By Jessica Roy Comfort food comes in many forms. It can also be a bit subjective based on an emotional connection to a recipe, meal experience, or food memory. Rarely, though, have I ever met someone who hasn't found cozy consolation in a warm bowl of scratch made chicken soup.
The magical ingredient ("liquid gold," as my husband calls it) starts with the soup's base, a good stock. Making stock from scratch is definitely an extra step, but gives the entire recipe a rich, hearty base, especially when it comes to the soup's body. "Body" describes the texture and mouth feel of an item as we eat it. Homemade stock contains all kinds of good stuff from the chicken bones, like natural gelatin and collagen that lightly coats the mouth in a way that store bought stuff just can't.
Of course, if you need a batch of this Chicken and Dumpling Soup ASAP, you can use stock-in-a-box, but if you have a little extra time, try your hand at a scratch stock.
Anytime I cook a whole chicken, or buy a rotisserie chicken, I save the bones and carcass in a freezer bag for when I have time to simmer a batch of stock. For this recipe, you'll need the carcass and bones from a whole chicken, a carrot, onion, and celery stalk, and 6 cups of water.
Roughly chop the veggies, and place them along with the chicken bones into a large soup pot. Cover with water, simmer over low heat for 2-4 hours, and strain before using. If you make a larger batch, divide the stock into quart-size freezer bags, press out any extra air, and lay flat to freeze.
The second component to today's soul-warming soup is the dumplings. Traditional chicken and dumplings is basically standard chicken soup with loose biscuit dough dropped into the simmering broth. Here, we are using sweet potato as the dumpling dough base, as well as aromatic fennel, rich mushrooms, herbs and apple cider to really give the soup an autumnal boost.
For an additional flavor punch, use the herb and spice sachet which is listed as optional for this recipe. Bundle a few sage stems with 2 cloves and a small bit of star anise in a small piece of cheese cloth tied with string. Allow the sachet to simmer in the soup for about 20 minutes, and then remove and discard.
Chicken and Sweet Potato Dumpling Soup
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
5 cups chicken stock
1 cups apple cider
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 portobello mushroom caps, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 large stalk celery, 1/4-inch sliced (about 1 cup)
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cups dry white wine
1 Tbs. soy sauce
Fine kosher salt, as needed
Optional: spice sachet with 3-4 sage stems cut into 1 inch pieces, 2 cloves, small piece star anise. Wrap in cheese cloth, and tie with string.
1 large sweet potato (about 1 lb.)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbs. mascarpone cream cheese
1 large egg
10 sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. fine kosher salt
Cook the sweet potato: prick with a fork 5 or 6 times, and then microwave for 6-8 minutes or until fork tender. Cut the potato in half lengthwise, set aside and allow to cool to room temperature before using.
Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, fennel, celery, and mushrooms, and cook until tender, fragrant, and lightly browned- about 10 minutes. Season with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and deglaze the pan with white wine, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Allow the alcohol to cook off, about 3 minutes.
Add the stock, apple cider, soy sauce, and spice sachet (if using) to the pot, and allow the soup to gently simmer over medium-low heat. Remove the spice sachet after 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile make the dumpling dough. Using a fork, lightly scrape the sweet potato insides into the bowl of a food processor, along with flour, baking powder, salt, and sage. Pulse in 1 second intervals 5 or 6 times to combine. Add the egg, and evenly distribute the mascarpone cheese over the top of the ingredients. Continue to pulse until all ingredients are mixed together, and have formed a shaggy, sticky dough. If any ingredients are not incorporated, fold them into the mixture using a rubber spatula.
Add the chicken to the soup, give a good stir, and season to taste with kosher salt. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a full simmer, just below a boil. Drop small 1 Tbs. size dollops of dumpling dough into the simmering soup, leaving a bit of space between them. Cover the pot with a lid, and continue to simmer until dumplings have doubled in size, and are cooked through--about 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately, or remove the dumplings from the soup with a slotted spoon, and set aside on a plate until ready to serve