Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings

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As we entered my husband's birthday month, I told him, as I always do, that I will make him anything he wants for his birthday meal. I make suggestions...offering to make dishes that I do not usually make but that he loves such as chicken alfredo or even fancy special occasion meals such as Filet Mignon with Whiskey Cream Sauce. It took him a week or so to choose, and finally he decided on...(drum roll)...chicken and dumplings! Delicious, yes, but not what I would have expected for his birthday dinner. I actually consider it quite a compliment that of all the dishes he could think of, my chicken and dumplings were exactly what he wanted! 

It was actually nice that he chose such a simple meal. Here's how I made it. Start with some chicken. I used one large boneless skinless chicken breast and one large bone-in chicken thigh (I cut the skin off) because I had that in my freezer. You could do as much or as little chicken as you want, depending on how many people you are feeding. The amount I made would feed probably 4 to 5 people. I didn't post a picture of the chicken because, well, I don't particularly enjoy looking at pictures of raw chicken, so I don't take them. Take your chicken and season it on one side however you like. I sprinkled on salt, garlic powder, and lemon pepper seasoning. This is generally how I season chicken if I am simply sauteing it in a pan. Drizzle about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and heat it over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add your chicken to the pan, seasoned side down. Season the other side. Cook chicken until well browned on each side. Remove it to a plate when brown. 

While your chicken is browning, you can work on the veggies. I don't think this is traditional in chicken and dumpling recipes (from what I've seen), but I do like to put veggies in my chicken and dumplings, similar to what you will find in chicken noodle soup. I use one onion, 2 pieces of celery (I used several pieces this time because they were small. I like using the leafy tops when I cook. It has celery flavor with the texture of herbs), and 2-3 carrots (Normally, I would only use two, but I wanted to make sure I had some larger chunks for the babies.). Dice this up in small pieces. Then mince 2-4 cloves of garlic (depending on the size and how much garlic you like). 

Add an extra drizzle of oil to the pan if it is dry. Add the chopped veggies to the pan. I usually start by chopping the onion and adding it to the hot pan. 

Then I chop the celery and add it to the onions in the pan. 

Then the carrot. Like I said before I left some of the chicken in large chunks so that I could fish it out easily for my kids to eat.

Then I add in the garlic. 

I stir this around and let it cook while I get my the seasonings ready. I added in 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp poultry seasoning, 1 tsp turmeric, and 1/2 tsp sage. And I seasoned with salt and pepper, to taste. Let the veggies and spices cook together for a minute or so until it is fragrant. If you've never used turmeric, be careful of where you drip it or what it comes into contact with, it will stain! It will also give this dish a much deeper color than you might expect from chicken and dumplings. I add it because it is good for you, and I like the subtle flavor it lends. 

Then I start adding in the broth and water. Start by adding 1/2 cup or so of broth and scraping the bottom bits from the pan, then add more broth to make it as thick or thin as you like. Remember the dumplings will thicken the sauce at the end, so you do need to add enough to steam the dumplings in. Then add the rest of the broth in.  

Add the chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate back into the pot. Add more water if necessary to make sure the chicken is submerged. 

Cover the pot and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. When this happens, remove the chicken to a clean plate and cool. (I put the chicken in the refrigerator for a few minutes to help it cool off if I am in a hurry.) Remove the bay leaves. This is a good time to check the seasoning of your sauce and add any salt or pepper as needed. You also may want to remove some of the liquid from the pan if you prefer a thick sauce. If you leave all of the liquid it will be more like a chicken and dumpling stew, which is also delicious in my opinion. If you do remove some liquid, set it aside. You can add it back to the pan if you need to thin it out. 

While the chicken is cooling, we can make the dough for the biscuits. It is super easy to make. Start by mixing together 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pay no attention to that ridiculous whisk. Isn't that pathetic? It's completely lopsided. This was the first whisk I grabbed when I opened the drawer. I was in a hurry, and I figured this was good enough...I promise I do have nicer whisks than this! 

Then I poured in 1 cup of milk. 

Then stir it all together. The mixture will be quite sticky, so I would use a spoon instead of a whisk for this part. Set this aside and go check on your chicken. 

