My healthy makeover of a classic stick-to-your-ribs comfort food is the perfect dish for the holidays.
Back by popular demand, this month’s Recipe Redux theme is Grab a Book & Cook. Since the Recipe Redux has been around for 54 months, we were challenged to grab a cookbook and make a healthy version of the recipe on page 54 or 154. What a fun concept! I have a ton of cookbooks so I started going through them and soon found the perfect recipe to Redux- Chicken and Dumpling Soup from Michael Symon’s Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen.
Michael Symon is one of my favorite celebrity chefs. His food always looks amazing- it’s no wonder he always wins his battles on Iron Chef. Plus, he just seems like a genuinely nice guy. In his description of his Chicken and Dumpling Soup, he writes that his grandfather made this soup for just about every holiday he could remember. So for him, it’s a recipe that remains bound up with family and celebration and love. What better time of year to share such a special recipe?
Chicken and dumplings is the ultimate comfort food and a classic Southern dish. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically a homemade chicken soup. You make the soup by simmering a whole chicken in a pot with water, vegetables and seasonings, creating a flavorful chicken stock. Then the chicken is shredded and added back to the stock. The dumplings are made with a biscuit-like dough that's dropped into the hot stock and cooked in the liquid. The result is a delicious, comforting and hearty meal that’s perfect to warm you up on a cold day.
My version of the dish is not only lighter, it’s also a lot faster. The classic version is delicious but takes a few hours to prepare (Chef Symon even recommends making it over the course of two days to be able to properly de-fat the stock). I took a few shortcuts with the recipe to make this a meal that can be prepared on a busy weeknight. My dish uses rotisserie chicken (leftover turkey works well too) and prepared chicken stock. If you have homemade chicken or turkey stock, definitely use it- the better the quality of the stock, the more flavorful the soup will be. I actually used leftover homemade turkey stock that I had in my freezer from Thanksgiving, and it gave the dish rich flavor.
For me, the dumplings are what make this soup really special. They are basically light, fluffy biscuits that cook in the soup and puff up into clouds of pillowy goodness. They add a stick-to-your-ribs quality to what would otherwise be a basic chicken soup. I use a mixture of white whole wheat flour and all purpose flour in my dumplings to incorporate some healthy whole grains. Michael Symon uses a lot of chicken fat in his dumplings – ½ cup to be exact. Although I’m sure they’re delicious, I decided to lighten the dumplings considerably by using buttermilk instead. When the buttermilk reacts with the baking powder, it makes for a tender and light dumpling without having to use any fat or butter (see notes at the end of the recipe for how to make homemade buttermilk)!
Traditionally, chicken and dumplings is made with celery and carrots but I had some Calabasas squash that I substituted for carrots and it turned out delicious. You could also add some peas for some extra color and texture.
Many chicken and dumpling recipes also add heavy cream at the end to thicken it and add richness. To cut down on fat, I stir a little flour into mine instead.
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year!
Chicken and Dumplings
Makes 6 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 ¼ cups)
4 stalks celery, sliced
2 cups diced Calabasas squash or carrots
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 1½ teaspoons fresh)
1 bay leaf
6 cups homemade or prepared chicken or turkey stock (low sodium)
3 cups diced or shredded chicken or turkey
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup buttermilk*
1 large egg
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat and add the onion, celery, squash and garlic. Sautè the vegetables until they start to soften, 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on top and stir to combine. Cook 1-2 minutes, then add the thyme, bay leaf and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until the vegetables are cooked, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken, parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
To make the dumplings, whisk the flours, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Stir the buttermilk, egg and parsley together in a second bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold until just combined.
Using two spoons, drop balls of the dumpling dough into the simmering soup (you should have about 18 dumplings). Each dumpling should be about two teaspoons big- they will expand a lot in the soup. Cover the pot and cook until the dumplings are fluffy and cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper.
One serving: Calories 328; Fat 9.4g (Sat 2.4g); Protein 32.1g; Carb 28.8g; Fiber 3.1g; Sodium 494mg
* If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make it by stirring 1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice into ½ cup milk (any type). Let the mixture sit for a 5-10 minutes until it thickens slightly and small curds form. Use as directed in the recipe.
Check out below to see what my fellow Recipe Reduxers did with this fun challenge!