It may be triple digits in Texas, but the calendar claims it is officially Fall. While I have to wait to incorporate scarves into my outfits, I am not waiting on colder temperatures to begin cooking seasonal dinners like chili, stew, soups, and braises.
One of Jim's absolute favorite meals is Chicken and Dumplings, so you better believe it is a recipe I continue to refine. I could make homemade dough for the dumplings, but I must say my mother-in-law's shortcut to use canned biscuits are not only brilliant, but Jim says it is his favorite part. I even toyed with the idea of using potato gnocchi, but Jim claimed he "feared change."
This stellar step-by-step recipe can also produce the best chicken noodle soup if you swap egg noodles for the canned biscuits. And don't worry about making chicken stock from scratch if you don't have the time. For me, I think it is easier to buy a rotisserie chicken and pick the meat off. I then use the skin and bones in my pressure cooker to make the stock along with the ends and scraps from the veggies I chop for the soup.
Notice I do not include measurements for salt and pepper below, and that is because the amount of salt you add all depends on the saltiness of your chicken stock. Are you using storebought or making your own? You need to taste and taste and taste and then add pinches at a time.
3 tablespoons butter (I like Kerrygold salted)
3 tablespoons olive oil (I like California Olive Ranch evoo)
3 leeks (roughly 2 cups) white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced ½ inch thin, and washed thoroughly to remove dirt
1 celery stalk, diced (I include the leavy tops)
3 carrots, diced (roughly 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like oregano and thyme
1/3 cup sherry
1 rotisserie chicken, meat picked off into bite-size pieces and set aside
10 cups chicken stock (see semi-homemade recipe here)
1 tablespoon grainy country dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons chicken bouillon (I like Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken paste)
2 cans plain biscuits
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
1 cup chardonnay
In a large Dutch Oven, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the washed and dried leeks to the fat, along with the chopped celery and carrots. Let this sweat and soften for at least 10 minutes, stirring ever so often, so the veggies do not brown. Turn down the heat if things start to color.
While the veggies soften, I usually have Jim pick all the pretty meat off the rotisserie chicken, ensuring these are bite-sized pieces, not huge chunks. I do not love this task, but he eagerly volunteers so that he can sneak bites. It's cute that he thinks he gets away with this.
I take the leftover skin and bones from the chicken and place it in my pressure cooker along with the veggie scraps that I just saved from the step above. Have extra carrots or an onion? Throw those in too. See full recipe here.
The stock takes around half an hour, so this gives the veggies plenty of time to sweat and melt into one another. I like to add at least one, and up to two tablespoons of fresh herbs. Thyme, oregano, and rosemary are all wonderful flavors for this dish. Add the garlic last, and stir it around for a minute before turning the heat to medium-high and adding the sherry. Once the sherry is evaporated, it is time to introduce the stock.
If the stock is not ready, turn the burner off and let the Dutch Oven sit undisturbed until you are prepared to add the chicken stock. If you are not using homemade stock, I suggest mixing Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken paste with water. Just keep in mind this can be salty so taste as you go.
Once all the stock is added, turn heat to medium-high and add the mustard and taste for seasoning. I usually add a tablespoon or two of Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken paste to my homemade stock to add both salt and intense chicken flavor. Taste and taste, and adjust until it is perfect chicken soup.
Up until this point, you have a bowl of perfect chicken soup, and all you need to do is add the torn chicken you have sitting on the side. Add egg noodles to make chicken and noodle soup. Boil rice and add to the pot with the chicken and you have chicken and rice soup. I've been dying to try potato gnocchi in this luxurious chicken stock, I bet it would be divine!
For Jim, he wants dumplings, so I take the fantastic suggestion from my Mother-In-Law and cut storebought, canned biscuits into 8 small triangles. Once the soup has begun to boil, start adding the dumplings a little at a time.
The dumplings will really swell, and look like they could just disintegrate in the liquid. They absorb some of the soup, cook a little and go down in size. It takes about 15-20 minutes for the dumplings to go through this process. The biscuits give off starch as they swell and shrink, turning your soup into a creamy stew.
Finish and serve
Once the dumplings are cooked and firm, turn the heat to low and add the remaining ingredients: chicken cream, green peas, and chardonnay. If the thought of adding wine to a finished dish is a turn off for you, leave this last step out.
Once the soup is heated through, ladle into deep bowls and serve your hungry family. I would suggest pouring a glass of cold chardonnay, the same one you added at the end. Trust me.