My Favorite Chicken and Dumplings

chicken and dumplingsThis dish is on my top ten most crave-able food list as well as being one of my cousin, Hiep’s favorites.  His last response to my texting him a photo of the pot of chicken and dumplings I had stewing, “So, are you going to share the dumpling recipe or continue to torture me?” Alright! Alright! Here you go, Hiep.

I’ve experimented with several renditions of this classic over the years. The recipe below is by far my favorite one. This take elevates the standard boring chicken, gravy with oftentimes too gooey dough that passes as chicken and dumplings. It’s based on Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Chicken and Dumplings Soup. I’ve changed the the proportions of the ingredients so that it has a thick gravy rather than a soup base and is heartier overall, but retained the flavors. Why mess too much with a master’s recipe?

I usually roast a large organic chicken in the morning, serve the legs for lunch and save the rest for this recipe. The best, easiest and most versatile roast chicken recipe is the Thomas Keller one posted here. Do use the best chicken stock you can get if you’re not going to make it yourself. I like Pacific Organic and surprisingly the Costco Kirkland Organic Chicken Stock is good. Also, I’d keep Wondra flour on hand in case you like your gravy even thicker than I do and extra stock in case the opposite is true.

My Favorite Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken
Shredded meat from one medium roasted chicken, homemade or store-bought.
Reserve bones and skin for gravy.

Gravy
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped leeks
6 whole peppercorn
2 sprigs of thyme
2 Qt. (64 oz.) of good quality chicken stock
Reserved bones and skin from roasted chicken
10 Tbsp. butter
10 Tbsp. All purpose flour
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
Champagne vinegar
1/4 cup of thinly sliced fresh chives

Dumplings
1 cup water
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 1/3 cup all-purpose fl our
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 large eggs
2 heaping Tbsp. thinly sliced chives

Vegetables
8 stalks celery, peeled and thinly sliced
8 large carrots, peeled and cut into even bite-sized pieces
2 teaspoon honey
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
1 large garlic clove, crushed, skin on
6 black peppercorn
kosher salt

chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves to garnish

Gravy instructions

  1. In large pot, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium heat
  2. Add celery, carrots, onions and leeks and season with a little salt and fresh cracked pepper
  3. Lower heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally or until vegetables are softened
  4. Add stock, peppercorn, thyme, chicken skin and bones and bring to a simmer
  5. Cover and let simmer over low heat for 30 minutes
  6. Strain broth through a sieve into a heat safe dish, pushing on solids to get all the juices out
  7. Discard solids and set broth aside
  8. In your largest pot (this is where you’ll be combining your chicken, vegetables, dumplings and gravy), melt 10 Tbsp. of butter
  9. Add flour and cook over medium heat stirring the whole time until a you get a medium brown roux
  10. Whisk in stock and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes to thicken gravy, stirring occasionally
  11. Season while thickening with about 1 Tbsp. of Champagne vinegar, salt and fresh crack pepper to taste
  12. Optional- whisk in Wondra a little bit at a time for a thicker stock or broth to thin according to taste
  13. Take off heat, stir in chives and set aside

Dumplings instructions

  1. In medium saucepan, bring water, butter and salt to a simmer
  2. Add in flour all at once stirring vigorously to incorporate. A thick dough will form
  3. Cook over medium-low heat for an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring dough the whole time. A thin layer of dough will form in pan, this is normal
  4. Immediately move dough ball to a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment
  5. Mix on medium-high for 3 minutes to cool down dough
  6. Reduce speed to low and add one egg at a time, incorporating each egg completely before adding the next one
  7. Add mustard and chive and mix to combine
  8. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper
  9. In a large pot bring generously salted water to a strong simmer
  10. Using two soup spoons shape dough into quenelle shape (this instructional video comes in handy) and drop into simmering water
  11. Without crowding the pot with too many dumplings, simmer dough 5 minutes per batch to cook dough through
  12. With a slotted spoon, remove quenelles and let cool on parchment paper
  13. With a pair of scissors, trim any rough edges off dumplings
  14. Cover and set aside

Vegetable instructions

  1. In medium saucepan, bring salted water to a simmer
  2. Stir in celery and cook for 2 minutes or celery is al dente
  3. Strain through a sieve and rinse with cold water and set aside
  4. In medium pot filled halfway with cold water, salt generously and add carrots, honey, bay, thyme and peppercorns and bring to a simmer
  5. Cook for 3-5 minutes until carrots are cooked but still a little firm
  6. Drain water, discard bay, thyme and peppercorn and set aside

Serving

  1. Add chicken, dumplings, carrots and celery to gravy pot and bring to a low simmer and let cook for a few minutes to reheat
  2. Serve garnished with Italian parsley

A Taste of Saigon: Warm Beef and Watercress Salad

Beef Watercress SaladOne of the most memorable meals from our trip to Vietnam last year was at a restaurant called Cu Gach Quan (translates to ‘piece of brick’) in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  The company was wonderful: Billy, my cousin Michelle and her husband Vinh. The restaurant was eclectic, but authentic. The cuisine was familiar and delicious Vietnamese comfort food, served on charming hand-made plates and bowls, with little dipping dishes of blue and white porcelain full of nuac mam (Vietnamese dipping sauce) and soy sauce. Fried tofu with crunchy garlic was served alongside sautéed local greens, braised sweet and spicy clay pot fish, brown rice and what turned out to be our favorite dish of the evening: bo xao sa lat song or warm beef and watercress salad.

