This hearty Southern take on chicken soup features tender shreds of chicken and chewy strips of pastry in an ultra savory stock. Browning the chicken before simmering it in store-bought chicken broth provided a flavorful base. We opted for chicken thighs rather than lean breasts because they stayed tender throughout the long stewing process. Rolling the “pastry”—which we made from just flour, butter, milk, and baking powder—to 1/8 inch thick before adding it to boiling broth made it fluffy and soft. And cutting the dough into diamond shapes rather than squares added just a little flair to this homey dish. Keep the root ends of the onion halves intact so the petals don’t separate during cooking and the onion is easy to remove from the pot.
[Ed. note: America's Test Kitchen's Elle Simone explains how this recipe was inspired by the legendary Edna Lewis during an interview with Managing Producer Sally Swift.]
1. Combine flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Combine milk and melted butter in second bowl (butter may form clumps). Using rubber spatula, stir milk mixture into flour mixture until just incorporated. Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter and knead until no flour streaks remain, about 1 minute. Return dough to large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.
2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip chicken and continue to cook until golden brown on second side, 3 to 5 minutes longer.
3. Add broth and water, scraping up any browned bits. Nestle onion and celery into pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, roll dough into 12-inch square, about 1/8 inch thick. Using pizza cutter or knife, cut dough lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips, then cut diagonally into 1-inch-wide strips to form diamonds (pieces around edges will not be diamonds; this is OK).
5. Remove pot from heat. Transfer chicken to plate and let cool slightly. Discard onion and celery. Return broth to boil over medium-high heat and add pastry. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pastry is tender and puffed, about 15 minutes. While pastry cooks, shred chicken into bite-size pieces, discarding skin and bones.
6. Stir chicken into stew and cook, uncovered, until warmed through and stew has thickened slightly, 2 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
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