Maybe it was the beautiful weather we've been having lately. Maybe it was the complete cleaning we did on the kitchen yesterday. Maybe it was because I got up early and made a pie. For whatever reason. tonight I was treated to a proper Sunday dinner of chicken and dumplings.
This is one of those quintessential American dishes created out of necessity in the New World. An easy way to get meat, veg, and bread in one pot, the dish provided a complete meal that can be cooked on the hearth or over an open fire. And it can (and should) be made from simple New World vegetables that most of us have on hand.
You'll want to start with a stock. If you follow the simple "waste not, want not" philosophy, this is not difficult to muster. My counterpart happened to have a ham bone from our Limas and Ham meal a while back in the freezer. That plus the vegetable remnants from the week's dinners plus some carrot, leek, and onion, and we had a hearty bullion in progress.
While the stock is simmering on the back burner, prep your veg. And you really will want to stick close to those familiar American vegetables for this dish - carrots, peas, celery, potatoes, things like that. If you want to dress up this dish, adding trending and esoteric veg will not produce the desired results. Fresh herbs are the way to go - thyme, basil, and oregano are good choices. You can also slip in some fresh garlic and a minced jalapeno. We used carrots, potato, onion, and leek, plus some garlic and the sneaky jalapeno. Cook the veg in a heavy pot or dutch oven on the stovetop in a little oil, starting with the carrots as they take longer to cook.
For the chicken, you can really do whatever you want. You'll be cooking it on the stovetop first, so whatever suits your fancy. In my childhood, I had this dish with quartered chicken still on the bone, and this is what I always think of with this dish. This evening, we cooked up some boned, skinned chicken thighs. However you prep your chicken, remember to save the drippings as they will be used later.
Once the chicken has cooked through. add it to the dutch oven with your veg. Strain your stock and add that too, saving some to the side to deglaze the chicken pan. Drain the drippings into a small dish and let cool. Then, deglaze the pan, gently scraping up the chicken sucs and add this also to your dutch oven, along with fresh herbs and sriracha sauce. (I know, it's this year's flavor trend, but it deserves the attention. It adds a little kick to most dishes, and food without a little kick is less satisfying. My counterpart has been sneaking the stuff into everything he cooks for years. For better or worse, sriracha is the new garlic.) Keep this at a simmer while you prep your dumplings.
Dumplings are a really wonderful bread because they cook from the steam that rises off of the pot. They are light and airy and soak up the juice from the chicken. Here's the best dumpling recipe ever:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups self-rising flour
A little salt and some fresh herbs
The drippings from the pan you used to cook your chicken
That's it. Mix the dairy and the eggs together. Then add the salt and herbs and the chicken drippings. Set aside until everything else has finished cooking. Then mix in the flour, adding more if needed to pull everything together into a sticky dough. Using two spoons or spatulas, drop your dumpling batter on top of your chicken and veg, spacing them far enough apart so that they do not touch as they will expand while cooking. from the recipe above, we got six very large and fluffy dumplings.
Cover the whole thing and cook in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes. Our chicken and dumplings came out hearty and rich and zesty with light, airy dumplings that soaked up the rich sauce. We had ours with a dollop of sour cream and a home made berry pie for dessert, making it a proper Sunday dinner that would make our grandparents proud.