No oven, no problem: stovetop chicken and dumplings

Gourmandistan tries to put on a good face for guests, but recent visits have been marred by unexpected difficulties. The first was a bridge-defeating flood turning dinner guests into overnight visitors. The second was the double oven blowing an internal fuse, fortunately just as our pizzas were ready for another unlucky pair (who as it turned out were also overheated due to a dying central air conditioning unit).

The days spent without AC and oven severely limited our cooking options, and meant we needed to find something else to do with the small chicken we’d planned on roasting. Steve cut up the bird and with it Michelle took the effort to make chicken and dumplings, mostly based on Thomas Keller’s recipe in ad hoc at home. Eschewing the effort Keller takes for his pâte à choux dumplings (which involves forming “three-sided quenelle[s] using two soupspoons”—something he admits takes “practice”), Michelle instead made a simpler version. The soup served us well through several days, almost until our oven and air conditioner were repaired and replaced respectively. After that, our electricity went out for about 36 hours. (What we dined on during that period is assuredly not worth blogging about.)

The house is now cooled, the kitchen is back to full function, and we look forward to putting out more sweet and savory things. But should the oven fail again, we know one dish that we’ll happily prepare without it.


(soup adapted from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home/dumplings adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated Complete Book of Poultry)

Poach chicken:

  • 1 small to medium chicken
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 or 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 or 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt

Cut chicken into pieces. Heat a large Dutch oven and sauté the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add onion quarters, reduce heat and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, turning meat occasionally. Add 6-8 cups of water, carrots, celery, bay leaves and salt. Simmer until chicken is done, about 20-30 minutes more.

Remove chicken pieces to a cutting board. Strain vegetables from stock. Discard vegetables, reserving stock.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat in chunks. Place in a bowl, pour a little of the stock over to keep moist, cover and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, make roux:

  • 4 TB unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c. + 1 TB flour

Melt butter in small pan over medium heat. When almost melted, whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 3-4 minutes. Make sure roux bubbles but does not brown. Place in a small dish and refrigerate.


  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 quarts chicken stock (including the chicken poaching liquid)

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add vegetables and season with salt. Cook on very low heat until vegetables are very soft. Add stock, and simmer for 30 minutes. Then, strain and put stock in a clean pot.

While soup is simmering, make vegetables:

  • 3 stalks celery
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 or 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 c. snap peas and/or frozen peas

Peel celery stalks with a peeler. Cut each crosswise on diagonal into slices. Cook celery in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Cut carrots on the diagonal into pieces about the same size as the celery. Put carrots in small saucepan. Add honey, bay leaf, thyme, garlic and some salt and pepper. Cover with water. Simmer until carrots are tender. Drain and set aside.

Place peas in a pan of boiling, salted water. Cook very briefly, just until done (which may be as soon as the water returns to a boil). Drain, then place in a bowl of ice water. Remove to a colander and set aside.

Make Dumplings:

  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 TB baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1/4 c. minced fresh herbs (we used chives and parsley)
  • 3 TB butter
  • 1 c. milk

Mix dry ingredients and herbs in a medium bowl.

Heat butter and milk until butter is melted and mixture is simmering. Then add to dry ingredients, mixing with a fork until it just comes together.

Put dough out on a piece of waxed paper and pat flat to about 1/8″. Cut dough into 2″ x 1/2″ strips.

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Add some of the dumpling strips, reduce heat, and simmer until done. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.

Finish soup:

Bring soup to a simmer and add roux, a little at a time. You may not need all the roux for it to reach desired thickness. Simmer for about 30 minutes, skimming often.

Season soup to taste. Then add reserved chicken meat, celery, carrots, dumplings* and reheat them along with the following:

  • 1/4 c. minced chives
  • 1 TB champagne vinegar

With a slotted spoon, place meat, vegetables and dumplings into shallow bowls. Toss some peas** on top, then ladle soup over.

*Add just the amount of dumplings you intend to eat in one sitting. The remainder should be wrapped, refrigerated and and reheated along with leftover soup. Otherwise they’ll soak up too much liquid and become mushy.

**Save any extra peas in the refrigerator so they don’t turn unappetizingly gray in the soup.


  1. Eha

    *smile* ‘No oven . . . no problem’ . . . . living mostly on my own and not being a baker, I honestly do not remember the last time that apparatus was even thought of – not with Australia’s mile-high electricity costs . . . Now, if you were to try take away my wok, there would be a hell of a strife ’cause it is in use every day !! Lovely recipe . . . . my kind . . . .

  2. on Thomas Keller: great books.. yes, more often than not one sighs at the receipts (“…really??!?.. I need to do all this.. for one single dish?!?’…”), but he is … well..he is right most of the times and one gets stellar results following his advice + quenelles: actually, after the first few ones, they are pretty easy. I particularly like Ad Hoc at Home: one of his most accessible.

    • Absolutely. I’ve made this dish, or some variation, many times. And every time I’m doing it I’m like “this is crazy … why do I have to keep adding and discarding more vegetables in this stock??” But, honestly, it makes a tremendous difference in the end result.

  3. Carolyn Melcher

    Made with such care, I’m certain it was delicious. Inspiring to read. Glad all is up and running in Gourmandistan.

  4. I have to confess that I quite like cooking with a challenge – you’ve definitely managed to acquit yourselves well here!
    When I lived in Georgia and 80% humidity, I can remember reading, that in the days before AC, old timers draped wet sheets, on washing lines, around their balconies to cool the air down.

    • I honestly don’t know how folks did it. Our a/c unit was on its last leg for years. The inspectors every year were so impressed how long it held out. They just didn’t know how infrequently Steve would turn it on! But there are times in summer in the South, as you know, that you just can’t live without it.

  5. Oh my. Yes, I do appreciate all of our modern conveniences, especially indoor plumbing. Also central heat and air, and major appiances. I guess I also appreciate electricity, and water, which often go out where we live in the country if there’s a storm. We’re on a well, so if we love electricity, we also lose water. But you persevered! Great dish!

  6. Your comment “One never wants to bake so much as when one can’t.” It sounds like you overcame all of your adversities with flying colors. Your soup photo could be a painting.

  7. With all that happening it’s amazing you’ve managed to find the time and the means to blog. Kudos to you both!

    I once tried my hand a chicken and dumpling, a more traditional recipe, and it turns out a stodgy mess. My fault, do doubt, not the recipe’s, but Keller’s version looks much more appetizing.

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