Hot, garlicky, stir fried beef served on top cool peppery dressed watercress with tomatoes and marinated onion slivers. Delicious! Since traveling to Vietnam every time we craved this dish was not practical, I questioned our waiter and promised Michelle I’d come up with a recipe replicating this dish for us. Below, you’ll find what I came up with based on our server letting us in on the main marinade ingredients: garlic, lime and fish sauce.

If you ever find yourself in Ho Chi Minh City, I highly recommend you have at least one meal at Cu Gach Quan. Be sure to go to the original. We hear it’s better. They’re so popular, they opened one directly across the streetyes, really! In the meantime, try this recipe at home. It’s perfect with a bowl of jasmine rice.

Warm Beef and Watercress Salad (Bo Xao Sa Lat Song)
Serves 2-4 people

Stir fry beef
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. rice wine
1 lb. of thinly sliced lean beef
1-2 Tbsp. of canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced

Salad
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4  tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (1/8″)
1 bunch watercress, washed
1 medium tomato, halved and slice

Garnish (optional)
fried garlic bitsfresh cracked pepper

  1. Mix first 5 ingredient together, add beef, allow to marinate, refrigerated for between 30 minutes to 2 hours
  2. About 10-20 minutes before serving, in a small bowl, mix sugar, salt, pepper, lime juice and olive oil together.
  3. Add onions to dressing. Do not let onions sit in marinate for more than 30 minutes, it will get too soft.
  4. Toss watercress in onion dressing.
  5. On a serving plate, layer watercress, then tomato slices on the outer edges of plate. The hot beef will go in the center of dish, on top of watercress. Avoid placing hot beef on tomatoes as they will get soft and lose their bite.
  6. Heat canola oil in wok over high heat until very hot.
  7. Add minced garlic, stir fry for 30 seconds.
  8. Add beef with marinate and stir fry for 3-5 minutes or until beef is cooked through.
  9. Serve beef over watercress, topped with pan sauce.
  10. Sprinkle with fried garlic and a few crack of fresh pepper.

Christina Tosi is a Genius!!!

An endorsement for the Milk Bar Cookbook

MilkBarI was introduced to Milk Bar cookies a couple of years ago when a box arrived at our door as a gift. Individually wrapped in cellophane were cookies named Compost, Corn, Blueberries & Cream and Cornflake. These were familiar names for things such as muffins and breakfast cereal, but these were very exotic flavors for cookies.

Perplexed, Billy and I inspected each cookie carefully before tasting. “Hum, feels soft and chewy… What’s this on the ingredient list? POTATO CHIPS??? Huh? …” Well, we were sold after the first bite. All the flavors were strangely familiar and comforting. The Compost cookie was a perfect combination of sweet and savory. The love child of the classic chocolate chip and of any and all (it seems) the snack foods you could think of. Chips, pretzels, butterscotch, even coffee! The Corn cookie tasted like what cornbread would be if it were reincarnated as a dessert. We finished half the box in short order and froze the rest for special occasions.

When we ran out of cookies, I looked for the Compost Cookie recipe online and made a batch. I  portioned and froze half the dough so that I could bake a few at a time in my Breville oven when the craving struck. After piece-mealing Milk Bar recipes from here and there, and finding that they produced cookies as good as the ones from the bakery, I decided it was time to buy the book…

Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook is a revelation. Christina Tosi, author of this book as well as chef, owner, and founder of Momofuku Milkbar is a mad, mad genius. The cookbook is full of wonderful desserts that could’ve come from the imagination of a child wearing a unicorn t-shirt on a Lucky Charms sugar high.  Her monologues are friendly and whimsical and recipes exactdown to the gram—with thorough directions. There’s a whole section of what specific ingredients to buy, and where, as well as an equipment guide. A technique section: “the ten minute creaming process, or why milk bar cookies are so damn good.”  Ms. Tosi is a woman after my OCD heart!

