I absolutely love Smitten Kitchen.
Seriously, everything the woman (Deb Perelman) makes is incredibly delicious. I have her cookbook but even more importantly, I have the URL to her website, where she regularly posts updates for savory and sweet dishes alike. While it would be hard for me to pick one favorite Smitten Kitchen dish, her Chicken and Dumplings is one that will always rise to the top of my list.
I’ll start by saying this is not a light summery dish. It’s comfort food, great on a cool night after a long day of work. That said, would I refuse a piping hot bowl of Deb’s Chicken and Dumplings in July? Hell no. Some stuff is too good to be seasonal. In any case, that time of year when the first cool fall breezes start rushing the air is the perfect time to try Chicken and Dumplings.
If you’re going to make this dish, you can’t be afraid of cooking with fat. It’s worth it, trust me.
5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Table salt and ground black pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
2 medium leeks , white and llight green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, minced
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen green peas
3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat
(or unsalted butter)
1. For the stew: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the chicken and cook until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin. Pour off the chicken fat and reserve. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken. Pour off and reserve any chicken fat.
2. Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves. Nestle the chicken, with any accumulated juices, into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 1 hour.
3. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones, then return it to the stew.
4. For the dumplings: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and fat in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.
5. Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and tarragon, and season with salt and pepper. Following the steps below, drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve.
To make the dumplings: Gather a golf-ball-sized portion of the dumpling batter onto a soup spoon, then push the dumpling onto the stew using a second spoon. Cover the stew with the dumplings, leaving about 1/4 inch between each. When fully cooked, the dumplings will have doubled in size.
Amy’s Additions and Tips
- Add diced carrots. Carrots are delicious and totally belong in this dish, so I just started adding them. It was as amazing as I expected. Maybe more so.
- Add extra peas. Peas are also delicious. Why skimp?
- Don’t rush the dumplings. If you try to eat the dumplings before they’re fully cooked, they will be gloopy in the middle and just not as good. (Err, learned this tip from an overeager friend.)
- Use the biggest Dutch oven you can. I have a metal Dutch oven and an enameled cast iron one, and find the metal one works better for this dish. It’s wider and allows the food more surface area, which is important for this dish. Don’t crowd the dumplings.
- The dish reheats well, but will be thicker and more stew-like. Not a problem for me. If it’s a problem for you, maybe we should trade lunches.
- Do not try to reduce the fat in the dumplings. You have to use the whole milk and the chicken fat. Yes, both. No 2%, no skim, and no I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. In fact, don’t even use butter in place of the chicken fat (I crossed out the option for you!). The whole fat ingredients give the dumplings both texture and flavor that you will be sad to miss if you try to be healthy about this. If you’re really bummed about adding the fat, remind yourself of the many vegetables in the dish balancing it out.
- Likewise, using skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs is a pain, but adds extra flavor that makes it worthwhile. I’ve done this with boneless thighs to save time (the skin is kind of necessary to get the fat for the dumplings), but the dish tastes best if you do it the hard way.
What are some of your favorite comfort foods? Bonus points if they’re year-round dishes!