06 October 2009

Videos and Recipes: New Orleans Chef Cooks for The Today Show

From Denny: New Orleans Chef John Besh, who is from New Orleans as well, cooks up a classic Chicken and Dumplings dish Louisiana style! His use of ricotta cheese in the dumplings must harken to the Italian and Sicilian immigrants that came to New Orleans more than a century ago, making quite an impression on the local cuisine. He's also employing classic French fresh herbs like chervil, thyme and sage. My mouth is watering already! :)

Chanterelles, chicken and dumplings

From: "My New Orleans: The Cookbook" by Chef John Besh

Serves: 4

Often, when I roast a few chickens, I'll save those delectable chicken oysters (the little nuggets of the chicken back that look like oysters), or I'll use the meat from roasted chicken legs for this dish. For cooked chicken, don't brine the chicken first, reduce the amount of stock to one cup, and follow the process from step two.


The chicken

• 1/4 cup sugar
• Salt
• 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 shallots, minced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 2 cups basic chicken stock
• 1 cup fresh chanterelle mushrooms, halved lengthwise
• Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
• Leaves from 1 sprig fresh sage, chopped
• 1/2 cup shelled sweet peas or shucked, peeled fresh fava beans
• 1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced
• 2 tablespoons butter
• Freshly ground black pepper


• Salt
• 1 cup ricotta cheese
• 3 egg yolks
• 1 pinch nutmeg
• 1/3 cup flour
• Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh chervil


1. For the uncooked chicken, dissolve the sugar and 1/4 cup salt together in 1 quart cold water in a medium bowl. Add the pieces of chicken thighs and let them marinate in the brine, refrigerated, for 1 hour. Drain the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brine.

2. Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add the chicken and sauté until it is no longer pink. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes, reduce the heat to moderate, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and simmer until the liquid has reduced by nearly half, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the chanterelles, thyme, sage, peas, and tomatoes to the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the butter and season with salt and pepper. Cover and reduce the heat to low to keep the chicken and vegetables warm while making the dumplings.

4. For the dumplings, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, then reduce the heat to moderate to maintain a very gentle boil.

5. Combine the ricotta with the egg yolks, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium mixing bowl. Gradually stir in just enough flour to form a soft dough. Test the dumpling dough before adding more flour by dropping a small spoonful of the dough into the boiling water. Once the dumpling floats to the surface, let it poach for 45 seconds. If the dumpling breaks apart while cooking, you'll need to add a bit more flour to the dough and test again. Just don't overwork the dough, or it'll become tough.

6. Drop the remaining dough by teaspoonfuls into the boiling water and poach the dumplings for 45 seconds. As soon as they are done, use a slotted spoon to transfer the dumplings to the pot of chicken and vegetables.

7. Serve the chicken and dumplings in bowls and scatter the chervil on top.
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