Fewer dishes define basic middle-class American comfort food more then fluffy, creamy Chicken and Dumplings.
Possibly with French-Canadian origins, humble chicken and dumplings has been a Southern staple in the United States since the Great Depression. A very simple recipe combines a creamy chicken soup with essentially drop biscuits, extending a meal with dough that is a method shared by many cultures.
Due to its inherent simplicity, this thick stew lends itself to any number of creative improvements. Corn and green beans are added along with the basic mirepoix, and a splash of white wine adds a depth of flavor without overloading the base with strong herbs or spices. Virtually any available vegetables, beans or greens can be added or omitted to taste.
Of course, the dish all comes down to the included dumpling. Shortcuts are readily available such as puff pastry or fresh pasta, but the addition used here has been adapted from a traditional southern biscuit recipe. The buttermilk and garlic will add a sharp flavor addition to the somewhat plain base, and any fresh herb can be mixed into the dumpling dough, even minced jalapeño for a Southwestern kick.
Because a blonde roux is built with the stew base, further enhanced by the starch of the boiled dumplings, a dairy addition is not always necessary for thickening the broth and may be substituted to taste. Cream or half-and-half can be used, or whole milk, or dairy omitted entirely for a lighter, cleaner body.
As it is essentially a dish born of meagerness and poverty, this stew needs no accompaniment and can serve as a complete meal on its own. Finish with minced chives for appearance or crushed crackers for texture.
Chicken and Dumplings
2 chicken thighs
1 yellow onion
1 stalk celery
½ c green beans
½ c corn
¼ c white wine
4 c chicken stock
½ c evaporated milk
2 T flour
2 T butter
½ t thyme
1 T parsley
For the dumplings:
1 c flour
1 T baking powder
¼ t baking soda
¼ t garlic powder
¾ c buttermilk.
½ t salt
1 Chop the onion, celery and carrot and sauté in oil until soft, about 5 min. Stir in the flour and butter and deglaze with the wine.
2 Add the stock and seasonings, and bury the chicken thighs in the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 min. Remove the chicken and set aside.
3 Add the beans and corn. Mix together the dumpling ingredients and spoon into the simmering stew. Cover and simmer for another 15 min.
4 Shred the chicken and return to the pot, and finish with the dairy. Season to taste.