WHENEVER MY GRANDMOTHER MADE THIS DISH I watched very attentively. Nothing was perfect; she didn’t even cut the vegetables on a cutting board but sliced them in her hand, right into the pot. When I was growing up, we ate this all year round—but especially when we were at our sum- mer house in Madawaska, N.B. It’s a mix of chicken noodle soup and chicken and dumplings. In the end it’s a chicken soup with a stack of pancakes on the side. The pancakes—the ployes—are yellow. That’s because of the green buckwheat they grow in Madawaska, where they sell ployes-batter mix ready to go in grocery stores. The pancakes are there to soak up all the juices. We always had a heaping pile in the middle of the table for everyone to share. There were always a few left when the stew was done so we’d finish them with sweet condiments, like molasses, maple syrup and brown sugar. Madawaska Chicken Stew is very humble, but it’s still my favourite comfort food. – J.N.
- 4L (4 quarts) dark chicken stock
- 1 chicken, about 1.5 kg (31⁄2 lb), cut into 4 pieces (giblets reserved)
- 2 ribs celery, large pieces
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 carrot, peeled, large pieces
- 1 bulb garlic, halved crosswise
- 6 sprigs summer savory
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 250 g (2 cups) flour
- 1 tbsp chopped savory • 2 tsp baking powder
- 1⁄2 tsp salt
- 125 ml (1⁄2 cup) milk
- 260 g (2 cups) Madawaska buckwheat flour
- 130 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 250 ml (1 cup) rendered chicken fat
- 60g (¼ cup) butter (preferably smoked)
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- 2 carrots, peeled, sliced
- 4 ribs celery, peeled, sliced
- 4 rattes (or other fingerling) potatoes, sliced
- 6 chicken livers, soaked in milk (optional)
- 6 chicken hearts, hot-smoked (optional)
- 1 batch ployes and their condiment – recipe below
Combine stock, chicken, celery, onion, carrot, garlic, summer savory and peppercorns in a Dutch oven on medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until chicken is tender— about 15 minutes for the breasts and 30 for the legs. Remove chicken to a platter and cover with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle. Tear meat from bones and tear into chunks, and cover. Strain stock into another Dutch oven on medium-high and reduce by about a quarter. For the dumplings, combine flour, savory, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir in milk. Work into a dough, transfer to a floured work surface and roll out. Cut into desired shape and set aside. To finish, add carrots, celery and potatoes to the simmering broth and cook on medium until just tender—about 10 minutes.
Add dumplings and simmer until cooked through, another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, drain the chicken livers, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet on medium, add (preferably smoked) butter with a couple of sprigs of savory and sear livers until bronzed and still pink inside—about 2 minutes a side. Distribute shredded chicken among 6 shallow bowls. Add to each a liver and heart (optional). Ladle soup, vegetables and dumplings over top and serve with a stack of ployes.
To make the ployes, combine buckwheat and all-purpose flour, salt and 500 ml (2 cups) cold water in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Whisk in 500 ml (2 cups) boiling water. Add baking powder, whisk again, cover with a towel and let rest at room temperature until bubbles appear in the batter—about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, to prepare the condiment, combine fat, butter and cream in a bowl and whip together until creamy. Heat an electric griddle (or non-stick pan) on medium, and cook ployes in batches, just like pancakes, but without any added fat. Serve with a side of whipped chicken fat.
Try a bright and fresh white French Burgundy, such as the Louis Latour Mâcon-Lugny ‘Les Genièvres’, or a silky and characterful Italian red like Le Volte dell’Ornellaia.
For more info on these and other fine wines, go to Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits.