We’re in the midst of a snowstorm. The flakes are flying and winds are whipping. Comfort food is on the menu.
Oh, how I love comfort foods! You know, the kinds of food that make you feel warm and happy inside and invoke fond childhood memories of home cooked meals. Macaroni and cheese. Beef stew. Chicken noodle soup. Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes. And today’s recipe: Chicken and Dumplings.
Chicken and Dumplings have become a favorite meal in our home. The chicken is moist and flavorful. The gravy is rich and thick. The dumplings are tender and melt in your mouth. Best of all, this dish is made from scratch. No prepackaged mixes, processed ingredients, or cans of cream of something soup.
5 lbs split chicken breast
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 ribs of celery, cut into large chunks
2 medium onions, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
5 bay leaves
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons butter
3 quarts chicken broth
2 cups flour (you may need a bit more)
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup milk
Clean the chicken breasts and place them in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaves, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, and butter. Pour the chicken broth into the pot. Bring the contents to a boil, then cook over medium high heat for 90 minutes or until the chicken is done.
When the chickens breasts are fully cooked, use tongs to remove them from the pot. Set the chicken in a baking dish and allow it to cool a bit while you prepare the dumplings.
Pour the chicken broth through a strainer to remove vegetables, garlic cloves, and bay leaves. Return the strained broth to the pot and season it with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the broth to simmer.
Prepare the dumplings by combining the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the milk and stir just long enough to create a dough. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
Flour a cutting board and place the dough onto the board. If the dough is too sticky, add a teaspoon of flour to the cutting board so the dough will not stick. Cut the dough in half and set one half aside. Roll out the dough until it is about ¼ inch thick. Slice the dough into squares, about 1 ½ inches by 1 ½ inches. Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the other half of the dough.
Drop the dumplings into the broth. Cook over medium heat for at least 20 minutes or until most of the broth is absorbed. Stir the dumplings every few minutes so they do not stick together.
While the dumplings cook, remove the skin and bones from the chicken breasts. Shred the chicken, add it to the pot, and stir. Cook the chicken and dumplings for another 5 minutes and serve hot.
Here are a few tips that may make preparation easier:
- Don’t mess around with the dough too much. Overhandling can cause the dumplings to become heavy.
- Do let the dough rest before rolling out the dumplings. I know you’ll be anxious to eat, but it’s important to give the gluten time to do its thing.
- Don’t stress about dumpling uniformity. Do your best to cut them to a similar size as this will help ensure the dumplings cook evenly. There will be a few odd shaped dumplings. Drop them in anyway. I have yet to hear anyone say, “This dumpling is shaped funny so I won’t eat it.”
- Do make sure you use a large pot. The dumplings will swell up a bit so they need room to grow. Give them ample space to soak up all that chicken-y goodness.
- Don’t make the dumplings too thick. It takes them too long to cook and they tend to morph into weird, rubbery, unappetizing blobs.
- Do add seasonings as you see fit. Add some parsley. Toss in some turmeric. Martha Stewart has nothing on you and your well experienced palette.
- Don’t discard the vegetables. We’re purists who prefer just chicken, dumplings, and NOTHING else. However feel free leave the carrots, onions, and celery. They’ll add color and texture, as well as a nutritional boost. Just remember to toss out the bay leaves.
Photo courtesy of micala/Flickr
© 2014, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.