I’ve had a great time learning and baking from this book. It’s really inspired me to use unusual ingredients, to be more inventive and has improved my baking. Outside of a minor conversion typogelatin sheet to powder—which caused a runny banana cream pie and a loose batch of panna cotta (in book 1 1/2 sheet silver gelatin= 3/4 tsp. powder. Should be 1 1/2 tsp.), the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook is a joy. I’d recommend to new and experienced bakers alike.

Gruyère and Thyme Gougères

GougeresI love making gougères as appetizers for my dinner parties. They’re pretty easy to prepare and are always a hit. When my friends ask, “What are these?” and I usually just respond, “Cheese puffs!” Gougères seems to be such a formal name for something so fun and easy to eat.

My recipe is based on an old flyer that was meant to entice you to subscribe to Saveur Magazine. I still have the original copygrease stained and tornin a plastic sleeve, the kind you use to put in a three ring binder. Oddly, it features a portrait of a french writer holding a cat from the 1920s and two sentences about her as an introduction to these baked treats. The flyer never did succeed in selling me a subscription, but, I think the cute cat must’ve sold me on trying the recipe.

I’ve experimented a lot with this base recipe over the years. Below is my favorite variation. What I’ve learned from trial and error is NEVER open the oven while your gougères are baking. They will not bake up as big as they should. I like to bake mine one cookie sheet at time, since I can’t open the oven to rotate them and my oven won’t fit 2 sheets side-by-side. Better to slightly overbake than underbake, which will cause your puffs to deflate soon after they leave the oven and be a little gooey in the middle. Though even when these mistakes were made, no one seemed to notice and they were gobbled up anyway.

I like mine plain with thyme and gruyère, but have piped savory fillings into them as you would a cream puff or cut them in half to make little sandwiches. I’ve never been able to eat just one, and I bet you won’t be able to either.

Gruyère and Thyme Gourgères
Makes about 3 dozen

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
5 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup grated gruyère cheese
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
4 eggs

Egg wash
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
  2. In a medium sauce pan over medium-high, combine water, milk, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and stir to melt butter.
  4. As soon as butter is melted, add flour and stir vigorously  with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute to combine mixture and cook until dough pulls away from the side of the the pan.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and thyme. Keep mixing for 2 minutes or so to cool dough slightly before adding eggs. You can also move the dough to a stand mixer with a paddle for ease at this point.
  6. Incorporate eggs, one at a time into batter, making sure that each egg is incorporated completely before adding another.
  7. Spoon about a 1 1/2″ rounds of the dough onto your cookie sheet, setting them 2″ apart.
  8. In a small bowl beat egg and water together for egg wash.
  9. Brush the top of each gougère generously with egg wash. This will add shine and color to your puffs. Optionally, you can sprinkle a little grated cheese or a few thyme leaves on top before baking.
  10. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until gougères are golden brown.

Bacon + Chicken + Cream = Goodness

Tarragon ChickenMy early childhood was spent in Grenoble, France, where dinner at my parents’ friends house happened weekly. Our friend Marie-France’s specialty was Poulet a l’Estragon (Tarragon Chicken): a whole cut up chicken, braised in a mixture of bacon, crème fraiche, white wine and tarragon. It was a childhood favorite of mine. Who can resist creamy, bacon-ey chicken?

Last week, my cousin, Michelle, asked me for a new way to cook chicken thighs. I modified the original tarragon chicken recipe to be less fatty and yet retain the strong chicken flavor that you get from braising a whole bird.

If you’d like to cook a whole cut-up chicken the way Marie-France used to make it, modify the recipe below by adding 3 slices of bacon, adjusting the wine to 1 1/2 cup, changing the crème fraiche/cream to 2 cups and no chicken broth. Since there’s so much cream in the whole chicken version of the recipe, making a roux to thicken the sauce is unnecessary.

I reduce my chicken broth to about 2/3. I like my tarragon chicken with a little rice one the side and french bread. Bon appétit!

Poulet a l’Estragon/Tarragon Chicken with Bacon
3 slices thick smoked bacon (I use applewood), cut into 1/2″ pieces
6 chicken thighs
2 tsp. fresh chopped tarragon or 1 tsp. dried
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups reduced chicken broth
1/4 cup crème fraiche or heavy cream
salt and pepper
Champagne vinegar

Roux
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour

  1. In Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to paper towel lined plate to absorb fat.
  2. Salt and pepper chicken thighs.
  3. Brown chicken in bacon fat over medium-high heat.
  4. Remove chicken from pot and discard all fat.
  5. Deglaze pan with white wine.
  6. Add cream, tarragon, chicken and bacon to pot, braise covered at a low simmer for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, turning chicken halfway through cooking.
  7. Remove thighs from pot and pour sauce into a heat safe dish.
  8. Melt butter in pan over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir to combine.
  9. Cook roux, stirring the entire time until it is lightly colored, 2-5 minutes. Re-season with salt and pepper and a dash or two of Champagne vinegar as needed.
  10. Add reserved sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat until sauce is thickened.
  11. Add chicken back to pot to reheat.

