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Comfort Cooking
February '04

The other day when we both had an hour to spare, I met Deborah, my best friend from college, for a cup of coffee. She told me about her plans to make chicken and dumplings that evening. "What a great idea!" I thought. Deborah always has these great Southern-cooking thoughts, having grown up in Mississippi. I always miss out on Southern comfort-food inspirations. The closest I can get with my Italian-American heritage is pasta or gnocchi. A few weeks later, I dug around in my cookbooks, and came up with a recipe to adapt slightly. Jon was overcome with yumminess.


Chicken & Dumplings

adapted from The Best Recipe, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated
heavily revised by Ann Boyd throughout

Sautéed Chicken and Aromatic Vegetables:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 T olive oil
3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 boiling onions (optional)
4 T butter
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
6 T all-purpose flour
1 t dried thyme leaves
4 T dry sherry
4 c chicken broth (I use boxed broth)
3/4 c frozen peas, thawed
salt and freshly ground pepper

Baking Powder Dumplings:

2 c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
3/4 t salt
3 T butter
1 c skim milk

1. For the chicken: Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Place chicken in skillet, cover, and cook 12 minutes, turning chicken halfway through. Remove chicken from pan; cool. Shred meat when cool enough to handle; set aside.

2. For the vegetables: Place carrots and celery (and optional onions) in a microwave-safe bowl with about 1/2 inch water in the bottom. Cover and microwave on high for about 2 minutes, until vegetables are just tender. Set aside.

3. For the dumplings: Heat butter and milk to simmer. Meanwhile, mix flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients. Mix with a form or knead by hand two or three times until mixture just comes together. When cool enough to handle, divide dough into about 24 pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a rough round, about the size of a large cherry. Set aside.

4. For gravy: Heat butter in a soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute, until garlic is golden. Whisk in flour and thyme; cook, whisking constantly, until flour is golden, 1-2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add sherry, then 4 cups chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes, until gravy thickens slightly. Stir in chicken and steamed vegetables; return to simmer.

5. To cook dumplings: Lay formed dumplings on the surface of chicken mixture; cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through (about 15 minutes). Gently stir in peas. Adjust seasonings, adding some salt and pepper to taste. Ladle portion of meat, sauce, vegetables, and dumplings into soup plates and serve immediately.

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