Not surprisingly, chicken and dumplings isn’t exactly diet-friendly -- after all, the sauce is rich and velvety thanks to a generous amount of cream and butter, and the dumplings aren’t exactly skimping on the butter either. Wanting to create a lighter, healthier version of this classic without losing any of its comfort-food appeal, we focused first on the chicken and stew. Most recipes call for a whole cut-up chicken or bone-in thighs, but we found bone-in breasts worked just as well and helped trim the fat count once we discarded the skin. But getting rid of the skin meant a serious loss in flavor, so to work around this we simply browned the chicken with the skin on before removing it. To lighten the biscuit-style dumplings, we cut back on the butter significantly; buttermilk gave them a great tangy flavor, and an egg white helped give them structure and kept them together when cooked on top of the stew. To keep our dumplings light and fluffy, we wrapped a towel around the pot’s lid as they cooked; this prevented steam droplets from dripping onto the dumplings and making them soggy.
- 3 pounds bone-in split chicken breasts, trimmed of all visible fat
- Salt and pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 2 onions, chopped fine
- 1 celery rib, minced
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
- 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup buttermilk, chilled
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and hot
- 1 large egg white
For the stew: Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown chicken well, 10 to 12 minutes; transfer to plate and remove skin.
Add carrots, onions, celery and 1/8 teaspoon salt to fat left in pot, cover, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Add broth, thyme, and chicken and any accumulated juices. Bring to simmer, cover and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees F, about 20 minutes.
Remove pot from heat; transfer chicken to plate. When cool enough to handle, shred meat into large pieces, discarding bones.
For the dumplings: Whisk flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together in large bowl. In separate bowl, stir chilled buttermilk and melted butter together until butter forms small clumps, then whisk in egg white. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated.
Return stew to simmer and stir in shredded chicken, peas, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Using greased tablespoon measure, scoop and drop dumplings on top of stew about 1 inch apart. Wrap lid of Dutch oven with clean dish towel and cover pot (keeping towel away from heat source). Cook over low heat until dumplings have doubled in size, 13 to 16 minutes. Serve.
Recipe reprinted by permission of America's Test Kitchen. All rights reserved.
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