When the chicken is cooled enough to handle, shred it up in to thick shreds. I like my chicken to retain some of it's shape and not fall completely apart in the sauce. 

Add all of the chicken back into the pan. 

Next I added in some frozen kale. I only added this because I happen to have a large bag that I am trying to use up. When you add frozen chopped kale to soups, it blends right in, almost like an herb, and you get leafy greens without really noticing they're there. I also like the little bit of green it adds to the dish. I'm sure fresh kale would be nice in this soup as well, though I'm not sure I would have added it. I like the vegetables in the chicken and dumplings, but I prefer for them to be subtle and just add flavor to the sauce. That being said, I do very much enjoy fresh kale in soups, so I imagine it would be quite good if you keep your consistency more stew-like. 

Now we are ready to add the dumplings! I make very small dough balls and drop them gently on top of the simmering liquid. These were sort of grape-sized dumplings. 

Cover the top of the pan with them. After they have been cooking for a minute or so you can gently move them around to make room for more. You really want to cover the pot with as many as you can fit. 

Then you put the lid on the pot and allow them to steam in the simmering liquid for 10 minutes or so. I left them and went to nurse the fussy baby, so it was probably a good 20 minutes or so that I left them cooking. This recipe is very forgiving. When the dumplings are finished cooking, give them a gentle stir. Mine was a little thinner than I had intended. I should have removed some water so the sauce would be thicker. Another option would have been to make extra dumplings to add into the pan. 

We were pretty hungry, so we ate it like this. 

The boy and the girl both eat this taken of the sauce rather than served in the sauce. This is my 3-year-old son's plate. I separated out the dumplings, the chicken, and the carrots. 

He gobbled up the chicken and dumplings (or "noodle balls" as we called them) but was not thrilled with the carrots. He tried one but did not want anymore. Carrots are not a favorite vegetable of his, so I had some peas on standby. (I didn't show him the peas right away because I wanted him to try the carrots.) If you like peas, you could easily add them to the chicken and dumplings. My husband and I do not care for them, but our children love them, so I served them on the side for them. 

And 9 month old baby girl is still doing baby led weaning, so she ate exactly what we did, just taken out of the broth. I set a larger chunk of the chicken thigh aside while I was shredding the chicken, and I took gave her one of the large chunks of chicken. She generally eats food as a larger piece as a while and then breaks it up into small pieces and continues to eat it. Normally I make her a separate dish of food without salt, but I just fed her from what we ate today and tried to not add too much salt to it to begin with. 

Here's the recipe if you want to give it a try sometime. Our whole family enjoyed it! 

Chicken and Dumplings


1-2 pounds of chicken (I used 1 boneless-skinless breast and 1 skinless thigh)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil (or a mix of oil and butter)
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2-3 carrots, diced (Leave a couple of larger chunks to feed to small children separately if needed.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sage
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 cups broth, 
2 cups water (or less, use only if needed to cover chicken in liquid)
1/2 cup frozen chopped kale leaves (optional)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk 

Heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add 1 Tbsp oil to the pan (Or 1/2 Tbsp oil and 1/2 Tbsp butter). Season chicken and when the oil is hot add it, seasoned side down into the pan. Season the other side of the chicken and cook until browned on both sides. Remove to a plate. 

Add the other 1 Tbsp of oil to the pan if the pan seems dry. Then add in onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cook until slightly tender. Add in seasonings and cook for a minute. Then add in broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits. 

Add chicken and any accumulated juices on the plate back into the pot. If your chicken is not covered add extra water if needed to submerge it. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and veggies are soft. Remove chicken to a new plate and cool. Remove 1-2 cups of the liquid if you prefer a thicker sauce. Check for seasonings and add kale to the pot. When chicken has cooled shred the chicken and add it back into the pan. 

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and milk to make the dough for the dumplings. Spoon in very small drops (I did approximately grape-sized balls or maybe even a little smaller.) on top of the simmering chicken and sauce. Cover the entire top of the liquid with dumplings. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for 10 minutes or so to steam the dumplings. Stir gently to combine the dumplings with the chicken and sauce and serve. 

Serves 4 to 6 people. 

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