Chicken 'n' Dumplings Serves 4 to 6 There is something quintessentially comforting about chicken and dumplings. Perhaps it is the familiar flavors in the simple chicken stew or the gentle blandness of the dumplings, which suggests a willingness to accommodate whatever comes their way. In any case, this is delicious family-style fare. 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil 3 lbs (1.5 kg) chicken pieces, skin on breast, skinless legs and thighs 2 medium onions, finely chopped 4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced 4 stalks celery, peeled and thinly sliced 1 tsp (5 mL) dried tarragon or thyme leaves 1 tsp (5 mL) salt 1/2 tsp (2 mL) cracked black peppercorns 1/4 cup (50 mL) all-purpose flour 1 cup (250 mL) condensed chicken broth, undiluted 1/2 cup (125 mL) dry white wine or condensed chicken broth 1 cup (250 mL) green peas, thawed if frozen 1/2 cup (125 mL) whipping cream, optional Dumplings 1 1/4 cups (300 mL) sifted all-purpose flour 2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt 1/4 cup (50 mL) finely chopped fresh parsley, optional 2 tbsp (25 mL) melted butter 3/4 cup (175 mL) warm milk In a nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, in batches, and brown lightly on all sides. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions, carrots and celery to pan and cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened. Add tarragon, salt and peppercorns and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over mixture, stir well and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth and wine and cook, stirring, until thickened. Pour mixture over chicken. Cover and cook on Low for 5 to 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until juices run clear when chicken is pierce with a fork. Stir in peas and whipping cream, if using. Dumplings: Turn slow cooker heat to High. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and parley, if using. Add butter and milk and stir just until moistened (lumps are fine). Drop dumpling dough, by spoonfuls, onto hot chicken. Cover and cook on High for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of dumplings comes out clean. TIP: There are several steps you can take to ensure that your dumplings are as light and fluffly as possible. Preheat the slow cooker to High so the stew will be bubbling when you add the dumplings. Sift the flour before measuring and warm the milk before adding to the dry ingredients. Drop the batter directly onto pieces of chicken. If the batter is submerged in the liquid, the dumplings with be soggy. MAKE AHEAD: This dish can be partially prepared the night before it is cooked. Complete step 2, heating 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil in pan before softening vegetables. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, brown chicken (Step 1), or if you're pressed for time, omit this step and place chicken directly in slow cooker stoneware. Continue cooking as directed in Step 3. PANTRY NOTES Cracked Peppercorns I recommend the use of cracked peppercorns rather than ground pepper in many of my recipes because they release flavor slowly during the long cooking process. "Cracked pepper" can be purchased in the spice sections of supermarkets, but I like to make my own in a mortar with a pestle. A rolling pin or even a heavy can on its side will also break up the peppercorns for use in slow cooked dishes. If you prefer to use ground black pepper, use one-quarter to one-half the amount of cracked black peppercorns called for in the recipe.Finlayson, Judith is the author of 'Delicious & Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes', published 2002 under ISBN 9780778800521 and ISBN 0778800520.