This post was prompted by my sister, who is very upset that I haven't been blogging lately. I've been really busy in the past few months, working, moving, and packing, and getting ready for a year in Paris. While I can't promise regular blogging in the next month, this is definitely a rib-sticking kind of dish that should hold you through January (though I'll do my best to write a few more posts before leaving). Come February, I promise a return to regular posting, and many Parisian-inspired dishes over the next year.
Chicken and Dumplings is a dish popular in the Southern US that originated during the Great Depression. It's cheap, tasty, and the ultimate comfort food: a thick and creamy broth, chewy but fluffy dumplings, the requisite peas, and flavorful mouthfuls of tender chicken in every bite. This version is based on a Cooks Illustrated recipe and has a nice tarragon flavor. For the base stock of the recipe, I used a vegetable-laden homemade broth (chicken carcass, leeks, carrots, celery) that I cooked for about 10 hours until it was very reduced and flavorful. You can use store-bought chicken stock but (need I say) it's not as good.
You'll need (serves 6):
8 chicken thighs (with bones & skin)
2T cooking oil
1/2 stick butter
2 medium leeks, cut lengthwise and then cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
4 1/2c chicken broth
1/4c whole milk
1t minced fresh thyme
1c frozen peas
3T minced fresh tarragon
for the dumplings:
1T baking powder
1 1/2t kosher salt
1c whole milk
3T reserved chicken fat (you'll get this as you cook)
1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil until just smoking. Cook chicken in batches, skin-side down first, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer browned chicken to a plate. When you're done, pour fat into a bowl and set aside. Remove browned skins from chicken, and eat them if you are so inclined.
2. Turn heat down to medium. Melt butter. Add leeks, onions, salt and pepper. Cook about 10 minutes, until soft. Stir in flour and cook until light brown. Deglaze with vermouth, stirring well to combine (it's ok if there are small lumps of flour; they'll go away). Add broth, milk and thyme. Bring to a simmer. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot. Cover and cook 1 hour.
3. Transfer chicken to cutting board. Shred meat with two forks; discard bones and gristle. Return meat to stew and bring back to a simmer.
4. Make the dumplings! This is fun. Stir flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave milk and fat until just warm. Stir milk/fat into flour with a spoon until just incorporated and smooth-- don't overstir.
5. Stir peas and tarragon into stew. Drop small lumps of dumpling batter into stew by scooping some up with a spoon, and using another spoon to push batter into pot. You should make a layer of dumplings on the top of the stew; try not to let them touch.
6. Cover stew and cook at a simmer until dumplings have doubled in size, about 10 minutes. Serve!