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From the food editor: Recipe for my husband’s favorite Chicken and Dumplings, with a twist

By Michelle Stark
Chicken and Ricotta Dumplings. Photos by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.

I really couldn’t tell you why, out of all the many dishes I have made for my husband, his favorite remains a chicken and dumplings dish from about five years ago.

I remember it being good, but nothing too special, a pretty standard creamy sauce studded with vegetables and pieces of chicken. It involved a slow cooker, and the dumplings were made quickly in a separate bowl with yogurt and flour, then scooped atop the chicken mixture.

That recipe is now nowhere to be found. But it occurred to me as I was trying to re-create it for my hubby’s birthday a couple of weeks ago that his love for the dish probably doesn’t come from one particular ingredient. It probably comes from the fact that I made it for him, a homey bowl of comforting, rib-sticking stew that made him feel good.

So I’m sharing the new recipe I came up with, because this week’s cover story is all about cooking and love. For Valentine’s Day next week, I investigated Engagement Chicken, a recipe coined by Glamour magazine that promises to lead to everlasting love. I give the premise a bit of side eye, but can’t deny that the whole roasted chicken makes for a grand cooking statement come Feb. 14.

We also asked readers to share their stories of romance and food, and have compiled some of our favorites here. Plus, a recipe for chocolate lava cake for two.

Now back to the dumplings.

The twist here is that these are made with ricotta cheese, making them by definition more of a gnocchi, the Italian term for a dumpling. What you need to know is that the addition of ricotta makes these like little dreamy pillows. The original recipe called for cooking them separately, then adding them to your finished chicken stew, but I cooked the gnocchi in the same pot as the simmering stew, and it worked wonderfully.

You can use regular chicken broth for this recipe, but I wanted to give it a deeper flavor, so opted for some chicken bone broth I had in the pantry. I would recommend picking some up the next time you’re at the store.

When I served this on his birthday, my husband scraped his bowl, as delighted by the gesture of his beloved chicken and dumplings meal as by what turned out to be a winner of a recipe.

Chicken and Ricotta Dumplings

For the dumplings:

1 pound ricotta

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 large egg, beaten to blend

1 ¼ cups finely grated Parmesan

¾ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

½ tablespoon salt

For the chicken:

Olive oil

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups chicken broth or bone broth

4 cups water

2 celery stalks, cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices

1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced

1 potato, diced

1 leek, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

Salt and pepper

Shaved Parmesan

Make the gnocchi: Gently mix ricotta, ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, egg, Parmesan, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl just to blend (do not overwork). Form dough into a ball (it will be sticky); wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Place dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into four equal portions and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Using your hands, roll 1 portion into a ½-inch-diameter rope; cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick pieces. Lightly dust gnocchi with flour. Repeat with remaining portions of dough. Cover gnocchi with a kitchen towel and chill until ready to cook.

Make the chicken: Add chicken to a large saucepan with a swirl of olive oil and cook over medium-high heat until chicken is browned on the outside and mostly cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Remove chicken; let cool slightly and shred into bite-size pieces.

Return saucepan to heat and add butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and cook, whisking constantly, until roux is pale beige in color, about 15 minutes (do not brown).

Add water and broth; bring to a boil and whisk until thickened and broth coats the back of a spoon. Reduce heat slightly and add vegetables. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add shredded chicken and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for a couple more minutes.

Add gnocchi one at a time, lightly dropping them into the chicken mixture so they sit on top. Cover with lid and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until gnocchi have puffed up a bit. Ladle chicken and vegetables into bowls, with two or three gnocchi per serving. Season with pepper and top with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4.

Source: Adapted from Bon Appetit