- 1 Whole Chicken, 3-4 pounds, cut into pieces (pastured, free-range chicken from your local farmer is best!)
- 1 quart chicken stock (homemade is always better)
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil (or a combination of both)
- 3-4 celery stalks, trimmed and diced into half-inch pieces
- 3-4 carrots, diced into half-inch pieces
- 2 leeks (white and light green parts only), cleaned, trimmed and chopped
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground thyme
- A couple leaves of sage
- Bay leaf
- ⅓ cup flour
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and chives
Heat the chicken stock to a gentle simmer in a medium pot. Place the chicken pieces into the stock and simmer until the chicken is just tender, about 30-40 minutes. Once done, remove the chicken pieces from the pot and once they are cool enough to handle, strip the meat off the bone into nice bite-sized pieces, removing the skin and excess fat (save these to make more chicken broth later). Set aside the simmering stock and chicken pieces.
In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrots, leeks and onion, stirring until soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Then add the minced garlic, thyme, sage and bay leaves, stirring until all are incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, stirring another few minutes. Then add the flour and stir, making sure to coat all the vegetables. Reduce the heat to low and stir the flourvegetable mixture for a few minutes, being careful not to let it burn.
Add the sherry to the flour-vegetable mixture, then add a ladle of hot chicken stock, stirring well. Continue to add the stock, stirring all the while, until the broth comes together. Once all of the chicken stock is incorporated, add the reserved chicken meat. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer while you make the dumplings.
Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the chopped fresh herbs. Then add the melted butter and buttermilk to the dry ingredients. Gently mix with a wooden spoon until mixture just comes together.
Drop the dumpling batter into the simmering stew by heaping spoonfuls. As they cook, the dumplings will double in size. Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Once you have covered the pan, try not to sneak a peek while the dumplings are cooking! In order for the dumplings to be light and fluffy, they must steam, not boil. Uncovering the pan releases the steam. Dumplings are done once they have doubled in size. If you aren’t quite sure, simply cut one in half to see. They will have the texture and appearance of a soft biscuit.
The stew will continue to thicken the longer it sits. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with more fresh parsley and chives. Ladle into your favorite bowl and enjoy a taste of fall.
Recipe from Natalie McGill, Perennial Roots Farm, Accomac, Virginia