Herbed Chicken & Dumplings

Herbed Chicken & Dumplings 1

Last Friday, the foodie world uttered a simultaneous [gasp!] when the media speculated that Butter Queen Paula Deen seems poised to admit to her long-rumored Type II diabetes diagnosis.

But was this really gasp-worthy news? Interesting, perhaps, that a chef who has built her celebrity around the overuse of butter will finally concede that she was, at last, foiled by same. But no one should be shocked. Butter in small amounts is probably not going to kill you. Shameless use of butter by the stick, however, is a different story.

(And never one to take the hint, the Food Network, Paula’s TV home, did America’s pancreas and arteries no particular good in adding yet another butter-queen-in-the-making to its regular show roster. Am I all alone in the world in wanting to see a show with someone like Kim Boyce or Heidi Swanson?)

So what’s a foodie to do? It’s really simple: moderation.

Yeah, you already knew that.  You did. But it’s really easy to forget when you’re browsing a recipe site, getting hungrier with every click.

And here’s the thing: you don’t need a whole stick of butter to create incredible flavors. Take my go-to chicken and dumplings. A dish traditionally made with skin-on chicken, rendered chicken fat, lots of butter, and full fat milk, I slim things down considerably — skinless chicken (and therefore no chicken fat), a little butter, reduced fat milk, whole wheat flour subbed for a portion of the white — and instead inject lots of flavor with loads of aromatic vegetables and simple herbs, both in the stew and in the dumplings (hello, tarragon-parsley-and-chives dumplings, my little darlings).

Herbed Chicken & Dumplings 2

Here’s the first thing Ms. Paula should do: start a vegetable garden. The mild winter has kept my Midwest autumn garden going strong — healthy, fresh, organic vegetables in January! If I can do this in Ohio, she can certainly do this in Georgia. I’m still pulling leeks, carrots, chives, parsley, thyme, rosemary and celery (!) out of my garden. Such a nice treat.

After decades of gardening it still amazes me when I take my collection of seed packets in February and spread them out on the living room floor, realizing that in mere months, an entire summer’s and fall’s worth of food will spring from these seeds. It’s impossible not to be a little in awe of that prospect.

Herbed Chicken & Dumplings 3

I don’t know about you, but looking at this pot doesn’t make me feel deprived. This is actually one of my very favorite winter chicken dishes. I say this with all honesty, people: I just don’t see how adding chicken fat and loads more butter can make the dish better. Different, sure. But better? It’s already, really, really tasty.

I feel for Paula, having to live with a diagnosis like that, but if one good thing can come from it, I hope that she stands up and shows the world that not all great flavors are derived from butter.

Herbed Chicken & Dumplings 4

Speaking of looking at the pot, you know the part that kinda stinks about photographing what you’re about to eat (especially when you’re a photography slow-poke like me)? Having to hover over the dish, taking in all the steamy aromas, while futzing with the lighting and props. It’s just torture, man. Torture. The things we do for our blogs.

Karen, xoxo

Pin It  

Herbed Chicken & Dumplings

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken (breasts or thighs, or both)
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided usage
2 medium leeks, white and llight green parts only, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
3 tablespoons unbleached white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup milk (I use 2%)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only (stems discarded)
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour (or use a-p flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (I use 2%)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons teaspoons fresh tarragon leaves, minced
2 teaspoons teaspoons fresh parsely, minced
2 teaspoons chives, minced

1. Make the Stew: Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 4 to 5 quart Dutch oven or large stock pot over medium heat. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken in a single layer and cook until golden brown on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool slightly.

2. Add the remaining oil to the Dutch oven and heat. Add the leeks, onion, carrots and a pinch of salt, and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir well to coat. Add the sherry and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaf.

3. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into small pieces and add to the pot. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and stir in the tarragon. Taste and add salt and pepper to suit.

4. Make the dumplings: In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Microwave the milk and butter in a microwave-safe container on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the herbs.

5. Drop dumplings by the spoonful (about a heaping tablespoon each) on top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve.

Print This Recipe


  1. 1) Love that bowl
    2) You’ve captured one of my top 5 favorite dishes of all time in beautiful form.
    3) Yes – to a Swanson, Boyce or other natural foods maven show. Please!

  2. Phyllis Ryan says:

    My go to recipe in the winter is Chicken and Biscuits. But I am going to try your Dumplings because they sound wonderful. Thanks again for a great dish.

