The produce at the market was absolutely spectacular!! This truly is the greatest time of the year for a lover of local vegetables.
So, when I arrived home, and took a look at my purchases, as well as what I had in the fridge, there was one dish that seemed like the perfect choice for a cool harvest weekend.....Chicken and Dumplings!!
Here is the step by step path, from my farmer's market harvest to my dinner plate.
1. In order to avoid any chance of cross -contamination, I do all my work with the chicken first. I break the chickens down into 8 pieces each. (2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 pieces from each breast) I take the rest of the carcass (wings, back) and chop it up. After browning it in a pot, I add some vegetables and homemade chicken stock. This strengthens the broth and makes it much more flavourful.
2. Next, I season the chicken pieces well and then toss them in a seasoned flour. I brown them in oil over medium-high heat until golden brown. Afterwards, I set them aside and discard any of the cooking oil that remains.
3. Now that the chicken is finished and my board has been cleaned and sanitized, I can turn my attention to the vegetables. Mushrooms...quartered. Leeks...quartered lengthwise, then cross-cut, and then washed very well. Parsnip and heirloom carrots...peeled and cut in rough but uniformly sized chunks. Corn...simply cut from the cob. Kale...stripped from the stems, then cut in thin strips and then washed in 2 changes of water to get rid of an remaining grit.
4. A quick saute of the vegetables and then the chicken pieces are laid on top. The enhanced chicken stock is poured over top until all the solids are covered by at least 1" of liquid. Salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme go in, as well as a fresh bay leaf. At this point, I bring the mixture up to a boil, then cover and transfer to the oven (325 degrees) to cook until the chicken becomes almost fall-off-the-bone tender.
5. After about 1 1/2 hours in the oven, the dish is almost complete. I shake flour together with water to form what is known as a slurry. I then stir this into the stew while it simmers in order to thicken it. Some people prefer a more brothy stew while others tend towards a thick and hearty ragout. I tend to land somewhere in the middle of these 2 camps.
6. Now that the stew is thickened, I taste and adjust the seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Then comes the kale, which rapidly wilts into the stew.
7. It is now time for the dumplings. A simple batter of flour, salt, pepper, baking powder and milk along with some dried and fresh herbs comes together in seconds. With the soup simmering on the stove, I carefully scrape tablespoons of batter on to the surface. The lid goes back on and the stew goes into the oven for 15 more minutes.
8. With the wonderful aromas filling the house, it is difficult to wait for those last few minutes. As the pot comes from the oven, everyone gathers around to smell the delicious aroma as the lid is lifted. All that is needed is a sprinkling of fresh parsley and a generous dollop of mashed potatoes alongside to make this fall harvest specialty complete.