A Comforting Bowl of Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

stewWinter inspires stews. This dish is one that I grew up with. An Asian beef stew with lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon and even a little curry for seasoning. Every Vietnamese family I know has their own version of it. Some like the sauce almost broth-like and served over rice noodles, garnished with cilantro, Thai basil and jalapeño slices. Others like it plain, with a side of baguette. Try the combination that suits your palate best.

I prefer my sauce thicker and a little more intense. After it’s cooked, I let my stew sit overnight in the refrigerator. This allows the flavors to meld into the tender beef and veggies and for the fat to separate and harden. I discard the latter before I reheat it. I find that it the fat doesn’t really add anything and dilutes the flavor. I serve mine in a shallow bowl, with a few Thai basil leaves and french bread for dipping.

Half a dozen years ago, a craving for Bo Kho struck me and I called my mom long distance to Vietnam for instructions. It was dictated to me in our traditional family way, with ingredients being approximated—a little of this, a dash of that— and, of course, I was told to taste and re-taste. Over the years, I dialed in the ingredients and proportions and kept notes of my changes and the result is the recipe below.

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)
Serves 4-6

2 whole star anise
2 1.5” pieces of whole cinnamon
2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
3 medium shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, 2″ pieces, bruised
2 to 2 ½ lbs. beef chuck roast or pot roast cut into 2” cubes
2 tsp. curry powder (Vietnamese style preferable)
4 bay leaves
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
3-5 Tbsp. hoisin Sauce (according to taste)
4 medium carrots, cut into 1” pieces
2 medium turnips, cut into 1.5” pieces
Beef broth
Salt, pepper, white wine vinegar and honey to taste
Thai Basil to garnish

  1. Toast cinnamon and star anise. I do it directly on my flat top electric on high heat, very carefully, until darkened. It takes less than 2 minutes. You can also use a hot pan over high heat. Set aside when done.
  2. In large pot (I use a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat, add oil, shallots, garlic and lemongrass, cook for 1-2 minutes until shallots are transparent.
  3. Reserve one piece of lemongrass, you’ll use at the very end to freshen up the lemony flavor of the stew.
  4. Add beef to pot, season with salt, pepper and half of curry powder. Cook, stirring intermittently, until beef is browned.
  5. Add just enough broth to cover beef. Stir in ¾ of tomato paste and 3 Tbsp. of hoisin sauce. Add bay leaves, 1 star anise and 1 cinnamon stick (you’ll add the remaining anise and cinnamon at the end to give the flavor a pop).
  6. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and let simmer for 1 ½ hours.
  7. You can check flavor and re-season according to taste after the first 30 minutes. Sparingly add salt, pepper, hoisin sauce, honey (1 tsp at a time), vinegar (a dash at a time for acidity) tomato paste and curry powder as needed. If you’re re-seasoning throughout the simmering process, let flavors develop for 15 minutes before re-tasting.
  8. Check beef for tenderness. Beef should be close to desired tenderness before vegetables are added. If beef is not as tender as wanted, cover and simmer for an additional 15-30 minutes.
  9. Add carrots, turnips and additional broth if liquid does not cover veggies. Cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until vegetables tender.
  10. Let stew cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight.
  11. About half an hour before serving, remove as much coagulate fat from the top of the stew as you can (or leave it – up to you).
  12. Add reserve cinnamon, star anise and lemongrass and bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Let simmer for at between 15-30 minutes to warm through and to steep the newly added spices. Remove the cinnamon and anise after a few minutes if you feel the flavors are getting too intense for your taste.
  13. Serve topped with basil and with fresh baguette slices.

Slow-Poached Eggs

DSC_0090This is a pretty straightforward process that I learned from the Momofuku cookbook. The result is an egg that is evenly soft poached all the way through. From whites to yolk. The texture is creamy, almost gelatinous.

They are great in a bowl of ramen, but, also wonderful for breakfast on top of grits, ham and sautéed kale. Or eat them soft boiled style.

The idea is to cook the eggs in their shell for 45 minutes in water that is at a consistent 140-145 degrees. So, keep a bowl of ice nearby in case you need to cool the water. And the eggs should never touch the bottom of the pot, where the temperature is high, so, I use a steamer basket. For more details or just for fun check out the Momofuku cookbook.

Tools and ingredients

6 eggs
steamer basket
4 quart pot
cooking thermometer
water
ice

  1. Place open steamer basket in pot.
  2. Bring water to 140-145 degrees.
  3. Add eggs.
  4. Cook for 45 minutes. Checking the temperature frequently, lowering with ice as needed.
  5. Serve immediately or store up to 24 hours
  6. To serve, just crack egg into a small saucer and tip over to discard the loosest parts of the whites.