Beer Braised Chicken with Herbed Dumplings

8-10 chicken thighs, skin on
2 12 oz bottles of beer* (see below)
4 C low sodium or unsalted chicken broth
1 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley
20 g (one .7 oz pkg) fresh thyme on the stem
15 g (3/4 of a .7 oz pkg) fresh rosemary
2-3 dried bay leaves or 8-10 fresh
5 garlic cloves
kosher salt
1 large onion
3-4 large ribs celery (with leaves if possible)
8-12 oz cremini mushrooms (baby portobello)
fresh ground black pepper
celery seed

Dumplings:
3 C flour
4 t baking powder
1 1/2 t kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
4-5 scallions (green onions)
1/2 C milk
1-1.5 C beer (8-12 oz)
reserved herbs

Wash the chicken thighs and pat dry with paper towels. Season liberally on both sides with kosher salt, pepper and celery seed. Lightly oil a very large, at least 4 inch deep skillet, pot, or electric frying pan and pan fry the thighs on both sides until well browned and the skin is crispy. You will have to remove much of the grease half-way through.

Whilst the chicken browns, chop the herbs, having stripped the thyme and rosemary leaves from their stems. Mix the dough for the dumplings, adding in about 2/3 of the rosemary and thyme and 1/2 of the parsley to the dumpling batter as well as all of the scallions, reserving the rest of the herbs for the gravy/garnish. Add in the liquid, adding in more beer if needed to make a slightly stiff dough. Dice the onion and celery, mince the garlic, and halve (or quarter if large) the mushrooms.

Once well browned (don’t worry about cooking through, because you’ll braise them later) remove the chicken, set aside, and then remove most of grease without disturbing the cooked-on remnants. Leave enough fat to sauté the onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic in. Add in the onion and celery and season with salt and pepper, scraping up the browned bits. Sweat until soft and slightly caramelised, then add in the garlic and mushrooms, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add more of the chicken fat if needed. If using fresh bay leaves, add them in with the garlic and sauté them slightly being careful also to not allow them to burn either. Once cooked, deglaze the pan with one of the bottles of beer*. Again scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and then add in the chicken stock. Check for saltiness and add more salt if needed (if you use unsalted or low-sodium stock it will definitely need salt). Add the chicken back in at this point, as well as the reserved herbs (keeping 1/4 of the parsley until the end as a garnish for the whole dish), cover so as not to lose liquid volume, and let braise on medium-low heat for about 20-30 minutes.

At this point, spoon the dumpling dough into the spaces between the chicken (into the broth). The starch from the dumplings, as well as evaporation, will begin to greatly thicken up the broth and turn in into a gravy. Replace the cover, and steam/braise the dumplings for about 7 minutes, and then add in the second beer and (if any) left over which you didn’t put in the dumpling batter. Cook for another 10-15 minutes until the gravy is thickened, but not too thick (add in more stock and/or beer if the gravy evaporates too much/gets too thick). If too watery, remove the cover and let simmer for a few minutes until thickened. Remove the bay leaves.

At this point, serve the dumpling and chicken, spooning gravy over the dumplings. You might want to also serve this with a light salad or carrots, or green vegetable, as this is quite heavy (but goddamn amazingly flavourful). Garnish with the reserved chopped fresh parsley.

*Ideally a medium-heavy bodied, hoppy & malty ale such as an amber ale, red ale, pale ale, Belgian ale, or some types of non-stout medium dark porters). You definitely don’t want to use either a light lager or dark stout – something in between. In Utah we have beers called Polygamy Porter and Evolution Amber Ale, either of which would would be ideal for this dish.

One of the benefits of cooking with alcohol (besides the addition of tons of delicious flavour) is the fact that while alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, all of the alcohol won’t cook out, and it acts as a natural flavour-enhancer (like salt, but obviously without the sodium/salt taste). I add in the second beer later to keep in more of the alcohol in the gravy so the flavour is that much more enhanced, and to ensure the gravy doesn’t cook down too much.

Furthermore, I love to use the beer in the dumplings because the carbon dioxide, in addition to the acid in the beer reacting with the baking soda, combines to create fluffier, as well as more flavourful dumplings than one would get with using milk only.

Using fresh herbs in this is a real must if at all possible. Dried herbs in the dumplings especially would create a different texture and be too bitter and strong. When cooking with fresh herbs, use 3-4 times as much as you were to normally use dried. Some herbs (like parsley and cilantro) lose their flavour when dried, and so are really only useful fresh. Other more woody herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano) intensify when dried, and are good in some dishes/in some instances. I keep dried herbs in my pantry, but regularly purchase fresh herbs for most uses.

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