I lead my too-stupid-to-cook post with Donna’s roast chicken photo (a spur of the moment shot while I finished the meal) because roast chicken is the iconic home meal. It’s delicious, satisfying, economical, and easy. But why I love roast chicken is that it keeps on giving if you’ll let it. I almost always throw the carcass into a 2 quart sauce pan and cover it with water for stock (here’s my oven method for making stock). One carcass will give you a quart of great stock.
If I also have plenty of leftover chicken, I’ll make chicken and dumplings, especially in the winter (basically an inverted chicken pot pie!). When you’ve got this delicious stock, it’s impossible to wind up with anything other than fabulous. Two hearty meals from one little chicken.
The dumplings are what make the dish so much fun to make and to eat. I use a basic pate a choux, mixed with plenty of fresh herbs. (Here’s a video of how to make pate a choux dumplings.)
Chicken with dumplings is a meal that combines everything I love about food and cooking. It brings it all together: delicious food, economy, craft (that is, it’s fun to make). The recipe below uses two cups of leftover chicken but if you want to make this really flavorful, or if you ate all your roasted chicken and only have the stock, use boneless skinless chicken thighs, about a pound or so; roast them for twenty minutes in a very hot oven to give them some color and flavor first).
And if you don’t want a thick stew, if it’s April and not January, say, and you want something lighter, simply omit the roux and it's chicken and dumpling soup (cook the dumplings right in the soup).
Food doesn’t get better than this.
Chicken with Herbed Dumplings
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
⅓ cup flour
1 quart stock from one chicken carcass (add water if you don't have a quart)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
2 cups cooked chicken (or 20 ounces boneless chicken thighs, see post for instructions)
2 carrots large dice
2 ribs celery large dice
freshly ground black pepper
a squeeze of lemon to taste
For the dumplings:
1 cup milk
4 ounces butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon minced tarragon
1 tablespoon minced chives
In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook them till they’re translucent. Stir in the flour and continue cooking till the flour has a lightly toasted aroma.
Whisk in the stock, and bring it to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and add the salt, bay leaf, tomato paste, chicken, carrots and celery (if you like the celery crunchy, which I do, add it just at the end).
Make the dumplings while the stew finishes cooking:
Combine the milk, butter and salt in a small sauce pan and bring it to a simmer. When the butter is completely melted, add the flour and stir until the flour has absorbed the milk and pulls away from the side of the pan.
Remove it from the heat. Run a little cold water over the outside of the pan to cool it down a little. Add an egg and stir until it’s incorporated into the dough. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Then stir in the tarragon and chives. (The dumplings can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated; you can also make a double batch freeze the extras after you cook them.)
Bring a pot of water to a boil.
Invert a plastic bag over your hand and scoop out the dumpling dough. Remove the bag from your hand to enclose the dough in the bag to make a piping bag. Cut a hole in one corner of the bag about ½ inch in diameter.
Pipe the dough into the boiling water, cutting them into inch long dumplings (to make chicken and dumpling soup, cut the dumplings directly into the soup). When the dumplings float, remove them to a paper towel until ready to add to the stew.
Taste the stew for seasoning and add more salt if you wish, freshly ground black pepper. And for one last little push, a squeeze of lemon.
Serves 4 to 6