Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A Hug in a Bowl: Chicken and Dumpling Soup

I like to think that we are in the home stretch with winter. Or maybe I have to just to stay sane in Canada. There is a rather large bouquet of tulips on my kitchen counter that portends warmer days and birdies chirping and sunshine and all those things I have almost forgotten in this snowy, blowy, winter haze.

I know, we still have February, which is never warm by anyone's standards. And March comes in like a lion.. and often out like one too. And April is the cruelest month... but May. I could get behind May. May is a soggy month of hope. New buds, returning birdies. Sunshine, albeit with an edge. Yes, I am looking forward to May.

But until then we still have comfort foods. Like when you realize that on that one special day in the forecast that doesn't call for snow or freezing rain brings with it thousand mile an hour winds instead, freezing yesterday's slight thaw into a skating rink of doom? That is a perfect day to have comfort foods at the ready for any and all white-knuckled commuters.

Don't worry, Mama's here. And she loves you. Look, soup. With dumplings. Not just any dumplings either, these are made with pâte à choux. Light and airy and filled with love. Also a little chicken stock. Eat, be warm. And loved. ♥

Chicken and Dumpling Soup
very adapted from Michael Symon's Live to Eat
serves 4


Olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp flour
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced (inside stalks with leaves if possible)
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock or water with bouillon
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste

¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup whole milk
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp tarragon
½ cup flour
1 large egg plus one yolk

For the soup:
Cut the chicken up into 1 cm pieces and toss with the flour and some salt and pepper to season.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot (enamel-coated cast iron is best) on medium heat.
Toss in the chicken and stir-fry until starting to brown.
Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and reserve on a plate. (There will be a film on the bottom of the pot, don't worry about it)
Throw veggies and garlic into the pot and cook, stirring, until starting to colour and soften. Add in the white wine to deglaze the pot. (Use your wooden spoon to free up the tasty bits from the bottom of the pot)
Add in the stock or water with bouillon and let come to a low boil.
Adjust the heat so the soup simmers slowly for about ½ hour. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.

Combine the milk and butter in a small, heavy bottomed pot (enamel-coated cast iron is best).
Heat on medium until the butter melts and liquid is hot. Stir with a wooden spoon. Add in seasonings - salt, pepper, nutmeg and tarragon.
Take off the heat and add flour, stirring rapidly with your wooden spoon until smooth and pulling away from the sides. Add in the first egg and keep stirring until it is incorporated. Add the yolk and do the same. When you have a fully smooth and lovely dough, scoop out with a cookie-dough-sized disher and plop the dumplings right into the soup. Make sure new ones aren't touching so they don't stick together.
Simmer in the soup for 10 minutes, serve.