  3. This looks completely yummy! I love that it’s made in cast-iron skillet.

  4. The smell of butter melting in a pan was probably the earliest childhood memory that made me want to learn to be a good cook. There’s nothing like it. Butter in moderation is, of course, the correct answer. I feel for Paula Deen, too, and, after Friday’s “news” figured out why The Food Network started her son’s new show about lightening things up along side her. Good move.

    I’m delighted you took the time to futz over the photographs. They are simply gorgeous. The chicken and dumplings, delectable.

  5. Mmmm, this looks fantastic. There’s something about those dumplings that is so inviting 😀 An entire stick of butter isn’t that inviting to me. There are sometimes when it adds flavor but not always and you usually don’t need much. It’s so sad to see Paula out there in place of someone much more worthy(in my opinion) like you mentioned Heidi Swanson. I would watch that for sure! 😀

  6. I haven’t made chicken and dumplings in years and I have no idea why! It is one of my very favorite winter foods…

    This version looks especially enticing…

  7. I meant to post my “Don’t malign butter” comment here but put it on your next post by mistake! Thank you for your lovely reply there.

    It seemed to me (perhaps wrongly) that butter was being singled out as a cause of Ms. Deen’s Type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar (from long-term ingestion of excess sugars), obesity (in general, from ingesting too much food) and high circulating blood insulin are usually the culprits in diabetes. Interestingly, high circulating insulin (an inflammatory condition) is now known to be a chief cause of heart disease, not consumption of saturated fat. Saturated fat (but NOT transfats) has been exonerated in heart disease. Of course, you can still have too much of it and acquire some other condition of excess! :)

    I’m just sensitive lately to the government- and industry-induced fear of saturated fat … we need saturated fat for optimal health, and heavily processed oils (like canola, sunflower, soy, safflower), though they are excellent for making profits for farmers and corporations, are becoming better known as inflammatory and health-damaging.

    Along with moderation should go the awareness that the more highly processed a food is, the more toxic it is to our bodies. It’s interesting to note that to create a market for highly processed foods, one first has to vilify the real food (butter, coconut oil, animal fat) and create a fear of it. Or make it extremely convenient and “addictive” (boxed cereals, crackers, chips, cookies, etc.)

    Of course, if one is sensitive to dairy, butter is a bad choice. And of course, these are complex topics. But fascinating! I began to learn about these issues when a startling number of my friends received a diagnosis similar to Ms. Deen’s. :(

    • SoupAddict says:

      I think you’re right about the butter-blame … I’m sure it’s simply because Deen is known for her casual slinging of butter, rather than any true causal relationship with diabetes.

      (On a side note, have you ever seen her gooey butter cakes? (I’ve made one before – the pumpkin version is on this blog somewhere.) They’re fabulous, but they have two sticks of butter for an 8 serving cake … plus a half pound of cream cheese, white flour … and a whole pound of confectioner’s sugar! It was really good (especially in the fall when one starts craving comfort foods) … but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to make it again.)

      From what I understand, when an overweight Type II diabetic remains overweight and is unable to get his or her disease under control with diet and exercise (which clearly, she hasn’t, given her weight and her now-public relationship with Novartis), such a person becomes even more susceptible to the dangerous metabolic syndrome, which includes diabetes, as well as heart, kidney and liver disease.

      I think I read a quote somewhere in the media yesterday that she hasn’t changed how she eats (same foods, just less of them), which I thought was such a poor message to send to diabetic and pre-diabetic folks out there. Obviously, her diet – whatever it is (surely even she doesn’t eat gooey butter cakes every day) – is not working for her.

      I agree it’s fascinating, and conversations with worth having!

  8. You’re spot on with the moderation lesson. Why a Chef wouldn’t get the clue about eating right I don’t totally understanding… It’s a beautiful looking soup. I wish I had a big bowl/pot/bucket of it right now!

  9. holy cow… YES PLEASE! Just found your blog and SO glad i did!

  10. Do you let the chicken cook all the way through in that first step?

  11. nancy thomas says:

    Sorry but butter does many things to a body in excess but it does NOT give you diabetes. Excess use of carbohydrates can cause adult onset diabetes but butter is guilty of clogging our arteries and veins and causing heart disease. I love your site but check your facts please.
    This dish looks excellent and you are correct that butter is okay in smaller amounts. Julia Child was wrong when she said it makes everything better!
    Nancy Thomas RN MSN

Speak Your Mind