crystal’s-peppery chicken-and-dumplings
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  • Total Time

    1 hour 45 minutessim

Crystal Wilkinson is a Kentucky poet laureate and the author of the memoir Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts. This version of chicken and dumplings, an Appalachian staple that can trace its roots back to starchy cassava with vegetables and meat in Africa, is a riff on her grandmother’s. It’s Wilkinson’s fallback comfort food. 

Chicken thighs are poached with water and vegetables for a rich-tasting broth that is then used to stew the dumplings in, locking in every ounce of flavor. Be sure to use self-rising flour. It performs far better than any homemade combination of flour and leavening (trust us, we’ve tried), yielding delicate, feathery dumplings.

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6–8 servings



Tbsp. vegetable oil


large onion, cut into ½” pieces


garlic cloves, thinly sliced


celery stalks, thinly sliced

cups shelled fresh or frozen peas


Tbsp. freshly cracked pepper, plus more


Tbsp. Diamond Crystal or 3½ tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided


lb. skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 6)


tsp. garlic powder

Dumplings and assembly


cups self-rising flour (such as Gold Medal)


tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt


cup chilled shortening


cup buttermilk, preferably whole milk

Freshly cracked pepper


  1. Broth

    Step 1

    Heat 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Cook 1 large onion, cut into ½” pieces, 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced, 1½ cups shelled fresh or frozen peas, 1 Tbsp. freshly cracked pepper, and 1 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¾ tsp. Morton kosher salt, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and celery is tender but still bright green, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.

    Step 2

    Combine 2 lb. skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 6), 1 tsp. garlic powder, remaining 1 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¾ tsp. Morton kosher salt, and 7 cups water in pot and bring to a simmer (still over medium). Cover, and cook, adjusting heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until chicken is cooked through, 35–45 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate; let cool slightly. Shred meat; discard skin, bones, and excess fat. Add meat to bowl with cooked vegetables.

  2. Dumplings and assembly

    Step 3

    Return broth in pot to a simmer over medium. Whisk 2 cups self-rising flour and ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt in a medium bowl to combine. Add ½ cup chilled shortening and rub into dry ingredients with your fingers until mixture is shaggy. Pour in 1 cup buttermilk and stir with a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms (it might be lumpy).

    Step 4

    Using a spoon dipped in cold water, drop tablespoon-size portions of dough into broth (dumplings will bob to the surface and pot will look crowded). Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until dumplings are cooked through and tender (remove a dumpling and cut in half; interior should resemble the inside of a dinner roll) and broth is thickened to a stew-like consistency, 10–15 minutes. Carefully push dumplings to one side. Add chicken and vegetables; stir gently until just mixed and warmed through (some dumplings may break). Ladle into bowls; season with freshly cracked pepper.

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