Two Pots of Chicken That Will Keep You Cluckin’ Warm

Two prominent Pittsburgh culinary experts offer their “go-to” recipes for winter comfort food.

Chicken and Dumplings for Mary

When I really want to make a nice dinner for [my wife] Mary, I don’t roll out the foie gras and caviar. I make a big pot of old-fashioned chicken and dumplings. All she needs is comfort food to please her Irish-American soul. Nothing complex, nothing spicy. Chicken-stock vapors soften the house, making everything warm and comfortable. — Bill Fuller, corporate chef, big Burrito Restaurant Group

3 or 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
Chicken stock
2 cups diced onions
5-6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 cups diced carrots
1 cup celery, sliced into half moons
1 cup celery root, peeled and diced
2 lbs. Red Bliss or small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Dumplings (See recipe below)

Place chicken in large pot. Cover with chicken stock and bring just to a simmer. Cook until chicken is just done, then remove to a plate and allow to cool. Add all vegetables and thyme to stock. Season well with salt and pepper and add more stock if necessary. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are done. While vegetables are cooking, remove chicken meat from bones and shred or dice large. Add to pot when vegetables are cooked. Spoon in dumplings while keeping pot at a simmer. When completed, allow to simmer for a few minutes. If broth becomes too thick for your taste, add a little more stock. Personally, I like it thicker. Also, check seasonings. Pepper and salt make a world of difference in a simple dish like this. Scoop out two bowls and eat in front of the fireplace with some champagne and crusty bread.

6 eggs, brought to room temperature
¼ lb butter (one stick), softened to the point that it is partially melted
1 ½ cups flour
2 Tbsp. Chopped fresh thyme or rosemary, optional (because I skip this when I want my small kids to eat them and don’t want to freak them out with green stuff)
Salt and pepper

Whisk eggs lightly to break yolks. Add butter and incorporate well. If the butter is not very soft and beginning to melt and the eggs are not room temperature, this will be difficult to do. There may still remain little pieces of butter in the eggs. This is OK. Add flour and seasonings and stir in gently. Do not overwork the dough. It should be soft and sticky, a little thicker than a batter but not as tight as a soft dough. Place a small amount of dumpling dough onto a spoon and scrape two or three dumplings into the simmering pot with another spoon. When the dumplings float, allow them to cook a minute or two more. Remove and taste. If the dumpling falls apart, add a little more flour and stir it in gently. If the seasonings need to be adjusted, add salt and pepper. Continue to scrape dumplings into pot. I like to make them the size I get when I scrape 4 or 5 off a large tablespoon. Bring back to a simmer and allow to cook for a few minutes.

Chicken Cacciatore 

One of the reasons I cherish this simple dish is the relish with which my father used to enjoy it. He would literally sit at the table and lick his lips over the prospect of digging into a big serving of chicken cacciatore. And make no mistake, he ate this dish with his hands and licked his fingers clean.  — Chris Fennimore, producer/host, QED Cooks

3-4 lbs. chicken parts
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 green peppers, cut in 1” dice
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup cracked green olives, pitted and chopped coarsely
1/2 cup white wine
6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 Tbsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
salt and pepper

Take the skin off the chicken pieces, salt them and dredge in the flour. Shake off excess flour and brown the chicken in the olive oil. Remove the chicken and drain off all but 2 tablespoons of oil. Sauté the onion, celery, peppers and garlic until the onions are translucent. Return the chicken to the pan and add the wine. Cook until reduced by half. Add the tomato paste, chicken stock, oregano, basil and olives. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for one hour until chicken comes off easily from the bone. Add salt and pepper to taste if necessary.