Vegetarian Chicken & Dumplings

As a vegetarian, you come to terms with the fact that there are just some dishes you will never eat again. Your grandma’s chicken marsala. A Thanksgiving turkey. Bacon. But sometimes, it is not the food you are craving, but the feeling. Because food is more than taste—it is emotional. A great meal involves all your senses, and can conjure up amazing memories.

Such is the case with Lisa, a very sweet reader, who’s vegetarian husband longs for his mother’s Chicken & Dumplings. She wished to re-create the dish for their anniversary today. Did I have a recipe she asked? I did not. Which of course led me to dream about dumplings ALL DAY LONG. I too was longing for her mother-in-law’s homemade dish. I can just imagine her humming while chopping the vegetables, smiling down at her son while the butter melts, thoughtfully mixing together the dumpling batter.

So I researched. Pulled apart various recipes. And somewhere along the way came to realize that it is not the chicken that makes this dish. It is the hearty broth, made with flour and butter, the fluffy dumplings, mixed with care, and the big steaming bowl, served with love.

Happy Anniversary Lisa!

Vegetarian Chicken & Dumplings
serves 4-6

4 T unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
6 T all-purpose flour
3 T sherry cooking wine
6 c vegetable broth
1/2 c lowfat milk
2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 bay leaves
1 t fresh thyme leaves
3 c chopped mushrooms (10 oz)
2 c chopped celery (6 stalks)
1 c chopped carrots
1 c frozen peas
2 T minced fresh chives

2 c all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1/4 c minced fresh herb (I used chives, thyme & sage)
2 T unsalted butter, melted
3/4 c lowfat milk

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté until onion begin to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Whisk in the flour and sherry, scraping any brown bits of the bottom of the pan. Add the vegetable broth, milk, salt, pepper, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, and add mushrooms, celery, carrots, peas and chives. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Season to taste.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and herbs. Gently mix in melted butter and milk, until mixture just comes together (DO NOT over-mix or dumplings will be dense).

Drop dumpling batter into the simmering stew by heaping teaspoonfuls (about 15 total). Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes (DO NOT uncover while the dumplings are cooking, as steam will escape).


Rachel said...

Now I am craving this! What a perfect winter meal.

Sarah S. said...

Well, isn't that lovely? Comforting even just to look at!

Tammy Gordon said...

Chicken and dumplings were always my favorite thing at Thanksgiving! Since I've pretty much given up meat, it's great to see that I don't have to give up this delicious taste!

elle dubya said...

nom nom nom - going to have to try this one!

Lisa Crabtree said...

Erin! You are a special human! I cannot thank you enough for coming up with this so quickly, and for your well wishes. I didn't include this in my original message, because it seemed unnecessary, but I want to tell you that this is extra special because my husband's mother actually passed away in 1993. Your image of her preparing this dish for my sweet man brought tears to my eyes. You have done a good thing, my friend.

Anonymous said...

This is so tasty looking! And so sweet. I can't wait to try it!

fresh365 said...

Enjoy Lisa! I hope this dish evokes many happy memories for you both.

Dana said...

You are so right on with this post. It isn't the meat I miss sometimes but the feeling. What a wonderful recipe you created here! That sounds like a perfect winter meal.

melinda said...

yummy! this will go perfectly with the weather here.

if he needs a chicken-like substitute he should try seitan.

oh, and we tried the broccoli soup last week and it was delicious, i love how you used tofu to make it creamy....brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Wow that looks good!! I've never had chicken and dumplings, but now I want some. I'm going to have to try your recipe this week!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree about missing the feeling of certain dishes, not the meat. I didn't even know I was craving dumplings until I read this post!

jacqueline said...

Ohhh i want some of this!! Yummie! Yes off to my list it goes. :) Have a lovely merry happy day and love to you!

Oraphan said...

Wow! This post is truely amazing!
That looks so tasty and comforting! What a wonderful story!

I only cook easy recipes but I'll definitely give this one a try because I LOVE all the ingredients you use, thanks for sharing!

fresh365 said...

