avatarMark Laflamme

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Blending Tradition With Innovation

Crafting an Acadianized Chicken and Dumplings Dish

Chicken Fricot with dumplings. Image courtesy of the author.

Chicken and dumplings are a beloved comfort food enjoyed by many. When reading about this dish, it seemed to have a rich history that spanned generations. With its tender chicken, flavorful broth, and soft dumplings, this hearty dish must have provided warmth and happiness to families for centuries.

The most astute of you have noticed I said the dish seemed to have a rich history. As we delve into the origins of chicken and dumplings, we’ll see if that’s the case. We’ll also explore its relationship with a chicken stew from my part of the world and see if I can make something that incorporates a regional twist.

Origin story

I have been trying to trace the roots of chicken and dumplings, but I’ve not been able to find anything that might be the authentic recipe; it seems to be a dish that evolved independently in many culinary traditions across the globe. In its simplest form, it is a chicken stew made by braising chicken meat in stock with vegetables and spices. Essentially, it is a version of Hunter’s chicken.

The chicken stew I’m most familiar with is the version that is omnipresent in the francophone regions of the Maritimes in Canada. We call it Chicken fricot (Pronounced freak oh).

Chicken Fricot is a traditional Acadian dish that originated in the Maritime provinces of Canada. It is a hearty and comforting stew made with chicken, potatoes, onions, and sometimes carrots or peas, cooked in a flavorful broth. The dish is seasoned with salt, pepper, and “the queen of Acadian spices,” Summer savoury.

Summer savoury

Ah yes, Satureja hortensis, better known everywhere as Summer savoury. Acadians call it Sariette. The Summer savoury plant requires moderately fertile soils to grow. It thrives in various parts of the world. Its adaptability to different growing conditions has made it a popular herb among home and commercial growers.

We see Summer savoury in Greek dishes such as moussaka, dolmades, or the ever-popular Keftedes meatballs. But in my neck of the woods, it is everywhere. Summer savoury is a culinary chameleon, integrating into many recipes, often replacing sage or thyme.

The use of Summer savoury is almost mandated for anything resembling chicken stew in this region. Its aromatic flavour is salty and peppery. It adds depth and complexity to chicken-based dishes, elevating them to new heights of deliciousness. I instinctively knew I had to incorporate this herb into my Chicken and Dumplings recipe. It would give it a distinct regional flavour that would be unmistakably Acadian.

Fricot, the Acadian chicken, and sometimes dumplings, stew.

We derive the term “fricot” from the French word “friquots” or “frique,” which refers to types of meat stews or soups. In Acadian households, however, we use only one meat in fricot: chicken. Most Acadians say fricot and assume the meat is chicken. If the meat were beef, we would likely say beef stew.

While optional, some Acadian fricot recipes will have dumplings. But these dumplings are dense and chewy dumplings called “Pâtes.” Pâtes translates to dough, which is a good description of these dumplings.

The pâtes used in fricot are about the same density as the potatoes. So, these dumplings mix with all the ingredients rather than rising to the top. Further, unlike most chicken and dumplings recipes that I’ve seen, fricot is not creamy. It is a very flavourful brothy stew, but not creamy.

Today, I wanted to create something different; I closed my eyes and did away with tradition. Gulp…

Trying something new-ish

I combined and matched things to create an Acadianized version of chicken with dumplings. The Acadianization would involve using a clear, savoury broth filled with summer savoury. But I wanted this dish to have the light and fluffy dumplings found in creamy chicken and dumplings recipes.

I started by poaching a whole chicken in simmering, salted water. Poaching the chicken in this way has little to do with cooking it. It is about making the base of your savoury broth.

When the chicken was cooked through, I removed it from the water. I let it cool before removing the skin, deboning, and roughly shredding it. I put the shredded chicken back into my Dutch oven. I added onions, potatoes, carrots, and a very healthy amount of Summer savoury.

I then started to prepare the dumplings: Flour, baking powder, baking soda… Of course. Baking powder and baking soda are what give these dumplings such an airy consistency. I added some Summer savoury and dropped the dumplings into the fricot. I covered the pot and let it simmer.

Airy dumplings in Chicken fricot. What do the Acadiens think? Image courtesy of the author.

Something great but different

About 20 minutes later, I found treasure. A wonderful aroma greeted me when I pulled the lid; it was the divine, unmistakable scent of chicken and Summer savoury. Then, I was treated to a spectacle of plump, airy dumplings dancing in a clear, savoury broth. Had my experiment worked?

It was a visual delight for a rustic dish, but was the taste up to spec? Yes, it was. This dish is different from the fantastic creamy chicken and dumplings recipes you find everywhere online. It is also very different from the more traditional Acadian chicken fricot. I worried the bread-like texture of these dumplings, which pair so well with creamy sauces, wouldn’t do well in the clear broth. But they were great. The clear broth coated the dumplings and made its way into every nook and cranny without disintegrating them. Happiness.

I’m filled with a renewed sense of culinary curiosity. This experience has reaffirmed my commitment to cooking. My commitment to experimenting with flavours and embarking on more culinary adventures. With no recipes, there are no expectations.

I look forward to many more moments like this, along with the accompanying surprises.

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