The holidays are far gone, but we're still getting plenty of use out of this year's stove-centric loot. By now, anyone out there reading knows that we love hearty one pot meals: lamb stew, pork butt, brisket, the list goes on. And while our trusty royal blue Le Creuset was plenty big for small gatherings, it couldn't accommodate the larger parties that we love to have. Luckily, Jake's parents gifted us another dutch oven with a whopping 7.25 quart capacity, and in aqua blue this time! We're so in love with it that we've used it at least once a week since, regardless of our party size. (Good thing we have a big freezer!)
Also under the tree/menorah this year: the new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook! We so often go to the Smitten Kitchen blog for inspiration and had been waiting anxiously to pour over the beautiful book as soon as it was released. It did not disappoint and after binging on Perelman's recipes and luscious photography we were left with a hankering for one of our favorite SK recipes – Chicken and Dumplings! The recipe isn't in the book (it's ok Deb, we forgive you!) but since we practically have it memorized, we dove right in. And, of course, our brand new Le Creuset was ready and waiting to be broken in.
Chicken and Dumplings with Leeks and Tarragon
For the Stew:
+ 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 peices
+ salt and ground black pepper
+ 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
+ 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
+ 2 medium leeks cut in half lengthwise and then into 1-inch pieces
+ 1 large onion, minced
+ 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
+ 1/4 cup dry sherry
+ 4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
+ 1/4 cup whole milk
+ 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
+ 2 bay leaves
+ 1 cup frozen green peas
+ 3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves
For the Dumplings:
+ 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
+ 1 tablespoon baking powder
+ 1 teaspoon table salt
+ 1 cup whole milk
+ 3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat (or unsalted butter)
1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the chicken and cook until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin. Pour off the chicken fat and reserve. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken. Pour off and reserve any chicken fat.
2. Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves. Nestle the chicken, with any accumulated juices, into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 1 hour.
3. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones,then return it to the stew.
4. On to the dumplings... stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and fat in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth. Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and tarragon, and season with salt and pepper.
5. To make the dumplings, gather a golf-ball-sized portion of the dumpling batter onto a soup spoon, then push the dumpling onto the stew using a second spoon. The dumplings should be about 1/4 inch apart and you should have about 18 dumplings. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve!