Chicken Stew with Saffron-Scented “Dumplins”

Chicken Stew with Saffron-Scented "Dumplins"

Photography by Lauren Angelucci McDuffie

Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest by Lauren McDuffie, writer of the award-winning food blog Harvest and Honey (and a Saveur Best Blog finalist for “Best New Voice”), captures the flavours and modern cooking techniques of Appalachia and the Blue Ridge Mountains in this evocative cookbook.

Here are more than 70 recipes that use modern cooking techniques to transform traditional comfort food with a mountain sensibility into inspired meals and menus for anyone.

Every chapter opens with storytelling that echoes the folklore and tall tales of the region, while more than 80 beautiful colour photographs capture mouthwatering dishes for all occasions—from morning beverages to a show-stopping berry buckle—as well as the tools, fruits, flowers, and scenery of life in the Mountain South.

Menu suggestions and wine pairings encompass a variety of meal occasions, from small plates to soups, salads, mains, sides, drinks, dessert, along with tips and techniques on canning, pickling, and preserving. Recipes include:

• Shaved Summer Squash Salad with Pickled Pepper Vinaigrette
• Slow-Roasted Onion and Golden Apple Soup
• Chicken Stew with Saffron-Scented “Dumplins“
• Drunken Short Ribs with Smoky Gouda Grits & Mountain Gremolata
• Pan-Seared Carrots with Bourbon-Maple Glaze
• Triple Orange Cake with Honey-Lavender Buttercream

Smoke. Roots, Mountain, Harvest


Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest: Recipes and Stories Inspired by My Appalachian Home, is available at and



Chicken Stew with Saffron-Scented “Dumplins“

When I was growing up, chicken and “dumplins” was the dish my brother and I would get most excited about at restaurants, ordering it immediately if it was an option and totally ignoring everything else on the menu. The piping hot bowls of chicken soup, with those fluffy pillows of dumpling dough bobbing on top like buoys—little lifesavers on days when the temperature outside is low enough to chill you to the bone. It is about as intensely comforting as any single bowl of food could hope to be.

The presence of dumplings in cuisines around the world is really interesting. There are so many iterations and interpretations out there—nearly every culture has a version—and I always enjoy sampling different types when I get the chance.

This chicken stew celebrates the beloved Southern dumpling, but I’ve changed things up and sent it on a trip to North Africa. By adding warm, aromatic spices, some tomatoes, herbs, and the fresh burst of citrus, this stew takes me far from my own kitchen to a place decidedly warmer and sunnier this time of year. It’s the dumplings, however, saffron-scented though they may be, that anchor it with the feelings and comforts of home.


Serves 6 

8 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp paprika
1½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick
4 garlic cloves minced or grated
6 cups [1.4 L] chicken stock, plus more as needed
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
One 28-oz [795-g] can whole tomatoes


1²⁄³ cup [400 ml] buttermilk
Pinch of saffron (about ½ tsp)
3 cups [400 g] self-rising flour
½ tsp poultry seasoning
½ tsp salt
¹⁄³ cup [60 g] shortening
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Handful of fresh mint, chopped (optional)

Cook the bacon in 2 tsp of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until browned and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and set aside. Drain off all but 1 Tbsp of the drippings in the pan. 

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the bacon drippings in the Dutch oven, and brown the chicken thighs over medium-high heat until deep golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. 

Add the onion, carrots, cumin, turmeric, paprika, ginger, coriander, and cinnamon stick to the pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 8 minutes or until the carrots have softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, stirring frequently. Add the chicken stock, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Squeeze the tomatoes in your hand to break them up and add them to the pot, along with their juices. Slide the chicken thighs, along with their juices, into the pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Stir to mix everything, cover the pot, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, to make the dumplings, pour the buttermilk into a small saucepan, add the saffron, and set over medium heat. When the buttermilk begins to lightly bubble, remove from the heat and allow the saffron to steep in the buttermilk for at least 10 minutes, infusing it with colour and flavour as it cools. Strain the infused buttermilk through a sieve to remove the saffron threads and any curds that formed. You should wind up with about 11⁄3 cups [320 ml]. Cool to room temperature before using (I pop it in the fridge to speed this along). 

Combine the flour, poultry seasoning, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry blender or a fork until crumbly. Stir in the saffron-scented buttermilk. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; if you need to add a bit more flour to get the dough to come together, that’s fine. With a rolling pin, roll until 1⁄8 in [4 mm] thick. Cut into 1 by 1⁄2 in [2.5 cm by 12 mm] strips. (I use a pizza cutter or a knife for this.) 

When the stew has simmered for 30 minutes and the chicken is cooked through, transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Chop it into thin strips and return it to the pot. Remove the cinnamon stick. Add the dumplings. Simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 25 minutes. If the stew becomes too thick, you can add more stock as needed. 

When you’re ready to serve, garnish the stew with the chopped herbs and the reserved bacon.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.

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