Spiced Chicken Soup With Green Banana Dumplings

May  8, 2021
2 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom. Prop Stylist: Lauren Ringer Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

I had chicken and dumplings for the first time when I was in the sixth grade, at a friend’s house for dinner. Excited by what was happening in the kitchen, I got to watch as her grandmother prepared the dish. It was creamy and delicious, and so different from what I ate at home. American comfort food was not commonly found on my family table (our classics were my Mama’s sopita de pollo and arroz con gandules)—I found it very special when I was able to enjoy those dishes. I spent years dreaming about that meal.

When it comes to classic chicken and dumplings, national treasure Dolly Parton has a recipe that is beautiful in its simplicity, from which I took inspiration for this recipe’s broth and dumpling-style. The finished product is a richly-flavored chicken soup broth made from simmering a whole chicken in water with celery leaves and a whole onion, then shredding the meat and plopping it back into the pot. The dumplings are rolled out, cut, and poached in broth, with no extra veggies floating around.

I was curious to combine the flavors and ingredients in my grandmother's chicken and rice soup with American chicken and dumplings. There is a traditional Puerto Rican bean soup, known as Sopa de Gandules con Bollitas de Guineo, that uses grated unripened hard green bananas or plantains to create drop dumplings, so I used that method to add another layer of flavor to these hybrid dumplings. (Though if you don’t want a project, omit the dumplings and serve the soup with leftover rice and beans, or roasted squash or potatoes.)

A few additional notes:
- Though I’ve included recipes for sazón, adobo, and sofrito, these seasonings can be found premade in grocery stores. The store-bought versions all contain salt or msg, which adds loads of flavor, so if you do use a store-bought version, add only 1 teaspoon salt to the broth to start, use 3/4 teaspoons salt in the dumplings, and season to taste at the end to prevent over-salting. You may have leftover sofrito after making this recipe; if so, refrigerate and use within a week, or freeze into ice cubes and use within 3 months. Cook it into rice or beans, or mix with oil as a marinade for meat or seafood.

- When it comes to the green bananas, look for hard, unripened green cooking bananas or small plantains, readily available at African, Caribbean, and Latin American markets. Green bananas are difficult to peel, but if you cut off the ends, make a number of lengthwise slices down the banana to score the peel, and soak it before you start the dumplings, (at least 30 minutes in advance) they will be much easier to handle.

- Ground annatto or achiote is used primarily to add red color to dishes. It is also sold as a whole seed (commonly used to make achiote oil) and can be substituted with a teaspoon of paprika, or omitted if you can’t find it.

- Culantro is a sister to cilantro—the flat-leafed soft herb is readily available at Caribbean markets; use all cilantro in the recipe if you cannot find it.
Jessica Romanowski

What You'll Need
  • For the seasonings and broth
  • Adobo:
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon ground oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Sazón:
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground annatto seed (or sweet paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric
  • Broth:
  • 3 to 5 pounds whole chicken, patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons prepared adobo
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, washed and root ends trimmed, left whole with the skin on
  • 1 cup chopped celery leaves or stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro stems
  • Sofrito:
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 cups roughly chopped cilantro or culantro leaves and tender stems (about 1 large bunch)
  • 1 cubanelle pepper (or 1 small green or yellow bell pepper), quartered (discard stem, pith, and seeds)
  • 5 aji dulce peppers (or 2 mini sweet peppers), halved, (discard stem, pith, and seeds)
  • For the dumplings and soup assembly:
  • Green Banana Dumplings:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
  • 1 tablespoon prepared adobo
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 green bananas (see headnote for preparation)
  • 1/2 cup prepared sofrito
  • 1 tablespoon prepared sazón
  • 1 tablespoon milk of your choice (I used 2%)
  • Soup:
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, finely diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 cup prepared sofrito
  • 2 tablespoons prepared adobo
  • 3 tablespoons prepared sazón
  • 1 (5-ounce) jar pimento-stuffed green olives, halved crosswise, plus the brine
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh avocado, diced, for serving
  • Freshly chopped cilantro leaves, for serving
  1. For the seasonings and broth
  2. Make the adobo: In a small bowl, whisk together garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, turmeric, oregano, and cumin. Set aside.
  3. Make the sazón: In a small bowl, whisk together the annatto, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, coriander, salt, pepper, and turmeric. Set aside.
  4. Make the broth: Coat the outside of the chicken and the interior cavity with 3 tablespoons of the prepared adobo. Place the chicken in a 6-quart Dutch oven, breast side up, and cover completely with water (you’ll need about 8 to 10 cups.) Add the salt, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add the onion, celery, and cilantro stems. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the chicken is cooked through and falling away from the bones, about 1 hour. (While the chicken cooks, make the sofrito and dumpling dough.) When the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat. Use tongs to carefully remove the chicken to a dish to cool. Strain the broth into a large vessel and reserve if making the soup immediately (if waiting more than 2 hours, store in the refrigerator. You will be using the Dutch oven again shortly—no need to clean it.
  5. Make the sofrito: Place the onion, garlic, chopped cilantro or culantro, and peppers in a blender or food processor with 1/4 cup water. Blend or process until the mixture is smooth, about 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  1. For the dumplings and soup assembly:
  2. Make the dumplings: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 tablespoon prepared adobo, salt, and baking soda. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers or a pastry cutter until coarse crumbs form. Set aside.
  3. Peel the green bananas by using the back of a spoon (or the side of your thumb) to get between the peel and the flesh, then sliding down and along each cut (see headnote) to release the banana from the peel. Place the banana flesh into a bowl of clean water and discard peel.
  4. Position a box grater over a large mixing bowl and carefully grate the bananas on the small holes of the box grater until they become a paste. Scrape the inside of the box grater to get all the banana paste into the bowl. (Don’t be a hero and try to get the last banana nubs grated. Do yourself a favor and play it safe on that side of the grater when handling slippery, starchy bananas. Also, immediately clean the box grater with hot water, soap, and a stiff-bristled brush to prevent banana pulp from sticking to it forever.)
  5. Add 1/2 cup prepared sofrito, 1 tablespoon prepared sazón, and milk to the bowl with the bananas and whisk to combine.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead the dough in the bowl for a minute, or until all the flour is incorporated.
  7. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 3 to 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and no longer tacky to the touch. Place the dough between two pieces of floured parchment paper, and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough in a rectangular shape to a 1/2 to 3/4-inch thickness. Place dough, still covered with parchment, on a sheet pan, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook the dumplings.
  8. Make the soup: Heat the olive oil in the reserved Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic and stir constantly for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add 1 cup of the prepared sofrito, 2 tablespoons of the prepared adobo, and 3 tablespoons of the prepared sazón and cook, stirring occasionally, to fry the seasonings, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  9. Add the tomato sauce and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the olives and brine, cilantro, and the reserved strained broth. Scrape up any bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate them into the brothy mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  10. Once the reserved cooked chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the bones and skin. Shred or dice the meat and set aside.
  11. Slice the dumpling dough into 2-inch squares. Drop into the boiling soup. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook, without stirring, for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove the lid and gently stir the soup. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the chicken meat, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes to heat the chicken through. Serve hot with avocado and cilantro.

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