Chicken and Dumplings
By Our Chef, Phillip Schaaf
The Understudy: Drumsticks Take Center Stage
If you were to poll a group of sensible chefs and ask what their favorite cut of chicken is, the majority of the group would proudly answer the thigh. While this is inarguably a solid answer for a number of reasons, the cut that is literally right beneath the thigh is the drumstick. The drumstick has every bit of charm that the thigh exudes—unctuous, rich dark meat and thick layers of chicken fat beneath the crispy skin. The drumstick is every bit as delicious as its counterpart. The only downfall is that it is riddled with connective tissue and the pin bone, which can make it difficult to debone for a lot of practical uses. This is most likely why the drumstick has never been able to take center stage or become the championed cut of chicken. We find it bountiful in the typical 8-piece buckets of Extra Crispy fried chicken, but never as the star of its own show.
This recipe will change all of that. It is one of those dishes is very simple to prepare but complex in flavor. You start with a quick braise. And your end result will be a dressed up version of chicken and dumplings, a classic southern meal. Throughout, you add elements of French, Italian and Asian cuisine. Don’t worry. I promise it sounds more difficult than it is. Let’s take it one step at a time.
This braised drumstick recipe can be used for a wide variety of dishes. It yields a tender meat that is easily pulled from the bone and a thick and flavorful braising liquid that makes a great soup broth or sauce.
What You'll Need
1 order of chicken drumsticks (about 4)
1 onion, peeled and quartered, root intact
2 celery ribs, trimmed and segmented
2 carrots, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 sprigs thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
½ C Mirin rice wine
1 ½ C chicken stock, preferably homemade
1-2 T olive oil, if necessary
A splash of cream, optional
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place a heavy bottomed pot on the stovetop and turn the heat to medium. Remove the skin from the drumsticks and place fat side down in the pot. As the pot reaches temp, the fat will slowly render from the skin.
While this is happening, liberally season the drumsticks and set aside.
Once the skin is rendered on both sides and appears to be crisp, remove it from the pan and season with a pinch of salt and a bit of chili powder. Reserve this crispy skin at room temperature for later use.
Add a bit of olive oil to the pan of chicken fat and then add the onion. Brown the onion on all sides and then add the carrot and celery. Once all three are looking nice and brown, add the thyme and the garlic. Cook the garlic for two minutes longer, then pull the vegetables from the pot and set aside.
Add the drumsticks and brown heavily on all sides.
Remove the drumsticks from the pan and dump any excess oil or fat.
Deglaze the pan with the Mirin then add the chicken stock.
Return the vegetables to the pot, adding the drumsticks on top, with half of the meat protruding from the stock and Mirin mixture.
Bring to a boil and then cover with a lid and place in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour.
Remove from the oven and let rest until reaching room temperature.
Once cooled, remove the meat and vegetables from the braising liquid. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve to remove any debris. Return the strained liquid back to the saucepot, turning the heat to medium to gradually warm up the sauce.
Remove the skin from the drumsticks and pull the meat from the bone. Place the pulled meat back into the warm sauce and finish with a bit of cream or butter and fresh chopped herbs.
Serve over egg noodles or gnocchi and enjoy with friends.