken and dumplings – no fancy twists or wacky flavor profiles – but I would not kick them out of bed for their simplicity. They were warming and satisfying, which means, I think, that the basic criteria for chicken and dumplings have been successfully met.
Simple Chicken and Dumplings
5 c. chicken stock
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz. mushrooms, rough chopped
4 tbsp. + 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 + 1 c. AP flour
4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 c. sherry
1/4 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. frozen peas
1 c. milk, whole or 2%
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. minced chives
Poach the Chicken: Heat the stock in a medium saucepan until just simmering. Add chicken thighs. Poach gently until barely cooked through, about 10 minutes. Hack the chicken into a rough chop (or shred it), set aside. Reserve the stock.
Make the stew: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and mushroom and cook until the veggies are just starting to tenderize, 7-10 minutes.
Push the veg to the edge of the pan. Add 4 tablespoons of butter to the middle. When it’s fully melted, whisk in 1/4 cup of the flour to make a roux; cook the roux for a few minutes to get the raw floury taste out.
Pour in the stock and stir well to combine; add the thyme, bay, sherry and cream. Let the mixture come to a simmer and thicken. Taste, and adjust the salt and pepper. Stir in the chicken chunks.
Make the dumpling batter: Heat the milk with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. (If you have some other fat laying around, that’d be good here too, especially chicken fat. I happened to have some goose fat laying around, don’t ask why.) Heat until the butter is just melted.
Whisk 1 cup of flour together with the baking powder, salt and chives. Stir in the warm milk with a wooden spoon and mix until combined and smooth.
Finish the dish: Add the frozen peas to the stew and bring it back up to a simmer. Drop the dumplings in by rounded tablespoonfuls, leaving space between each dumpling. Cover the pot and let simmer for 15-18 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through. Fish out the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and serve immediately.