Chicken & Dumplings!
My oh my. Most people say to drink chicken noodle soup when you have a cold. My good Jewish friends swear by mom’s chicken matzah-ball soup. And my dad claims nothing will cure you like warm milk with turmeric. But hey, for a Southern boy like me, nothing beats fresh, homemade chicken n’ dumpling soup! Tender chunks of juicy chicken, light as a cloud herb infused dumplings, and a delicious homemade chicken stock – you can’t get it any better than that.
I’ve been eating chicken n’ dumplings since those Friday after school trips to Cracker Barrel that my mom would take us on. Sometimes I would order pancakes. But most of the time, it was chicken n’dumplings. Usually, the dish is just some great chicken broth, with biscuit dough dumplings, and juicy chicken. But for our more gourmet version, we’ve definitely improved on it. The dumplings are made in the style of a pate-a-choux dough – which is the kind used to make cream puffs and eclairs – and have all kinds of herbs going through them. The vegetables – celery and carrots – are cooked separately to ensure that they are perfectly cooked, instead of being mush after simmering in broth for so long. And the stock itself is thickened with a roux and then also seasoned with a number of herbs to really help elevate all aspects of this dish. It’s the best chicken n’dumplings I’ve ever had. If you like it as much as I do, you owe it to yourself to make this recipe!
Chicken & Dumplings (serves 6-8)
(Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home)
1/2 cup water
4 TB unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of minced fresh herbs (I used chives, parsley, and rosemary)
1 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
4 quarts chicken stock (homemade preferably)
5 stalks celery
3 large carrots
1 teaspoon honey
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
1 large garlic clove, crushed, skin left on
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup Roux (recipe above)
2 cups cooked shredded chicken (dark meat preferable, but white meat works)
1/4 cup freshly minced herbs (again, I used chives, parsley, and rosemary)
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
flat leaf parsley leaves
First, make the roux. Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When it is almost melted, whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly and adjusting the heat as necessary so the roux bubbles but does not brown, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or other container to cool, take our the 1/2 cup you need for the recipe, and then store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Next, make the dumplings. Fill a wide deep pot with salted water and bring to a simmer. Set up a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Combine the water, butter, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour all at once, and stir rapidly with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean. The dough should be glossy and smooth, but still moist; enough moisture must evaporate from the dough to allow it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added. Continue to stir for 4 to 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent the dough from coloring. When enough moisture has evaporated, steam will rise from the dough and the nutty aroma of cooked flour will be noticeable.
Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl. Add the mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and mix for a few seconds to incorporate the ingredients. With the mixer on its lowest speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating until the first egg is completely incorporated before adding the second. Then add the chives and incorporate. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape the dumplings using two soupspoons to make a quenelle shape (that’s a video since it’s harder to explain!), dropping them into the simmering water. Cook the dumplings in batches of about 6 to avoid crowding the pot and allow them to cook evenly. Once the dumplings rise to the surface, it will take about 5 minutes for them to cook; remove one and break it open to make sure it is cooked. With a slotted spoon, transfer the dumplings to the baking sheet, and cook the remaining dumplings. (You will have about 18).
Now that the dumplings are done, it’s time to make the soup. Peel the celery stalks with a peeler. Cut each stalk crosswise on the diagonal into thin slices, about 1.5 inches long. You will need about 1.5 cups of celery. Cook the celery in the same pot of boiling salted water as the dumplings until just tender. Drain, cool in an ice bath, and drain again.
Cut the carrots lengthwise into quarters and then crosswise into bite sized pieces. You need about 1.5 cups of carrots. Reserve any extra, or eat them! Put the carrots in a saucepan and add the honey, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper, and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Drain.
Bring the chicken stock to a simmer and whisk in the roux a little at a time until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; you may not use all the roux. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming often.
Add the dumplings, chicken, carrots, celery, and herbs to the soup and heat through. Season with vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and garnish with more herbs.
Dig in, folks!