Anatomy of a Classic

Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Semolina Dumplings

Serves 4

Louisville chef Annie Pettry’s riff on chicken and dumplings blends Southern comfort with unexpected flavors

photo: Johnny Autry

Annie Pettry grew up at two different supper tables. Her parents in Asheville, North Carolina, were deep into what folks at the time called health food, serving up everything from bean burritos to tempeh curry. During holidays, however, she’d devour Southern home-style cooking at her grandmother’s house in Atlanta.

As a result, Pettry developed a kind of culinary agility. It’s a trait that has served her well as she’s moved from the professional kitchens of San Francisco to New York City to Louisville, Kentucky, where in 2012 she took over as chef and partner at the New American restaurant Decca. There, her menu at first glance calls to mind the Italian-influenced California cuisine popularized by chefs such as Alice Waters and Loretta Keller, who is a mentor. But scratch a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of cultural twists built from classic Southern dishes and ingredients.

Take, for instance, Pettry’s version of chicken and dumplings, a homey favorite traditionally made with boiled chicken and rolled, biscuit-like dumplings. To add texture, the chef starts by searing skin-on chicken breasts and then roasting them in the oven. She gives the dish an Italian spin by piling the juicy, crispy chicken atop pillowy dumplings cut from semolina dough fortified with Parmesan and ricotta, egg, and the zing of lemon and black pepper. Grapes, sautéed briefly with baby turnips and their greens, offer a kiss of California; a drizzle of chile oil brings a touch of Asian heat; and a finishing sprinkle of pickled golden raisins evokes the Indian-influenced food her parents often served.

The result is a refined take on the original that depends less on long, slow simmering and highlights the flavors of the individual ingredients. It’s Southern, but more—at once familiar and exotic. “This dish,” Pettry says, “combines the comforts of home with the hint of a faraway place.”


  • For the chicken

    • 4 skin-on chicken breast halves, boned and cut airline-style (with wing drumette attached)

    • Salt

    • 3 tbsp. olive oil

    • 1 bunch baby turnips with greens, bulbs quartered and greens chopped into strips

    • 1 cup red grapes

    • 1/2 cup white wine

    • 2 cups chicken stock

    • 5 tbsp. butter, chilled and cubed

    • 1 tbsp. minced parsley

    • 1 tbsp. minced chives

    • Juice from 1/2 a lemon

    • Chile oil, to taste

    • Semolina dumplings (recipe follows)

    • Chile oil, to taste

    • Pickled golden raisins, for garnish (recipe follows)

  • Semolina Dumplings

    • 1/4 cup semolina flour (if you don't have semolina on hand, substitute all-purpose flour)

    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

    • 1 tsp. salt

    • 1 cup ricotta

    • 1 egg

    • 1 egg yolk

    • Zest from 1/2 a lemon

    • 1 tbsp. minced parsley

    • 1 tbsp. minced chives

    • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

  • Pickled Golden Raisins

    • 1/2 cup golden raisins

    • 1/2 cup white vinegar

    • 1/2 cup water

    • 2 1/2 tsp. sugar

    • 1 tsp. salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  2. Season chicken generously with salt. Heat an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold the chicken breasts without letting them touch over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Place chicken in the pan skin side down to start searing, then roast in the oven for 15 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked through. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.


  3. Remove chicken to a plate and cover with foil. In the same skillet, add turnip bulb quarters and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until they are almost tender and a touch caramelized. Add grapes and cook 3 minutes more. Add wine to deglaze the pan, and reduce until liquid is nearly evaporated. Add chicken stock and turnip greens and bring to a simmer. Swirl in butter to emulsify the sauce. Mix in herbs and lemon juice. Taste, and adjust salt if necessary.

  4. Gently add dumplings to boiling water and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until dumplings begin to float. Drain and divide dumplings among 4 bowls. Spoon the sauce, grapes, and vegetables over the dumplings. Cut each chicken breast on the diagonal into 3 slices and place in bowls. Drizzle with chile oil and top with a few pickled golden raisins.

  5. For the Semolina Dumplings:

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Combine flour(s), Parmesan, and salt in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, egg, egg yolk, lemon zest, herbs, and pepper. Fold the flour mixture into the ricotta mixture to form a soft dough, taking care not to overmix. On a floured surface, gently roll dough to about ½ inch thick. Cut dough into thick rectangular noodles about 1 inch by ½ inch. Dust dumplings with flour and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Chill until ready to use.

  6. For the Pickled Golden Raisins:

    Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Cover and let cool. Raisins are ready when plump, in about 2 hours.

Meet the Chef: Annie Pettry

Restaurant: Decca, Louisville, Kentucky
Hometown: Asheville, North Carolina
On how her favorite sport, snowboarding, is like cooking: “You have to be prepared and have all the gear and equipment, but once you are coming down the mountain you get to be creative.”
Southern ingredient she fell in love with when she moved to Louisville: Fresh buttermilk.