Monday, March 8, 2010

Before winter ends

I have been scared of this post for months. It is long and complicated and I have a bunch of pictures. But as the weather warms up (finally! I hate winter. Except for the holiday bits), I realize that soon this post will become ridiculous as this is a cold weather dish that would be totally overwhelming in the summer. So there goes nothing: Chicken and Dumplings.

This is a bit of a weird choice for a nice Jewish girl from California to make. It's one of those classic Southern dishes that I literally have no experience with. But as I flipped through the Smitten Kitchen website (totally obsessed. Love her!), this dish popped up over and over again. I could make this, I thought. And so I did. Several times.

The first time I made this dish was for my friends Elana and Katie - a fellow California hippie and a Yankee from Massachusetts. They didn't know what to make of this either, but it was below 20 degrees and January, so they warmed up to it fast.

Chicken and Dumplings adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Smitten Kitchen warns you not to use fat free or low fat milk in this recipe. I couldn't agree more.

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)

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. Here it is on one side...

And then the other.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin (I have made this a few times now and just noticed this step. Whoops! I always just removed the skin later. It worked fine). Pour off the chicken fat and reserve (use this later to make the dumplings!). 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. It took me way more than two batches to cook the chicken. But that's okay! You don't want to crowd the chicken or it won't brown right.

Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

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.

Look at my beautiful Le Creuset. I'm not bragging or anything. Okay, maybe I am. But I love it so much.

Normally I don't make a lot of stuff that has to sit for this long. But man, it was worth it.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board.

Yum, chicken. 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 (and skin if you haven't already). Try not to burn your fingers. Use a fork or something. Return it to the stew.

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.

Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and tarragon (I never used tarragon because I never had any. I just added some dried basil instead), and season with salt and pepper. Using a soup spoon, 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. The dumplings taste like biscuits. It was super tasty.

This is a great dish to take to your friends who just had a baby. It sticks to your ribs and it's so filling. It will make a Southern afficiando out of girls who have never been below the Mason Dixon line.


Alli said...

i will make this for you right after you have a child, incentive?!

Lena said...

You have one and I'll make it for the guy who knocks you up if he's not a vegetarian. Or I'll just make something else.