Chicken and Dumplings with Leeks

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Spring is on our minds, but winter is still very much here and doesn't seem to be leaving anytime soon. There was a hint of warm weather over the past weekend, and now it looks like we're getting another bout of snow. So before we start to launch into the light and springy dinner recipes, I wanted to share one last hoorah for cold weather comfort meals, Chicken and Dumplings.

This is the meal my mom made for me as a surprise growing up, because I loved it so much. There was one time when she wanted to surprise me with a variation. I stayed out of the kitchen, all the while assuming she was just making the standard. Now I have to point out, my mother has never cooked a bad meal in her life. This was the only dinner to this day she ever made that we did not finish, and all had a good laugh over. I don't remember exactly which variation this was, something along the lines of a Cajun style. As soon as we stuck our forks in, we realized something had gone wrong. The dumplings were a kind of hard biscuit and the stew was just a little...different than expected.

Sometimes you have just got to stick to the classics. There's a reason comfort food is called that, and this is the epitome of comfort for me. Especially when it's cold out.  
 

Chicken and Dumplings with Leeks
serves 6

stew
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into large chunks
32 oz chicken stock, 1/4 cup reserved
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large leek, cleaned and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs thyme, divided
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

dumplings
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup skim milk

In a large dutch oven over medium high heat, warm olive oil until just simmering. Working in batches, brown chicken, cooking about 3 minutes per batch. Remove chicken and deglaze pan with 1/4 cup chicken stock, taking care to scrape brown bits. Add carrots, celery, garlic and leeks. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add remaining chicken stock, and browned chicken, seasoning generously with salt and pepper and 1 sprig of thyme. Bring to a gentle boil then reduce to a simmer, covered for 25 to 30 minutes.

To prepare dumplings, mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add milk, and stir to combine until a lumpy batter forms. As stew is finishing simmer, melt butter in a small skillet over medium high heat. Whisk in flour until mixture thins and starts to bubble. After fully incorporated, add two ladlefuls of broth and whisk to combine fully. Once incorporated, return thickened mixture to stew and stir to combine. Add spoonfuls of dumpling batter on top of the simmering stew, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until the dumplings are cooked through.