Adam’s a big fan of potpies, so during my cookbook-buying spree in the early 2000s I picked up Potpies: Yumminess in a Dish by Elinor Klivans. Trained in France, and known primarily for her pastry recipes (she’s got entire books dedicated solely to chocolate chips and donuts) Klivans has had a long and varied career as a chef and writer. Which explains two aspects of her potpie book: (1) everything we’ve made from it has been delicious and (2) her personal anecdotes that begin each recipe sound like she’s amassed the recipes over the course of several years, from traveling all over the world. Between the cookies, the potpie, and the travel: the woman seems to know her comfort food.
This is the recipe we make most-frequently from her book: a tasty pot of this chicken-and-gravy, herb-y stew with drop-dumpling corn muffins. Over the years we’ve tweaked the recipe to our liking (it’s a bit saucier this way, and makes more: leftovers!) and now the version here is our default. We cook this in a wok with the lid from a large saucepan; the tapered, wider top works well for adding the dumplings in the finals steps. While I’d stick with a wider pan rather than a taller pan (because of the aforementioned dumplings), really any pot large enough to hold all the ingredients will work.
We’ve also removed a couple of the fancier, more time-consuming elements of the original recipe as well: pre-cooking your own whole chicken while making your own homemade broth (amazing! but time-consuming), cooking the sauce a day ahead of time (fine, but not necessary), and also using different herbs for the sauce and dumplings (we found that one bunch of chives was the perfect size for both parts). Both photos are from times I’ve cooked this, six years apart, and it continues to be an easy, warm and tasty dish for the thick of Winter.
Chicken & Herb Dumplings
Adapted from Potpies: Yumminess in a Dish
Makes: One large pot, easily enough for 6+ servings.
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups chicken broth (low sodium, if you can)
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves)
4-5 cups chicken (roughly 3-4 chicken breasts or 6-8 chicken thighs, depending on size)
3 tbsp fresh chives, finely diced
Salt & Pepper
6 tbsp cornmeal
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk (any fat content)
1 large egg
2-3 tbsp fresh chives (but if you’ve got other herbs, combine ’em in), finely diced
For the gravy: Cut up the chicken into 1-inch pieces and sauté it over medium heat until done, then set aside. While the chicken’s cooking, grab a large pan, and melt the butter over low heat. As soon as it fully melts, stir in the flour and increase the heat to medium. Stir constantly until it’s bubbling and turns golden (anywhere from near-instantly to 2 minutes). Slowly add all the chicken broth. Stir slowly but consistently to keep it smooth (try to keep the roux from congealing; use a whisk if necessary), and increase the heat as necessary to bring it to a boil. Boil for 8-10 minutes or until the gravy starts to thicken up a bit (it will continue to thicken throughout the rest of the recipe, too, so don’t wait for it to look super-thick at this point). Add the thyme and cooked chicken to the sauce, and continue boiling, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes to blend the flavors and continue thickening (while that’s cooking, make the dumplings). When the time’s up, add the chives, and salt and pepper to taste and reduce heat to medium-low. Keep it at a low, gentle boil until you add the dumplings to it.
For the dumplings: In a medium bowl, stir the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into very small, pea-sized pieces. Stir the butter into the dry mixture, smoosh-ing and pressing them together, roughly (it’s okay to still have small chunks of butter — as long as they’re small, they’ll melt — and the mixture will be extremely dry, still). In a small bowl mix the milk and egg together, and then pour into the dry mixture. Add in the herbs, stirring to evenly moisten the batter and combine all ingredients.
Gently drop rounded teaspoons of dumpling batter directly onto the cooking gravy. The dumplings will start to sink a bit, but should stay at least partially on top of the gravy. (There’s really not a wrong way to do this part; we’ve had them completely sink and they’ve still been tasty. All I’m saying is: don’t smash them in or drop them from a high height. Try to “rest” the batter on the boiling gravy, softly, and then whatever happens will be fine). You should get 7-9 dumplings (depending on how big you make them). Cover the pot/pan/wok, adjust the heat to keep it at a low boil, and cook until the dumplings are set, about 10-12 minutes. Use a knife to cut open one of the dumplings to see if it’s set (it should look like a moist corn muffin; more bread than batter). The gravy will continue to thicken while the dumplings cook.
Remove the pot/pan/wok from the heat, and spoon servings of the dumplings and gravy into bowls.