Eric Akis: Fear not, comfort of chicken and dumplings awaits in a bowl

Eric Akis

With all the worry and concern about COVID-19, this seems a good time to offer a recipe for a comfort food — something simmered that fills your home with a wonderful aroma, a welcoming dish grandma might have made when times were tough.

I opted to go with chicken and dumplings, which involves simmering a whole chicken until cooked, cubing the meat and using it and the cooking liquid to make a hearty stew.

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The dumplings are basically wet biscuit dough that you drop on top of the stew and simmer until puffed up and cooked. You end up with a hearty stew topped with tender, toothsome dumplings that make you feel good when you eat them.

Any leftover chicken and dumplings will freeze well once cooled to room temperature. As you will see in the recipe note, you can use the bones left over from the chicken to make stock for such things as soup.

Chicken and Dumplings

Hearty homemade chicken stew topped with tender, easy-to-make dumplings. For a really filling meal, you could also serve the chicken and dumplings with mashed potatoes.

Preparation time: One hour

Cooking time: About one hour and 50 minutes

Makes: Four to six servings

For stew

1 (about 3 lb/1.36 kg) whole chicken (see Eric’s options)

3 3/4 cups chicken broth or stock

• cold water

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil

1 large carrot, diced (cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes)

1 cup diced leek, white and pale green part only (see Eric options)

2 medium celery ribs, diced

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground sage

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 cup frozen corn

1/2 cup frozen peas or green beans

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For dumplings

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 2 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

1 Tbsp butter, melted

Remove any strings binding the chicken. Place chicken, breast side up, in a relatively narrow pot (mine was eight inches wide). Pour chicken broth (or stock) over chicken. Add cold water to the pot until an inch or so of liquid covers the chicken.

Set pot over medium-high heat and bring liquid around the chicken to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Now lower heat as needed to maintain that gentle simmer.

Simmer chicken, uncovered, 50 to 60 minutes, or until cooked through and the legs are starting to slightly pull away from the breasts. Remove pot from the heat. Carefully lift chicken out of the pot and set on a plate. Cool chicken to room temperature. Save chicken cooking broth in the pot.

When chicken has cooled, remove meat from the bones. Save bones for stock (see Note). Remove skin from chicken, and then cut meat into one to 11Ú2-inch cubes.

To make chicken stew, place 2 Tbsp butter and oil in a 10- or 12- inch-wide pot set over medium, medium-high heat. Add leek, carrot, celery and garlic and cook four to five minutes. Stir in 1Ú4 cup flour, thyme and sage until well combined and cook one to two minutes more.

Slowly mix in one cup of the reserved chicken cooking broth. When mixture is thick, slowly stir in two more cups of broth (see Note for what to do with the remaining broth). Add cubed chicken, bring the stew to a gentle simmer, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain that gentle simmer. Simmer stew 10 minutes.

While stew simmers, make dumplings by combining 11Ú4 cups all-purpose flour, baking powder, parsley and 1Ú2 tsp salt in a bowl. Now add milk and melted butter and gently mix with a spatula until wet dough forms.

When stew has simmered 10 minutes, mix in corn and peas (or green beans) and season with salt and pepper. Return stew to simmer, then drop heaping tablespoons of the dough at various points on top of it. Cover pot and cook stew 10 minutes, until dumplings have puffed and cooked through, and it’s ready to enjoy.

Note: The leftover chicken bones could be used to make stock. To do so, put them in a pot with some sliced leek or onion, carrot and celery. Also add a bit of dried thyme, black peppercorns and two bay leaves. Pour in eight to 10 cups of cold water and the remaining broth you have from cooking the chicken. Set pot over medium-high heat. Bring liquid to just below a boil, and then reduce temperature until liquid gently simmers. Simmer, uncovered, for two hours. Once cooled to room temperature, the stock will freeze well.

Eric’s options: If you can’t find a whole chicken, you could use 21Ú2 pounds (1.3 kilograms) or so of bone-in chicken pieces, such as whole legs, thighs or chicken breasts. They won’t take quite as long too simmer and cook. One cup of diced onion could replace the leek.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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