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Lark Creek Walnut Creek Skillet Fried Chicken and Dumplings

2 whole chickens (about 3 1/2 lbs. each), cut into 16 pieces (legs, thighs, breasts and wings)
2 C. buttermilk
2 C. all-purpose flour (plus more for gravy)
1 to 2 T. cracked black pepper
1 to 2 T. kosher salt
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
Oil, bacon fat or clarified butter

For Dumplings:
1 C. all-purpose flour
2 t. double-acting baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2 C. unsalted butter or shortening, chilled
1/4 C. chopped parsley
1/4 C. minced chives
1 egg
1/3 C. milk
1/3 C. grated yellow onion
4 to 5 C. of chicken stock (for poaching dumplings, heating vegetables and making gravy)
chopped parsley for garnish

Marinate the chicken in the buttermilk for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

For the dumplings: Sift 1 cup flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the chopped herbs.

Beat the egg and milk together in a small bowl and add the grated onion. Add 3/4 of the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing with a fork to make a stiff dough. Add the rest of the egg mixture if needed. Do not overmix or the dumplings will be tough. Set aside.

When ready to cook the chicken, bring the stock to a simmer in a wide saucepan. Combine 2 cups flour, pepper, salt and cayenne in a bag and mix well.

Heat an 1/8-inch layer of oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Drain the chicken from the buttermilk and coat evenly with the flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour and place into the hot fat, without overcrowding the skillet (you can cook in batches and keep warm in a low oven). Turn the chicken pieces frequently to brown on all sides. Remove when done and drain on paper towels. (Cook about 15 to 25 minutes -- dark meat takes the longest). Transfer chicken to a warm oven.

Remove all but a few tablespoons of fat from the skillet. Add an equal amount of flour and scrape the skillet with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat to make a roux, cooking for about 2 minutes. Whisk in a cup or two of stock -- enough to obtain a smooth, lightly thickened broth.

While the chicken is cooking, drop dumpling dough by rounded tablespoons into the chicken stock. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the dumplings comes out clean.

Once the chicken and dumplings are done, and just before serving, cook or reheat blanched vegetables in the chicken stock (either with the dumplings, or in a separate pan with stock and a touch of butter).

To serve, divide the chicken into individual serving bowls, place the dumplings around, ladle sauce over all and garnish with fresh vegetables and chopped parsley.

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