This recipe makes use of the stewing hen that CSA members are getting in their March shares.
Stewing hens are an important part of the life cycle of the farm. A stewing hen is a retired egg layer. After several happy years in our free ranging brood, a hen’s egg laying ability naturally slows down, and she’s no longer a productive member of the flock. In order to keep up with the demand for eggs, we cull these older hens in order to make space for new layers. Unlike broilers that are raised for meat and fattened relatively quickly, stewing hens have the opportunity to develop very strong bones, and strong, lean muscles. Breaking that lean meat down though a long, slow cooking method results in a rich, intensely flavorful dish.
Adapted from “Bress ‘N’ Nyam” by Matthew Raiford.
We’ve met Matthew through several Slow Food events. He’s a farmer and chef and generally a really great guy. So, when his cookbook came out last year we knew we wanted it. Jody wanted it so much that he ordered it RIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. (If you celebrate Christmas with gift giving, and you have someone in your life that is rather difficult to buy for, you understand how deeply frustrating that was!) Anyway, it’s a beautiful book, and filled with great recipes. I’ve adapted the cooking method to use a crock pot and the dumplings, but the flavors of the stew are all there.
Chicken & Dumplings
- Slow Cooker
For the Chicken
- 1 3- to 4- pound stewing chicken (can use whole fryer, cook time will be less)
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp rosemary
- 16 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
- 4 carrots peeled, 1 inch slices
- 4 celery stalks 1 inch slices
- 3 med potatoes peeled, 1 inch chunks
- 2 onions diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
For the Dumplings
- 2 cup Bisquick
- ⅔ cup milk
- 1 tbsp parsley
- Cook on high for 5-6 hours, or low for 10-12 hours.
- Shortly before your cooking time is up, prepare the dumplings. Stir together the Bisquick, parsley, and milk, don't overwork the dough. (You definitely can use dumplings made from scratch, but I like the ease of the mix.)
- Remove the chicken and bay leaf. Be sure to return lid to crock pot to maintain heat. Discard the bay leaf, then remove the skin and debone the chicken. Discard the carcass and roughly chop the meat before returning it to the pot. Taste and adjust seasoning (salt, pepper, herbs).
- Using a tablespoon, drop chunks of dumpling dough into the stock.
- Cover with foil and the crock pot lid (to retain steam) and cook for an additional 40-50 minutes on high.
- If the sauce is not thick enough for your liking, thicken with a slurry of cornstarch and warm water until you achieve your desired thickness.