Freezer Nesting: Chicken and Dumplings

It’s hard to top Chicken and Dumplings when it comes to comfort food.

Not a quick dish by any means, but after the aromatic torture of the few hours it takes to prepare this dish, sitting at the table becomes a multi-sensory consumption. Lean over the bowl as the ribbon of steam unfurls across your face (this is particularly nice if you happen to make your dish on one of those bitterly cold days where the wind finds tiny cracks to howl into around your house). Let the creamy broth soothe your eyes until a peep of orange or green from a vegetable in the broth wakes them up again. Break the surface of the seemingly dense dumpling with your spoon and marvel at how gently it rends under the pressure, and how light the starchy orb seems on the inside. The only sounds you hear for a while are the clink of spoon against porcelain as the dish is eaten, punctuated by the occasional slurp and sigh.

It’s practically a lullaby for your palate. A balm for whatever emotional wounds may need healing. A calm reassurance that, no matter what difficulties today brought you, a belly full of chicken and dumplings means everything will seem all right in the morning.

For those days when a batch of chicken and dumplings will hit the spot – but it’s not apparent until about an hour before dinner – this will be the perfect fix: grab a frozen packet of pre-made stew, and then as it’s reheating in a pot on the stove, mix up some dumpling batter to cook up fresh for dinner. Voila: instant comfort food! Of course we have to stock the freezer with this.

Chicken and Dumplings

From The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Stew

IMG_1585

  • 5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 6 tablespoons 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, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

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. Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin. Pour off the chicken fat and reserve. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoon oil and the remaining chicken. Pour off and reserve any chicken fat.IMG_1586

Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. IMG_1587

Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk,thyme and bay leaves. IMG_1588

Nestle the chicken, with any accumulated juices, into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 1 hour.IMG_1589

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. IMG_1590

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, then return it to the stew. IMG_1591IMG_1592

Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.IMG_1594

At this point, we let the stew cool, divided into two FoodSaver pouches, and froze. IMG_1595

When we want to make up a quick batch next Fall or Winter, we’ll heat up one of the pouches and prepare a half-batch of the dumplings below. (NOTE: if you’re serving a bigger crowd and are using the entire recipe at one sitting, then obviously you’d just make the full recipe.)

Dumplings

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat (or unsalted butter)

Sire the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and fat in a microwave-safe bowl until just warm (do not overheat), about a minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.

Drop golf-ball-sized dumplings into the stew about 1/4 inch apart (the full recipe will yield about 18 dumplings). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes.

So, nine meals down. And only 21 to go. It’ll only get easier from here, right?

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