Fast forward to the present. I have in my freezer a large hen that we bought from a farmer that needs to be stewed. It's larger than a normal chicken, and will be tough to eat if it's not slowly cooked and coaxed into tenderness. Chicken and Dumplings-the correct way, seemed perfect to me. So here we have Chicken and Dumplings, step by step, as I actually had my camera handy, and thought to take pictures of the process. The resulting product was very good- not quite what I expected, but overall I'm pleased with it and thought it worth sharing. Warning- this post could get a little long today. If you'd like to just get to the recipe, check it out in the Recipe Trove.
Here we have the first step. This is my chicken, nicely browned in my large saute pan. I am using half of my large hen, as it will be more than enough chicken for my family. Even though the recipe doesn't say to, I did sprinkle my chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and I used 1/2 butter, 1/2 olive oil to brown in. You want this golden brown crispy color. In the photo above, I've already removed the chicken and put it in a casserole dish for the oven. When I saw how cramped it was though, I moved the chicken to a 9x13 pyrex dish instead.
This is the sauteing vegetables and herbs. This is one of those times I wish I could transfer scent to you. The second this hit the hot pan, an amazing aroma permeated the room. I think the addition of celery leaves as an herb is a bit of genius and is where most of that gorgeous scent comes from. In addition to celery leaves, we also have carrots, onions, garlic, an celery pieces. This sauteed for about 5 minutes- or until the vegetables started to brown a bit.
Then you remove the carrots from the saute pan and surround the chicken with them. I loved the look of the large carrot pieces, and you can see that this would have never all fit in that round casserole dish either. If you're wondering which chicken parts I'm using, there's a thigh, a leg, a wing, and a breast cut into two large pieces. As I mentioned, this is a big chicken.
After removing the carrots, flour is added to the pan, followed by chicken broth. To the chicken broth, sugar, salt, dried basil, and bay leaves have been added. This needs to be stirred constantly until it starts bubbling, and then it thickens very nicely. Once it bubbles, you can add your peas or corn (Or both). I opted for a can of corn this time. This is where you pour the sauce over the chicken pieces and carrots waiting on the side. But at the last minute I made a judgement call and decided to pull the meat off the chicken bones to make it easier to serve and eat.
And here it is all combined together in the pan. Have I mentioned how much chicken is on this rather large hen? If you have an opportunity to buy a farm-fresh chicken, do it! Don't even hesitate. We paid about $8.00 for one chicken. This one chicken was portioned into three freezer bags-ideally for two chicken dinners, and then the third one is the back and bones to be turned into stock at some point. But this half of a hen for the chicken and dumplings was a lot of meat! I could have cooked this in two smaller pans and tucked one into the freezer for another time. As it is, I've been munching on it for lunch for a few days. Anyway...
And here, finally, is the final product. The dumplings came together very quickly and I dolloped them all over the top of the chicken stew. In the end, it seemed a little more like a rustic chicken pot pie to me than what I expected of chicken and dumplings, but overall,we all enjoyed it. It was a complete meal in one, and I thought the flavor was right where it should be. Maybe a little too much black pepper for our taste, but the combination of dumplings and chicken stew were perfectly proportioned, and it is a keeper for sure. It also re-heated perfectly, as I'd cooked it early in the day on Wednesday, popped it in the fridge, and then Andy warmed it back up while we were at ballet class. I am certain that this could be frozen as well after the dumplings have been fully cooked.
Since this post got a little long today, rather than posting the recipe here, I'll just direct you to my saved version here in the Recipe Trove. TGIF!