My Hearty Bean Soup isn't the only recipe I've been working on for a long time. Even older than that is my fusion of chicken and dumplings and chicken paprikash: Paprika Chicken and Dumplings. Based on where I found it among my recipes and how stained this scribbled-upon page was, I'm guessing I probably made my first version of this recipe probably about 15 years ago. Since then, it's gone through a lot of changes.
The basic idea is pretty simple: Cook up bits of chicken in a tasty Paprika gravy and add dumplngs, which serve in the place of the noodles or mashed potatoes one traditionally serves with chicken paprikah. I made up a batch of Paprika Chicken and Dumplings several months ago, before we started blogging. Juli liked the dish quite a bit, and has been asking for me to make it again for awhile now, but there was one thing I knew I would have to figure out before I made it again: How to make dumplings better.
The original recipe, written down so long ago (probably copied from some long-forgotten cookbook or magazine recipe) featured dumplings that tended to so chewy and leaden as to resemble rubber more than biscuit, and they were also pretty much flavorless. The much-revised version of that recipe I used a couple months ago resulted in biscuits that had some flavor, but which were still gummy and heavy. So, before I tried again, I did some research into how to make better dumplings.
First I dug through my cookbooks and other printed recipe sources to find as many chicken and dumplings recipes as I could. I did the same online, checking out allrecipes.com, the Cook's Country website and several of my favorite cooking blogs. Then I compared the recipes, looking for points of agreement as well as more unique options.
I noticed right off that some of the better-reviewed online recipes and one The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011 intriguing feature in common - they all used buttermilk, rather than regular milk. That idea sounded like a keeper to me, The same recipe - Updated Chicken and Dumplings - from the Best of ATK 2001 featured another idea I liked. I'd already figured out that the number of eggs - a whopping three - in my old recipe was part of the problem. The ATK recipe cut the egg component down to a single egg white, so I decided to try that as well.
The research paid off, because this batch of dumplings was fantastic. They were light, fluffy and flavorful, and added a nice, light texture to the dish that contrasted nicely with the chunks of stewed chicken and flavorful gravy. After many years and lots of tries, I finally had a version of the dish I was truly pleased with.
Paprika Chicken and Dumplings
yield = 6 servings
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 pounds chicken thighs, skinned and boned
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil (if needed)
2 medium onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup white wine
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 cups flour
1/4 cup chopped fresh paresley
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg white
Cut each chicken breast into 5-6 pieces and each chicken thigh into 2 or 3 pieces. Dry the chicken pieces with paper towels and season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken pieces in batches, leaving a half-inch or so between each piece and cooking each batch of chicken pieces until lightly browned, then transferring the cooked chicken to a large bowl.
If there is more than one tablespoon of fat, drain off all but one tablespoon and discard the excess; if there is less than 1 tablespoon of chicken fat in the Dutch oven, add the vegetable oil. Add the onions and cook until they have started to brown. Stir in the garlic, cook one minute, then stir in the paprika, tomato paste, pepper, salt and marjoram and cook until fragrant. Return the chicken pieces, along with any accumulated juices, to the Dutch oven.
Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring often, then add the canned diced tomatoes, chicken stock or broth and white wine. Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes.
While the chicken simmers, add five quarts of water to a stock pot and bring to a boil. As the water heats up, mix the flour, chopped parsley, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Pour the buttermilk into a small bowl, pour in the melted butter and stir. This will make clumps, which is fine. Stir in the egg white, then add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix with a spatula until just incorporated, then roll two-tablespoon portions of the dough into small balls.
When all the dumpling batter has been added to the boiling water, ladle 1/2 cup of the liquid in the Dutch oven into a bowl. Stir the sour cream into this liquid, then add the bowl contents to the Dutch oven and stir in to combine. Using a slotted spoon, test the firmness of one of the dumplings by pressing it lightly against the side of the pot. If it is somewhat firm, use the slotted spoon to transfer the dumplings one at a time to the Dutch oven. Stir them in very gently, cover and allow to simmer 10 minutes.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.