Once the weather turns colder, I want stew, soup and chili, so expect all of that to be coming at you in the next few months. First up is Chicken & Dumplings po Polsku, which means Polish-style, baby! Okay…there’s no “baby!”

Why is it Polish-style? Well, I’m Polish, and I add a few little Polish touches, like whole allspice and black pepper, paprika, and some fresh dill to go alongside the parsley to finish the dish. Along with the bay leaves, the allspice and black peppercorns are a staple of Polish cooking, and paprika is also widely used for color and depth of flavor. And you’re not Polish if you don’t put dill on everything! 

I LOVE chicken & dumplings. It’s one of the most comforting and delicious dishes on this green earth. But when it’s bad, it’s awfully bad. I hate when it’s goopy-sauce-and-dry-gummy-biscuit porridge hell. This is none of that! The sauce is silky and light, and the dumplings are little puffs of floating dough. You will not be disappointed!

This dish is also pretty easy and economical to make. Chicken thighs are a cheap cut of meat, and if you don’t have a chicken breast, you can leave it out. My pack of five chicken thighs was $6.50, and I only used 3 of them. I could have easily left the chicken breast out, but I just happened to have it on hand.

I did a little research and cobbled a few different recipes together. I’ve made this dish a few times before, so I just needed a little general guidance, especially with the dumplings. Most dumpling recipes are pretty much exactly the same and very easy. Stir everything together and put it on the chicken stew—bam! You’ve got it.

There are some additional vegetables you can feel free to add based on your preferences. If you don’t like peas, try green beans instead. You can also add corn or anything else that sounds good to you. Leave the chicken out completely, and you can make yourself a vegetarian meal. I’m sure you can make this vegan somehow, but I’m not going to go there because I’m not great at vegan cooking and substitutions, and I haven’t tried it!

Short on time? You can completely skip cooking the chicken yourself and get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Separate the meat from the skin and bones, add to the vegetable and broth as you would the browned chicken thighs, and you’ve cut your cook time down by about 25 minutes. Keep the cover off, let the broth thicken, make your dumplings, and you’re ready to eat in half the time. How’s that for a weeknight meal?

For some reason, I didn’t have a beer with this, but I’d love to suggest a style for you, as always. This dish falls into a few different flavor categories that go well with beers that are darker, roastier, and maybe a little hoppy and bitter. Since we’re in October and we’re featuring BJCP Category 19 this month, I think that an American Brown would do well with this dish. Sierra Nevada Tumbler, Surly Bender, Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale and Smuttynose Old Brown Dog are all solid options for American Browns.

Happy eating and happy drinking. Fall is finally here!

Chicken and Dumplings po Polsku

3 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
Dash of Salt and pepper to season the chicken
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 large peeled carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3 whole allspice
6-10 whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
6 cups water or chicken stock (I used water and a bouillon cube)
1 cup frozen green peas
¼ cup half and half or whole milk
optional: 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water for slurry, in case you need to thicken your sauce some more. I did, because it wasn’t thick enough for me. One of my favorite tricks!

2 packed cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup whole milk
Nonstick cooking spray (recommended but not required)

Heat a large pot on medium. Add oil and butter to pan. Pat the chicken dry and salt and pepper on both sides. Brown chicken thighs (and breast if you’re using it—not required) skin side down for about 5 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Turn over and crisp on the other side for another 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. It doesn’t need to be fully cooked through, because it’ll go back in the pool later.

If you feel like you’ve got a lot of fat at the bottom of your pot right now, don’t worry—you’ll use some to make the roux to thicken the sauce, and you can skim off the rest later.

Add chopped onion, celery and carrots. Sauté for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add bay leaves, allspice, and peppercorns and give it a stir. Add turmeric, paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, another 3 minutes. Add ¼ cup of flour and stir until flour is absorbed into the fat. Cook for about 5 minutes, so the raw taste is cooked out of the flour. Add the water or chicken stock slowly, whisking constantly to avoid any lumps.  Let come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add milk or half and half. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.

After the hour, add the peas and bring the pot back to a simmer. Then, check your thickness. If your sauce lacks the proper thickness for you, remove the cover and let it simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes. Check the thickness again and taste test. Adjust your seasonings. If you still want the stew to be a bit thicker, you can use a little cornstarch slurry, which will also make your sauce a little silkier. To make the cornstarch slurry, stir 1 tablespoon of cornstarch into 1 tablespoon of cold water in a small bowl. Mix together until fully dissolved. Pour into the sauce and let it come to a simmer. The sauce will thicken slightly and keep thickening the more you simmer.

Make the dumplings as the stew is bubbling away and thickening. It'll take about 10 minutes in total to prepare the dough.

Melt your butter and set aside. Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Pour over the melted butter and mix with a fork. You’ll see the butter form clumps in the flour, which is completely fine. Slowly add in the milk and stir with the fork. You’ll get a pancake batter-like consistency. Let stand for 5-8 minutes (but no more than that) before cooking the dumplings. You want to let the baking soda have a few minutes to react with the other ingredients to puff up your dumplings.

When your stew is thickened to your liking and you’re ready to add your dumplings, add the dill and parsley to the pot and stir to combine.

The size of your dumpling is up to you. You can make the dumplings smaller, like golf balls, or make them larger, which is what I like to do. Spray a spoon with nonstick spray and scoop your batter directly onto the bubbling sauce. Some of the dumplings might sink a little, but that’s okay. Scoop all your dough onto the stew, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes. The dumplings will puff up really nicely, and the sauce will bubble up over them a little bit. That’s exactly what you want. You can insert a toothpick into one of the dumplings to test for doneness. If it comes out clean, you’re ready to eat!