What makes this recipe work so well is cooking the dumplings in a separate pot, and building up levels of flavor by browning your meat and vegetables. Everything is timed out rather well, in which your soup meats and vegetables will finish at the same time as your dumplings. A rich & gelatinous roasted ham stock really makes this soup sing, but it’ll work well with a variety of stocks.
Note about the ham: I can’t recommend more highly buying a ham for this recipe, roasting the whole thing off, and freezing what you don’t use for this recipe (I think ham is the easiest meat to find uses for). After roasting and carving, take that delicious, brown ham bone, and make a stock with it, along with some carrots, celery, onion, bay leaf, parsley & any other herbs you have kicking around. It’ll be such a lovely stock, you’ll probably start screaming, and it’s super okay to scream about ham. My secret is to wait until after Christmas, when everyone else is trying to forget about ham , and buy a big ol’ shank portion for half price. (The butt is absolutely delicious and more tender, but the shank is usually cheaper and gives a bit more flavor to the stock.) I know Christmas only comes once a year, so this can be a problem for some folks who aren’t able to time travel. (I guess just hold out til post-Easter?)
However – this whole ham roasting situation is NOT necessary to make a delicious soup! Use store bought chicken stock, or even vegetable stock, if that is what is convenient to you! You can easily go to the butcher counter and ask them to slice up the smoked deli ham to a ½” thickness, and dice it up for the recipe. It’ll be delicious, and won’t make this soup a 3-day process.
I also work into the recipe extra browning steps to ensure that your soup is rich & delicious, no matter what broth you use.
Yield: 4 people who aren’t greedy for dumplings, or 2 people who are very greedy for dumplings.
3 quart (or larger) sauce pan with lid
- 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cups (about a ½ lb, 240g) smoked ham, diced into ½” chunks (see note about ham above)
- 1 cup parsnip (about 1 large parsnip, 190g), peeled & diced into ½” chunks
- ¾ cup button mushrooms (about 4, including stalks, 95g), diced into ½” chunks
- 1 cup white or yellow onion, diced in ½” pieces (about 1 small onion, 150g)
- 1 tsp for vegetables (you may need more salt, based on what stock you use)
- 2 quarts stock, preferably roasted ham bone stock, but chicken or vegetable is also fine.
- ¾ cups (4.25 ounces/120g) All-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon (0.18 ounce/6g) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (3g) kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon (20g) butter, melted
- 1 egg
- 3 Tablespoons (1.5 ounces/42g) whole milk
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- Pour about 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil in your skillet, and put over medium high heat. (You want the oil pretty hot and zesty, since you want everything getting brown and delicious.) Once hot, put your ham into the skillet, making sure the pan isn’t too crowded. Let sit, untouched for at least 30 seconds. It should smell like hog heaven, and be sizzling. Stir it around the pan, trying to get as many parts of the hams brown. Once you’ve done a great job at this, use a slotted spoon to remove hams onto a plate or bowl, leaving behind any excess oil in the pan.
- You’re going to repeat the same process with all of the remaining vegetables. Make sure you have a hot, thin layer of oil in your pan (your skillet might need a few seconds to heat back up between browning), and add your parsnips. Just like with the ham, wait at least 30 seconds before moving around to make sure they’re getting nice and brown, and DEFINITELY don’t crowd the pan. Things don’t get brown when they’re crowded – it’s the way of the universe. Once sufficiently brown, add a pinch of salt to parsnips, stir them about again, then use the slotted spoon to take them out of the pan, and put them on whatever bowl or plate you stashed the ham.
- Repeat exactly the same process with the mushrooms & onions, making sure to add a pinch of salt to them at the end of cooking.
- Once all your meat and vegetables are browned – put them all back in the skillet! The skillet will be pretty full, and this time it’s okay. Add 2 cups of your stock, and bring to a gentle simmer. Let this simmer away and get delicious as you make your dumplings. Do remember to stir it every once in awhile, and check the parsnips for doneness – they will have softened quite a bit during the browning process, but they usually need a little more cooking in the liquid. If they’re getting mushy, turn down your heat, if they’re a little under, turn up your heat.
- Now let’s have you make those dumplings. Put the remaining stock into your 3 quart saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer.
- Get a small bowl, and whisk together the flour, the baking powder, ½ tsp salt, and your chopped thyme. In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, the egg & milk. For your final whisking accomplishment, whisk the two mixtures together. The batter will be pretty thick and dough-y.
- Use a tablespoon measure to drop portions of the batter into the simmering stock. Definitely make sure that your stock isn’t bubbling too hard – your dumplings shouldn’t be too jostled, as they will break apart into little chunks (though this batter is pretty sturdy, so don’t get too paranoid). You should get about 9 dumplings, which is convenient amount because it has that one odd-numbered dumpling for you to test for doneness.
- Once all dumplings are in the pan, cover with the lid, and resist the urge to lift the lid for 15 minutes. You might need to watch the heat a little bit. I’ve found things can get a bit steamy and want to boil over, in which case I turn down the heat a bit, and use a towel to hold lid in place and liquid inside pot.
- After 15 minutes of good behavior, check your dumplings!They will have grown significantly, and look like big, beautiful wet biscuits. I like to let them sit with the lid off for a few minutes, and sort of let them firm up and tops dry slightly before serving. Some of your dumplings may have separated slightly, and their might be disenfranchised chunks of dough floating about – it’ll be fine.
- Now check for salt, add more if needed, then get ready to eat it! I like to serve at least ¾ cup of meat and vegetables per portion, along with some of the liquid they’re sitting in (that broth will be the most flavorsome…flavorous?), at least 2 dumplings (I can eat 4, actually, thank you), and then a little more broth poured over the top. Everyone likes it a little different, so cater to their needs, or ignore them entirely. Use a slotted spoon to remove dumplings from the pot.
- Garnish with a few grinds of fresh ground pepper, and some fresh thyme. Enjoy!