Chicken and dumplings stew. When you hear those words what comes to mind? I immediately think of a comfort old timey recipe that is a rich luxurious Southern icon. So what’s the big deal with Chicken and Dumplings?
Let’s start with the dumplings. I have always been perplexed as to what these actually are? Are they dough balls? Do they have cheese? Are they chicken balls? Dumplings can mean so many things. In this case, the word dumpling actually comes from England and the preparation started around during the Civil War era. Essentially these are little dropped boiled balls of dough. We actually have something similar to them in Venezuela called hallaquitas which are made with corn flour vs wheat flour.
Next up, the chicken. Forget frozen chicken breasts. What makes this soup extra homey and flavorful is the incredible broth that remains by cooking a whole chicken or whole fresh chicken pieces. I prefer using big juicy chicken thighs instead of the whole bird just because I’m lazy and hate prepping a whole chicken. There is nothing better than homemade broth. The flavor, the aroma and the way it somehow heals all ailments. It is truly magical. Yes it does take a bit longer than store-bought broth but totally work the extra step.
The texture to this soup is unlike any other. Originally I thought this soup was loaded with heavy whipping cream, which although delicious, is fatty rich stuff. However the creaminess mostly comes from a simple roux (flour and fat cooked together and used to thicken the sauce). A luscious velvety stew is created as the roux thickens the bubbly chicken broth. No wonder this soup really thrived during the depression era. All the ingredients are humble, inexpensive and readily available. No fancy stuff here. Just good home cooking.
A weeknight meal this is not. Unless you have about 2ish hours to spare. Instead this is a wonder holiday, weekend or cold weather meal. One that will leave you feeling warm, cozy and well fed. In the end you are left with a gorgeous indulgent stew loaded filled with melt-in-your-mouth chicken and bobbing little doughy dumplings bursting with green onions. Make sure you have some crisp white wine to drink and some hearty bread to mop up every last drop.
Chicken and Dumpling Stew
Serves: 6-8. Cook time: about 2 hours.
Recipe slightly adapted from Tyler Florence’s Chicken and Dumplings
Notes: stew saves beautifully in the fridge or freezer. Great leftover lunch or dinner. Also this is a wonderful make-ahead meal.
Chicken and chicken broth
- 3 to 3 1/2 pounds chicken thighs
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions
- 1 cup buttermilk, feel free to make your own
For the creamy sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 cups chicken stock, remaining from cooking the chicken
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
- Extra chopped green onions or parsely for garnish (optional)
Chicken and broth:
Place the chicken and all stock ingredients in a large Dutch oven or large pot. Cover with water. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour until the chicken is tender and cooked. Skim off the surface fat as it cooks and at the end of the hour.
Once chicken is cooked, remove from the pot and shred the meat into big bite size pieces. Set chicken aside. Strain the stock, return to the pot and reserve.
For the dumplings:
Combine the dry ingredients (four, baking soda, salt) together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, green onions and buttermilk. Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough comes together. It will look thick and cake-like.
For the creamy sauce:
In the Dutch oven or large pot, over medium heat, add the butter and oil. If you only have 1 good large pot transfer your chicken broth to another bowl, wash your pot and use it for the sauce. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaves. Sauté until veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, constantly stirring. Lastly add frozen peas.
Let sauce simmer until it is thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir in heavy cream if using. A quick note: the stew will get thicker over time. So if you make the stew ahead of time or even the day before, don’t be alarmed if it gets really really thick. Once you heat it up, it will loosen.
Fold in the reserved shredded chicken chunks into the sauce and bring up to a simmer. Using 2 spoons, drop tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot stew. The dumplings will cover the top of the sauce, and just bob around like little floating pillows. Let the dumplings cook for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy. Garnish with some more green onions or parsley and serve with a big hearty hunk of bread.