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Favorites are dishes we rely on to feed our friends and families, so they’re steeped in memories. During a family visit to Minnesota, I asked my brother what he wanted for dinner. He chose the iconic Southern meal Chicken and Dumplings from Real Cajun, my first cookbook with New Orleans chef Donald Link.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 scant teaspoon ground black pepper
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 small onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
1 tablespoon salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or other ground chile pepper)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup (2/3 stick) butter
8 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1. Dumplings: Whisk together flour, baking powder, oregano, cayenne, black pepper and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, onion, melted butter and milk. Stir wet ingredients into dry ones just until blended. Chill batter at least 30 minutes.
2. Chicken Stew: Place flour in a large bowl. Season chicken with salt, pepper and cayenne, then toss with flour. Reserve the remaining dredging flour. In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, fry the chicken in vegetable oil until golden brown, about 10–12 minutes, then transfer to a plate.
3. Discard half the frying oil. Add onion, celery, carrot, jalapeño, garlic and thyme, and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes.
4. Add wine, wait 20 seconds, then add butter, stirring until melted. Add reserved flour and stir until vegetables are evenly coated. Add chicken broth, stir gently and bring to a simmer.
5. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a separate skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté half the mushrooms until crisp and browned, 4–5 minutes. Add cooked mushrooms to the vegetable mixture and repeat with remaining oil and mushrooms. Add chicken to the stew and simmer until fork-tender, periodically skimming fat, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Transfer stew to a large, ovenproof skillet and simmer. Use a tablespoon to scoop the dumpling batter and scrape onto the stew. Bake until dumplings are lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Allow the stew to cool slightly before serving.
To test the consistency of dumpling batter, scoop a spoonful and turn the spoon on its side. The batter should fall slowly off the spoon. If it runs off, you’ll need to mix in a few more tablespoons of flour.
From Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana (Clarkson Potter, 2009) by Donald Link with Paula Disbrowe, used with permission