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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Chicken and Dumplings with Sweet Potato Stuffing

Chicken and dumplings is the classic comfort-food entree, no question about it. Stuffing the dumplings with a savory sweet potato puree takes them to another flavor level. Adding that little touch, makes the dish perfect for a dinner party.

Chicken and Dumplings with Sweet Potato Stuffing

Yield: 4-6

Time: 2 1/2 hours


1 medium sized sweet potato or yam, washed, wrapped in tin foil
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
8 cloves, garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 4-pound chickens, washed
1 yellow onion, peeled, roughly chopped
1 ear of corn, the kernels removed
3 large carrots, peeled, cut into thick rounds
1/2 pounds mushrooms, washed, sliced thin
4 cups chicken stock, homemade
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Bake the sweet potato in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour (turning it over after the 1st 30 minutes) until soft. Remove from the tin foil and peel off the skin and mash with a fork. (For a chef's snack, try the skin with a little sea salt. Yummy.) Saute the finely chopped shallots and 2 of the garlic cloves in olive oil until lightly browned, then add to the sweet potato puree and put aside.

Cut apart the chicken, separating the legs, thighs, and wing parts (cut apart the three wing bones, keeping the 2 and using the wing tip for stock). Debone the breasts and remove the skin. Put the meat into a bowl and season with 1/4 cup olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper.

To make the stock, put the carcass, wing tips, and breast skin into a large pot with 1/2 gallon of water and simmer on a medium flame for 1 hour. The water should have reduced by half. Strain out the bones and put the stock aside.

Cutting apart the chicken and making the stock the night before has a couple of advantages. You don't have to deal with it on the day you're cooking the meal, the meat will tenderize in the seasoned olive oil, and you'll be able to strip off the fat that will solidify on top of the stock. These are all good things.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, brown the wings, legs, and thighs in olive oil on a medium flame, turning them frequently so they don't burn. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Pour off the fat and discard. Measure 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the onions, garlic, corn, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add the wings, legs, thighs and chicken stock. Cover with a lid or piece of tin foil and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Add enough stock or water to cover the chicken and vegetables.

Make the dumplings by first mixing together the flour and baking powder. Using a fork, crumble the butter into the flour, then season with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir the flour mixture and slowly add the cream until the texture is like thick porridge.

The dumplings will take 30 minutes to cook, so save this last step until your guests have arrived and they're enjoying drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Ask someone to keep you company or help with making the dumplings. They're fun to make but a bit tedious.

One last thing before you start making the dumplings. This is the moment when you can decide if you want to include the breast meat or save it for another dish (like grilled chicken paillard or breaded chicken breasts). If you want to have both white and dark meat in the dish, then cut the breasts into 1" cubes and lightly saute them in a olive oil for 2 minutes on each side, then add them to skillet.

Put the flame onto medium and start fashioning the dumplings. Using 2 large metal spoons, scoop up a quarter-sized amount of the dumpling mixture in one of the spoons. With the other, take a dime-sized amount of the sweet potato puree and spread that over the dumpling mixture, then scoop up another quarter-sized portion of the dumpling mixture and spread it on top of the other spoon so the sweet potato puree is completely hidden.

Describing how to make the stuffed dumplings makes it sound difficult, but it's very simple. You'll quickly get the hang of it.

There should be enough liquid in the pot to reach 1/2" above the meat and vegetables, because the dumplings need liquid to stay moist. Once the dumpling has been formed in the one spoon, use the other spoon to gently slide it off into the pot so it rests on top of the chicken and vegetables.

As you make the dumplings, set them into the pot, one next to the other--no overlapping--until the top of the pan is completely covered with dumplings. It's best if there's a little space between dumpling so they have room to expand.

Cover the pot and come back in 30 minutes. Use a large soup plate to serve the chicken with a sampling of vegetables and a dumpling.

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