May 07, 2009

Chicken and Dumplings w/Leeks

Ah, I love me some chicken and dumplings. I've tried this dish many a times...and not once have I had that "this is it!" mini-scream. Okay, no real scream but my heart/stomach jumps a little when the dish turns out so perfect, you know you'll use this recipe for the rest of your life. So I have to give thanks to Smitten Kitchen for giving me this recipe. So, what makes this dish so good? First, is the chicken broth and soup. The chicken has to have it's own flavor without getting lost among all the other ingredients in the soup. Second - which is a deal-breaker if not just right, are the dumplings. I've made these suckers so many different ways - from using bisquik mix to making it from scratch. For some reason, every time I made those dumplings, they weren't even close to the elementary school chicken and dumpling lunch plates that I so fondly remember. How do I explain the broth in this recipe? Easy. YUM. I've only used leeks for one other recipe - potato and leek soup. I'm disappointed in myself for not thinking to use leeks for a good chicken broth. For this recipe, in replacement of the onions, I used....surprise, shallots! The other ah-ha moment for this recipe was seasoning the chicken generously and searing them until they half-way cook. My previous attempts resulted in a bowl of soup where I didn't want to eat the chicken b/c it was too bland even though I seasoned with S&P - I think it says a lot when I would rather just have the broth on its own.
Obviously the dumplings were the best I've made. The key? I think it was adding the chicken fat to the milk and then heating it before adding to the flour. Genius! Also, I'm a pretty big fan of the 'ole Tony's seasoning...and I couldn't resist adding just a little dash into the dumpling mixture.
Chicken and Dumplings
Don't use low-fat or fat-free milk in this reciipe. start with dumpling dough only when you are ready to top the stew. Serves 6-8
5 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh (I used an entire chicken & cut it into large pieces...beware, this took me about 25 minutes to do but I'm not expert)
4 tsp veg. oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
2 medium leeks, white & light green parts only, cut in half lenghwise and then into 1-in pieces (wash these thoroughly! lots of sand between each layer)
1 large onion, minced (I used three shallots instead)
6 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup whole milke
4 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth (I used exactly two cans)
1 tspn minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas
3 tbsp minched fresh tarragon leaves
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tbsp baking power
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tbsp reserved chicken fat (or unsalted butter)
(I added a few dashes of tony's seasoning)
1. Pat chicken dry then season generously with S&P. Heat 2 tbsp oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add half the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. (this took me a little less, ~5-7 minutes). Remove chicken and power off the chicken fat and reserve (for the dumplings, yum!). Repeat if you have more chicken. Remove and put to side.
2. Add butter to the Dutch oven and add the leeks, onion and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook until softened for about 10 minuts. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any brown bits. Stir in broth, milk, thyme and bay leaves. Add chicken to the stew with any accumulated juices on plate, into the pot. Cover and simmer until chicken is fully cooked and tender. About 1 hour.
3. Remove chicken, discard the bay leaves. (I turned the heat off at this point.) Allow the sauce to settle then skim the fat from surface. Shred the chicken and discard the bones. Then return chicken to the stew.
4. For the dumplings, stir the flour, baking powder and salt together. (I also added a few dashes of tony's seasoning.) Microwave the milk and fat in a bowl until just warm (1 minute). Add warm mixture to the flour mixture until smooth.
5. Return stew to a simmer. Stir in peas and tarragon (I only use 1/2 of peas) and season with S&P (I didn't have to add any salt - make sure to taste first!). For the dumplings, scoop with a spoon and then drop into the stew using another spoon. Keep them around 1/4 inch apart in the stew. My dumplings were about half the size of a golf ball. Reduce heat, cover and cook until dumplings have doubled in size (15-18 minutes).

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