New England doesn’t have a huge dumpling-making tradition – that honor goes to the South and Midwest, where all manner of dumplings reign – so my mother didn’t make them, but I’ve introduced dumplings into my repertoire of winter dishes since becoming an adult.

The dough, which is usually biscuit or other similar dough, gets dropped onto simmering stew and steams to delightful plumpness.

A bonus is that some of the starch from the dough transfers to the stew broth as the dumplings cook, enriching and thickening the sauce.

Plain dumplings can be, in my opinion, just slightly bland and boring, so I always incorporate an herb, which contributes color as well as flavor.

Over the years of writing columns on quickly cooked main dishes for Bon Appetit magazine, Melanie Barnard and I tried to streamline the original recipe for chicken and dumplings, which, in the old days, most often started with a stewing hen that got simmered for at least a couple of hours.

We evolved a couple of basic strategies. You can follow a recipe for simple from-scratch dumplings, but, because we believe that Bisquick or other similar baking mixes are one of the superior prepared short-cut products, we always go that route.

Simply add a salad of dark winter greens and halved grape tomatoes tossed with a sharp vinaigrette.


Here are some options, in order of difficulty, with the last option providing the most flavorful stew.

Servings: 4


OPTION 1: Pour one 32-ounce carton of chicken broth into a large pot. Add about 11/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts and/or thighs, cut into bite-size pieces; 6 sliced carrots or the equivalent amount of baby carrots (sliced in half, lengthwise if large); 1 large celery stalk, sliced; about 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions or 1 small onion, thinly sliced; 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, tarragon or a combination); and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for dumplings, mix together 2 cups Bisquick, 1/4 cup finely minced scallions and 2/3 cup milk to make a stiff dough. Dip a tablespoon into the simmering broth, spoon out heaping tablespoons of dough, and drop onto top of stew.

Grind a generous amount of black pepper on top. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and cook 10 minutes longer, until dumplings are firm to the touch.


OPTION 2: Same as Option 1, except do not cut up chicken first. Cook boneless chicken in whole pieces in broth with vegetables for about 15 minutes until cooked through. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, shred with the fingers into bite-size pieces. Return chicken to the pot, return stew to simmer, and add dumplings.


OPTION 3: Buy 3 pounds chicken thighs and/or breasts on the bone, with skin. Simmer in broth with veggies until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove with tongs. When cool enough to handle, pull meat off bones and shred into bite-size pieces. If there is much excess fat on top of stew, skim some off. Return chicken to stew, bring back to simmer, and add dumplings.


NOTES: The 30-minute cooking time in Option 1 should be long enough to cook the carrots, but if they’re not tender, simmer the finished stew for a few more minutes.

If you don’t have fresh herbs, use about 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme or tarragon.

The amount of liquid in the pot should be just above the chicken and vegetables when the dumplings go in. If there’s not enough, add water or more chicken broth. Sometimes I add more water or broth after the dish has finished cooking to make sure the stew has enough.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey Publishing 2006) and “The New England Clam Shack Cookbook” (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.