Go for it Oraphan! I swear it comes together fairly quick. I was a bit intimidated about the dumplings, but you just have to trust the process!

Tracy said...

LOVE your delicious vegetarian blog! I've been meat-free for 8 years now...look to cook, and still always on the look out for great recipes. This one has so much feeling... like a taste of home and memories of my mom's own chicken n' dumplings. Now I can make it meat-free! (Sorry mom! ;o) Thank you. :o)

Jamie said...

Looks Lovely! Thank you for this wonderful recipe.

Ocotillo said...

When I first saw the title of the recipe, I thought, "Oh no! Here we go with the meat substitutes..." You see, I've never eaten meat, so I never crave the flavor or the taste or texture of it. But I'm so glad this recipe didn't go that way. Can't wait to try it, and although it will evoke no old memories, it will likely create new ones!

Juliana said...

Oh! This is a nice dish...so comforting...will have to give a try :-)

leslie said...

Delish -and the whole post was so well written Erin!

Cate O'Malley said...

I've been craving chicken and dumplings lately and your gorgeous first picture just about put me over - yum!

The Thirty-Something Bride said...

I made this night before last and it was DELISH!
I did change it up a bit though. I left the peas out (I think cooked peas are nasty) and actually added in a little shredded chicken. I did this right before I put in the dumplings.
I didn't have any fresh sage on hand, so use fresh rosemary instead. It had a more Italian feel to it, but subtle.
Last, I'm not sure if I made a mistake somewhere, but I think 6 cups of stock might be 1 cup too much. I added some corn starch right before I put the dumplings in and the consistency come out perfect for us.
You rock.

kate said...

My family made this tonight for dinner and it was outstanding! Husband and I both agreed that it was the only vegetarian recipe we've tried that successfully transferred the "comfort food" quality that so often goes missing from veggie meals.

nithya at hungrydesi said...

Wow. I'm definitely going to try it out. I've never had chicken and dumplings but this sounds so hearty and warming. Can't wait to try it. Great story as well!

eatme_delicious said...

This looks like the most wonderful bowl of comfort!! How sweet are you to put this together for a reader's request.

SFDC said...

I made this on Saturday night and it was fantastic, except for the dumplings. Maybe I overmixed? Made them too big? Didn't let them just "float" on the surface and steam? Not sure what the problem was, but they were very dense and heavy.

fresh365 said...

SFDC, everything I have read about getting the perfect dumplings is reliant on not over mixing and letting them steam. I was nervous myself, but I think with practice comes perfect dumplings! I hope you will try again!

Cookie Cutter said...

You really are good with your recipes!

Love the way you expressed it as well-- "it is not the food you are craving, but the feeling. Because food is more than taste—it is emotional. A great meal involves all your senses, and can conjure up amazing memories."

Nirvana said...

This looks like the ultimate comfort food!! What beautiful pictures as well... this will be perfect for Thanksgiving as some of my family is vegetarian too! Thank you!!!!

Erin said...

I made some this weekend. It was really delightful. And my meat-eating husband really liked it too. Looks like I have a new solution for when he wants some comfort food :)

I noticed that most of the dumplings were really light and biscuit-y, but the ones that were in the very middle of the pot didn't fluff up. Maybe they got too hot?

fresh365 said...

Erin, I'm not sure what happened to the middle dumplings? I crammed mine in the pot and there were no problems, but perhaps that is it. If anyone has ideas let us know!

Anonymous said...

I made this last weekend. It was delicious! THANK YOU! I think good broth is key. I left out the chives and used a dry white wine instead of the sherry. Also made it vegan (soy milk and marg). It made a ton! I halved the recipe and still ate it for days.

Anonymous said...

Erin - did you leave the pot covered? Maybe you pot isn't quite big enough? What would happen if you cut the recipe in half and tried again? Or made fewer dumplings (and maybe baked the extras in the oven calling them biscuits)?

fresh365 said...

Anon- Thanks for the great ideas for Erin!