|Chicken and Dumplings|
|An oven roaster delivers a flavorful broth and generous chunks of chicken, while dumplings made with hot milk and no eggs are tender, yet substantial.|
The solution: Most flour-based dumplings include flour, salt, and one or more of the following: butter, eggs, milk, and baking powder. After spending a day making batch after batch, we hadn't found any recipe that we'd want to make twice. Then we came upon one that was unusual for its mixing method. It called for cutting butter into flour, baking powder, and salt, but then, instead of just dumping cold milk right in, it called for heating it. Suddenly we had our ideal biscuits, light, fluffy, yet durable enough to hold together during cooking. After some experimentation, we discovered we could simplify things by melting butter right into the milk. In side-by-side taste tests we couldnŐt detect a difference between these dumplings and those in which the butter was cut in.
As for the rest of the dish, we decided on a whole cut-up chicken rather than boneless breasts; the breasts may be a little easier to work with, but they don't provide as much flavor as a complete mix of white and dark bone-in meat. Next were the vegetables we wanted to add to finish the dish. To keep things simple, we tried cooking them right from the start along with the chicken, but we ended up with overcooked vegetables. Steaming the vegetables separately for 10 minutes worked well; we then just added them to the pot when the dish was about finished to heat them through.
CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS WITH AROMATIC VEGETABLES
Serves 6 to 8
A touch of heavy cream gives the dish a more refined look and rich flavor, but for a weeknight dinner, you may want to omit it. If you are in a hurry, you may poach boneless chicken breasts in low-sodium canned stock, then pull the breast into large pieces, and skip step 1 below.
Poached Chicken with Creamed Gravy and Aromatic Vegetables
1 large roasting chicken, 6 to 7 pounds, butchered according to "How To Cut a Chicken Into 8 Pieces" instructions.
1 large onion, cut into large chunks (not necessary to peel)
2 bay leaves
3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into 1-by-1/2-inch pieces
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-by-1/2-inch pieces
6 boiling onions, peeled and halved
4 tablespoons softened butter or chicken fat from the cooked chicken
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoons dry sherry or vermouth
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
Ground black or white pepper
Baking Powder Dumplings
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
1. For the chicken: Heat deep 11- or 12-inch skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add hacked-up chicken pieces (back, neck, and wings; see "How To Cut a Chicken Into 8 Pieces" below) and onion chunks; sauté until onion softens and chicken loses its raw color, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and continue to cook until chicken pieces give up most of their liquid, about 20 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add 6 cups hot water, chicken parts (legs, thighs, and breasts), bay leaves, and 3/4 teaspoon salt, then bring to simmer. Reduce heat; continue to simmer, partially covered, until broth is flavorful and chicken parts are just cooked through, about 20 minutes longer. Remove chicken parts and set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones in 2- to 3-inch chunks. Strain broth, discarding chicken pieces. Skim and reserve fat from broth and set aside 4 cups of broth, reserving extra for another use.
2. Meanwhile, bring 1/2-inch water to simmer in cleaned skillet fitted with steamer basket. Add vegetables; cover and steam until just tender, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
3. For the dumplings: Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Heat butter and milk to simmer and add to dry ingredients. Mix with a fork or knead by hand two to three times until mixture just comes together. Following illustrations at bottom, form dough into desired shape; set aside.
4. Heat butter or reserved chicken fat in cleaned skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour and thyme; cook, whisking constantly, until flour turns golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Continuing to whisk constantly, gradually add sherry or vermouth, then reserved 4 cups chicken stock; simmer until gravy thickens slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in optional cream and chicken and vegetables; return to simmer.
5. Lay formed dumplings on surface of chicken mixture; cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 10 minutes for strip dumplings and 15 minutes for balls and biscuit rounds. Gently stir in peas and parsley. Adjust seasonings, including generous amounts of salt and pepper. Ladle portion of meat, sauce, vegetables, and dumplings into soup plates and serve immediately.
CHICKEN AND HERBED DUMPLINGS WITH AROMATIC VEGETABLES
Follow recipe for Chicken and Dumplings with Aromatic Vegetables, adding 1/4 cup minced soft fresh herb leaves such as parsley, chives (or scallion greens), dill, and tarragon to dumpling mixture along with dry ingredients. If other herbs are unavailable, all parsley may be used.