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Let the kitchen be your hearth with three warming dishes

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

The bright purple blooms of the Texas mountain laurels might have announced the arrival of spring in Central Texas, but these recent cold fronts have reminded us that we still have plenty of cool weather left. When it's blustery outside and you're craving something comforting inside, let the kitchen be your hearth with these warming dishes. It'll be 90 degrees before we know it, so soak up the cozy flavors while you can. 

Lighter Chicken and Dumplings

You can substitute 1/2 cup of plain yogurt thinned with 1/4 cup of milk for the buttermilk, if desired. To include white meat (and lose a bit of flavor in the process), replace two chicken thighs with two 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts; brown the breasts along with the thighs and remove them from the stew once they register 160 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes. The collagen in the wings helps thicken the stew; do not omit them. Wrapping the lid in a dish towel will collect the condensation so it doesn't fall back on the dumplings and make them soggy.

— America's Test Kitchen

For the stew:

2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed

Salt and pepper

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 small onions, chopped fine

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 celery rib, minced

1/4 cup dry sherry

6 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

1 pound chicken wings, trimmed

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

For the dumplings:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup buttermilk, chilled

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and hot

1 large egg white

For the stew: Pat thighs dry with paper towels and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add thighs, skin side down, and cook until skin is well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, flip thighs and brown second side, 5 to 7 minutes longer; transfer to large plate. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from pot.

Add onions, carrots and celery to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in broth and thyme. Return thighs and any accumulated juices to pot and add wings. Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until thigh meat offers no resistance when poked with tip of paring knife but still clings to bones, 45 to 55 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and transfer chicken to cutting board. Let broth settle for 5 minutes, then skim fat from surface. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove skin. Using your fingers, pull meat from thighs and, if desired, wings and cut into 1-inch pieces. Return meat to pot and bring stew to simmer over low heat.

For the dumplings: Whisk flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps; whisk in egg white. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl.

Stir parsley into stew and season with salt and pepper to taste. Using greased 1-tablespoon measure or scoop, drop level scoops of batter over top of stew, spacing them about 1/4-inch apart (you should have about 24 dumplings). Wrap lid of pot with clean dish towel (keeping towel away from heat source) and cover pot. Simmer gently until dumplings have doubled in size and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 13 to 16 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

— From "Cook's Illustrated Revolutionary Recipes: Groundbreaking techniques. Compelling voices. One-of-a-kind recipes" by America's Test Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated, $45)

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon and Cheddar

This recipe from Melissa Clark's "Comfort in an Instant" explains how to make multiple elements of a dish in an Instant Pot at the same time by taking advantage of the wire racks that come with most multicookers. By sauteing aromatics and tomatoes in the bottom of the pot and placing a bowl of grits on top, you can keep the grits and the tomato bacon mixture separate until serving. The shrimp cook so quickly that you won't cook them under pressure, but instead, you'll cook them in the tomato mixture after the sauce and grits have cooked under pressure.

— Addie Broyles

1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp

1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning

2 slices smoked bacon, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 small red bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeño, seeded (if desired) and diced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed

1/2 cup old-fashioned or stone-ground grits

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (3 ounces)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Sliced scallions, for serving

Hot sauce and/or lemon wedges, for serving

In a large bowl, combine the shrimp and Old Bay seasoning. Cover and let marinate at room temperature while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Using the saute function, scatter the bacon into the pressure cooker pot and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and the fat has rendered, 10 to 12 minutes. Leaving the fat in the pan, transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.

Stir the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño and garlic into the pot. Cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom, and turn off the saute function.

In a medium metal (not glass) bowl that fits in the pressure cooker, stir together the grits, milk, 1 cup water and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. If your steamer rack has handles, place the bowl on the rack and lower everything into the pressure cooker pot, setting it over the tomato mixture. If your rack does not have handles, first place the rack in the pot, then lower in the bowl using a homemade sling.

Lock the lid into place and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.

Carefully remove the bowl from the pressure cooker, using the sling or oven mitts. Stir the cheddar and butter into the grits, adding more milk or water to reach your desired consistency. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Using the saute function, stir the marinated shrimp and lemon juice into the tomato mixture in the pressure cooker pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve, spoon the grits onto serving bowls and top with the shrimp and tomato mixture, reserved bacon, scallions and hot sauce and/or lemon wedges on the side. Serves 4.

— From "Comfort in an Instant:75 Comfort Food Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker and Instant Pot" by Melissa Clark (Clarkson Potter, $22)

Red Coconut Dahl

When the weather drops below 50 degrees in Texas, I know it’s time for a jacket and a warming recipe. And when I want a change from chicken soup, I make this delicious red coconut dish. This creamy meal is packed with protein and high in fiber, so you’ll feel satisfied and nourished. The brilliant yellow color of the turmeric also works as an anti-inflammatory and immunity booster to aid in recovery after an intense workout. As much as I enjoy this in colder months, it really is good year-round. Serve as a soup or with brown rice or riced cauliflower. You could also serve leftovers over a baked potato.

— Kevin Curry

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger

1/2 cup diced white onion

1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 (14-ounce) can lite coconut milk

2/3 cup vegetable broth

1 1/2 cups uncooked red or green lentils

Sea salt and black pepper Garnish: fresh cilantro, lime juice

To a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the coconut oil, garlic, ginger and onion. Cook until the onion begins to brown, 2 to 4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the green chiles along with the turmeric, cumin and cayenne (if using) and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. You’re looking for fragrant — not burning. Reduce the heat if necessary.

Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, broth and lentils. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally and adding 1/2 cup of water at a time if the liquid level starts to dip too low, until the lentils are tender and the sauce has thickened, 30 to 35 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

— From "Fit Men Cook: 100+ Meal Prep Recipes for Men and Women ― Always #HealthyAF, Never Boring" by Kevin Curry (Gallery Books, $22.99)