Friday, April 15, 2011

Ultimate Comfort Food... Chicken & Dumplings

I never thought dumplings sounded good at all until my sis-in-law Sara made this yummy Food Network recipe when they were back for a visit. Credit goes to Tyler Florence for this one. These dumplings were light, and fluffy, and so, so good... it was hard not to bend over and stick my whole face in the bowl. I'm a little late with publishing this because it was super cold and wintery when I made it back in January, but it's snowing today - on April 15 - my car is in the shop so I can't go anywhere, so I kind of wish we were having this for dinner tonight.

There are 4 parts to this recipe, so plan to make it when you have nothing else to do all day. If you find it too labor intensive you can cut some corners by using a store-bought rotisserie chicken and you can buy cartons of chicken stock in the store, but trust me when I say the effort of making everything from scratch is so, so worth it.

I will list the ingredients and instructions for each part, and then give you a complete shopping list at the end.

Roasted Chicken

1 (3 pound) whole chicken
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened (I only had salted butter and it was fine.)
1 lemon halved and juiced, halves reserved
1/4 cup fresh chopped herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and parsley
1 onion, halved
4 garlic cloves, smashed
Fresh whole herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and parsley sprigs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F. Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the chicken and discard. (Really? I saved them and threw them in the pot when I made the stock.) Rinse the chicken under cold water, inside and out. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.

In a small bowl, mash together the softened butter, lemon juice, and chopped herbs. I had a hard time getting the juice to mix with the butter, so make sure your butter is really soft and the juice is slightly warm.

Rub the herbed butter all over the chicken, as well as under the skin. Stuff the lemon halves, onion, garlic, and whole herbs inside the chicken cavity.

Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. (I skipped this step because after I stuffed everything inside I couldn't get the legs together, so don't worry if you can't do it either.) Okay, those of you with vivid imaginations - stop it. Place the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. I didn't have a rack, so don't worry about that either, it doesn't make that much difference in the end. Here's what mine looked like before I put it in the oven:

Roast for 1 hour until the meat is no longer pink. Try your best to resist diging in to this gorgeous, delicious bird at this point, because it will be really tempting. Don't do it.

When cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin and set aside. (Again, I don't know why you would throw the skin away when you could use it in the stock.. I did.) Reserve the bones for the stock.

Chicken Stock

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, cut in large chunks
2 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
1 onion, halved
1 garlic bulb, halved (cut it in half horizontally across the center)
Reserved chicken bones (throw in the skin and giblets)
2 quarts cold water
4 sprigs fresh parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves

Coat a large stockpot with the olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic halves and saute for 3 minutes.

Add the reserved chicken bones, water, and herbs; simmer for 1 hour.

Strain the stock to remove the solids and set aside.


2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder (that isn't a typo, you really do need a full Tablespoon)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 - 1 cup buttermilk

Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and buttermilk together; pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and gently fold. I did this wrong - I put everything into the bowl and then mixed it. I've done it both ways, and the dumplings turned out just as good either way.

Mix just until the dough comes together, the batter should be thick and cake-like.

Supreme Sauce

2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon salt
1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper for garnish
Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

This is where the whole dish comes together.

In a Dutch oven, melt the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, garlic and bay leaves.

Saute until the veggies are soft, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the flour to make a roux. Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste.

Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.
Let simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in heavy cream. Don't panic if your sauce seems runny, it is not supposed to be very thick.

Fold in the shredded chicken into the sauce and bring up to a simmer. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. The dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching or crowded. Mine are a little crowded because there was more dough than there was room in my very large Dutch oven, and I didn't want to throw it out.

Let the dumplings poach for 10-15 minutes until they are firm and puffy. This is why you don't want to crowd the dumplings. They really do puff up and turn out really light and fluffy.

Season with the pepper if you like and garnish with chopped parsley before serving. If you are not a fan of black pepper like me, stop by Penzey's and pick up some of their 4-color peppercorns. They have great flavor but don't burn your mouth. This serves 6 people, and the leftovers are still good heated up the next day.


Shopping List

1 3-lb whole chicken
1 lemon
2 whole bulbs garlic
olive oil
vegetable/canola oil
2 onions
4 bay leaves
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1/4 cup heavy cream

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