Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"From Scratch" - Literally - Chicken and Dumplings To Die For

A delicious Sunday's work

Don't ask why the celery has to be peeled! Just peel it - and know it's worth it.

When it starts to cool off in Dallas - usually in September/October - the temp doesn't have to drop much below 80 degrees before I am breaking out the boots and getting my favorite warm comfort foods on the table. Fall is my favorite season! Nothing says "comfort food" to me more than Chicken and Dumplings. But how do you make something so basic "Gour-maybe?" well, you start with Thomas Keller's recipe from Ad Hoc. Then, you literally go nuts, because you don't know why you need all those carrots cooked different ways and celery bathing in ice. Then you taste it. And you shut your mouth because it's that good and you eat it every day for a week straight. The dumplings are melt in your mouth, and flavored with chives and mustard. Trust me, you will love them. I use about double the chicken, and encourage you to double the dumplings as well. Because those are my favorite parts. I make mine much more rustic, and like it that way. I don't have Keller's refinement even my crazy pants OCD is just fine with a lop-sided dumpling or an uneven carrot slice. So pick a weekend to make this, maybe a rainy one. Start it in the AM, and eat it for dinner. Full, long, but worth it recipe after the jump.

Chicken and Dumplings (Serves 8-10)
You will need: 

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
Base Vegetables
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped leeks
  • Kosher salt
Dumplings: (this makes the double recipe
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 T minced chives 
Chicken Stock/Chicken Meat
  • 4 lb whole chicken
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2
  • 4 ribs celery, cut in 1/2
  • 2 leeks, white part only, cut in 1/2 lengthwise
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 30 peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 gallons cold water (or as much as you need to cover the chicken and vegetables)
Show Vegetables
  • 5 stalks celery, peeled and cut diagonally into 1.5 inch long, 1/4 inch wide pieces
  • 3 large carrots, cut lengthwise in quarters, then crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed, skin left on
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 3-4lb boiled shredded chicken (dark meat preferable, but white meat works)
  • 4 quarts homemade chicken stock
  • 1/2 T garlic salt
  • 1/2 T Lawry's season salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 1 T fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly minced herbs (chives, parsley, and cilantro)
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • flat leaf parsley leaves
First, make the roux. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium/medium high 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 out the 1/2 cup you need for the recipe, and then store in the fridge.

Second, make your chicken stock and cook your chicken meat simultaneously. This takes several hours, so it's one of the first things I do. Some make stock from bones, but I also use this as a means to cook the chicken meat for the recipe. Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in 12-quart stockpot.  Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium  so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer. Skim the sediment from the top with a spoon or fine mesh strainer every half hour. Remove chicken at 2 hours. Let cool, then remove all dark and light meat and shred. Refrigerate until ready to use. Return bones to stock and cook 2 more hours.

Then, make your "base vegetables." Melt the butter in an 8 -10 quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onions, and leeks, season with salt, and cover with a parchment lid (see pictures). You will simply need to cut a piece of parchment paper in a size that fits just inside the pot. Reduce the heat to low and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard the parchment lid. Set vegetables aside.

Then, make the "show vegetables" aka the carrots and onions. these are the ones that you'll actually be taking bites of, that need to look pretty! You want to end up with about 1.5 cups of carrots and celery each. Boil water in a small sauce pot that can hold all the celery. Cook the celery until just tender - 3-4 minutes. Drain, cool in an ice bath (a bowl filled with ice and water), and drain again. Cut the carrots lengthwise into quarters and then crosswise into bite-sized pieces.  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. Set both vegetables aside.

Go back to your chicken stock. Strain into a large container, assessing how much you have. You should have 4 quarts, but if you have a little less,  don't panic, just supplement with store-bought chicken stock.

Next, make the dumplings. Fill a wide, not-too-deep pot with salted water and bring to a simmer. I find it's much easier than using a deep one). Set up your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Place water, butter, and 1/2 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  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 salt and mix for a few seconds to incorporate the ingredients. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, beating until the first egg is completely incorporated before adding the second. Add the chives. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape the dumplings using two spoons to make quenelle shapes, dropping them into the simmering water. Cook the dumplings in small batches so they 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.

FINALLY, Put it all together.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer with your base vegetables, and half of all the dry spices (garlic salt, Lawry's salt, pepper, cayenne). Taste. Add the rest of the seasonings to adjust the flavor to your level of spice and saltiness.  Whisk in the roux a little at a time until your soup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; you may not use all the roux. But you may use more! This is definitely a "soup" style Chicken and Dumplings, so if you are used to a thicker version, then Roux it up! Taste again. Finally, add the chicken meat, cooking until the meat is hot (15 minutes) then add the dumplings and fresh herbs and "show vegetables". Simmer about 5 more minutes or until dumplings are warmed through. Pour into bowls and garnish with parsley leaves and any additional chives.


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