Chicken ‘n Dumplings

I’m about to utter a phrase that, as a child, I never thought would pass my lips: I LOVE CHICKEN ‘N DUMPLINGS.

There. I said it. I’m pretty sure I gave my mom fits whenever she cooked up chicken ‘n dumplings when I was a kid. I just didn’t get it! Cooked chicken and doughy things… what gives?? I also had issues with brownies. And tootsie rolls. And obviously I love those things now so let’s just chalk it up to youthful stupidity.

So, you may not know this, but one of the downsides of not being on speaking terms with your mother is that you can’t just call her up and be like “Remember the such and such that you used to make? Can you send me that recipe??” As a result, my quest to find chicken ‘n dumplings like my mom used to make was quite the job. So many recipes involve packaged biscuits! Which is fine, if you like that kind of thing. Which I don’t. Sorry, y’all!

I was very excited when I came across this recipe in the winter of 2011. It looked like what my mom used to make! But would it pass the taste test? I found that it did. Hooray!

Now, my Texas friends who are sweltering in 80+ degree days already are probably wondering why the heck I’m posting what is mostly considered a quintessential cold weather recipe. Well, y’all, it didn’t get over 60 degrees in the Pacific Northwest today. I’m cold. Therefore, we shall have chicken ‘n dumplings. As far as I’m concerned, it’s early March around these parts.

I’ve made this recipe many many many times. Therefore, I’ve made some adjustments. In an effort to tell you exactly how *I* make it, I’m going to post my version at the end. For the original, use the link above (which is actually adapted from somewhere else in the blogosphere… of course!).

First things first: chicken! Can’t have chicken ‘n dumplings without some chicken. Chunk up a large onion, a few carrots and a few stalks of celery. Use the celery leaves if you have them… adds some flavor oomph that you will appreciate. Toss those in the pot.

So bright, so lovely.

Then, gut your 5-lb whole chicken, give her a nice rinse, and plop her on top of your veggies.

Mmmm. Chicken.

Cover the whole mess with water, and add some salt and pepper. Don’t overdo it with the salt and pepper at this point, you can adjust everything at the end.

Put the pot on the stove and bring her to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. It will take around an hour for her to cook through to a nice edible 165 degrees. Use your thermometer to check. We can’t have people dropping dead from salmonella poisoning. That’s bad for business.

While your chicken is cooking away and filling your home with all the yummiest smells imaginable, you should make your dumplings!  You’ll need a few ingredients.

Don’t forget to put your dough blade in your food processor. It didn’t make it into the picture but I promise I used it!

Can I just say that I have never in my life used cake flour until I needed it for dumplings? Maybe I should use it to make a cake sometime and see if it changes my world. It could happen. Also? Please do not judge me for my huge vat of Crisco. It costs less per ounce and I realized with all the dumpling and biscuit making during winter months, I needed the big one!

Now,the original recipe is all “use your fingers to work the Crisco into the flour mixture” blah blah blah. You all know how I feel about food processors so let’s just do this the easy way, shall we?

You’re going to take that lovely ball of dough you just created with very little effort and dump it out on your floured pastry mat (don’t waste cake flour on this, just use all-purpose), and gently roll it out. I like my dumplings kind of thick, so don’t over do it with the rolling unless you’re into skinny dumplings. No judgement here.

If you want to be super precise, use a pastry mat with measure markings!
But seriously, it so doesn’t matter. My measure markings are just for show. 😉

I’m pretty fancy because I’ve got 10 years as a Pampered Chef consultant under my belt, so I’ve got my pastry cutter for jobs like this. But you know what works just as well? Backside of a butter knife. Go for it.

Kinda sorta 1″ by 3″. I’m into estimating.

This is where the planning ahead to make this dish is imperative. You need to let your dumplings have some time to dry. Thirty minutes is BARE MINIMUM. I like an hour or more so they’ll hold their shape when they get cooked in the broth.

Dry, my pretties, dry!

When your chickety China is all done cooking, remove the bird from the pot and put it on a cutting board. One with wells around the edge is ideal, because it will be juicy. Let it chill there while you strain your broth. 

Do you like my FORKS?! I’m kidding. Those are meat lifters. Highly helpful in getting scalding hot chicken out of pot without hurting oneself. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking some up. They also come in handy at Thanksgiving.

I use a stainless steel colander inside of a stainless steel bowl with measure markings. I have found through making this recipe many many many times that 10 cups of broth is ideal. The original recipe says 6. I say, don’t listen to her. I’m sure she’s a sweet girl, but 6 cups ain’t gonna cut it.

See? Simple. No need for cheesecloth or other fancy things.

My birdie approves this straining of broth.

Approximately 10 cups.

If you have any leftover broth, strain it into a container and throw it into the freezer for another day! Homemade broth is the awesomenest and it’s always good to have some on hand.

Broth to freeze! Hooray! This is 32 oz for another day.

Once you have your 10 cups of broth separated, put it back into your pot. (You’ve discarded your veggies, right? You should do that first.) Bring that broth to a simmer.

Isn’t it pretty? Is it weird that I think homemade broth is pretty??

Drop your dumplings into the simmering broth and let it go for about 10 minutes while you shred your chicken. 

Weapons of choice for shredding chicken? Two dinner forks. BAM. It will just fall all apart. It’s so lovely. I can’t even.

Two forks is all you need.

Just get in there. Like Julia Child said: NO FEAR!

And there you have it. Poor little chicken didn’t know what hit her.

Reduce your heat to low, and add that shredded chicken into the pot. Continue to cook it until everything gets nice and thick and yummy looking, about 30 minutes. 

Give it a taste and decide if you should add some salt or pepper. I can guarantee you’ll want more pepper, but the salt will depend on how much you started with when making your broth. TRUST YOUR PALATE. You’ve got this.

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do. And if it’s too warm where you are to enjoy this right now, file it away for fall. It will still be delicious then, I promise.

Chicken ‘n Dumplings like My Mother Used to Make
What you need:
·         1 5-lb fryer chicken
·         1 large onion, peeled coarsely chopped
·         3 carrots, cut into large pieces
·         3 stalks of celery (including leaves), cut into large pieces
·         Kosher salt, to taste
·         Pepper, to taste
·         3 cups cake flour
·         3/4 tsp. baking soda
·         3/4 tsp. salt
·         4 1/2 tbsp. Crisco
·         1 cup milk (you might not need all of it)
How to make it:
1.   Place the onions, carrots, and celery in a large pot. Clean your chicken (remove the insides, give it a rinse) and add it to the pot then cover it all with water. Add salt and pepper. Heat on high until boiling, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking for approximately one hour or until a meat thermometer gives you a reading of 165 degrees.
2.   Meanwhile, place the flour, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of your food processor, fitted with a dough blade. Pulse to mix. Add Crisco and pulse until Crisco is incorporated.
3.   Slowly add the milk and watch for the dough to begin to hold together and then turn into a ball. You may not need all of the milk. Once you have a ball of dough, you are done!
4.   Roll out your dough on a floured pastry mat. Cut your dumplings using a pastry cutter or the back of a butter knife. Approximately 1” by 3” dumplings is what you are going for here. Move your dumplings to cooling racks and allow them to dry out for at least thirty minutes, longer if possible.
5.   When your chicken is done, remove it from the pot to a large cutting board with juice wells and let it cool while you strain your broth. A colander works well for this. You want 10 cups of broth to return to the pot to finish your chicken ‘n dumplings. Any extra broth should be saved for later, just put it in a freezer safe container and stick it in the freezer for another recipe. After straining, discard the vegetables, and put the 10 cups into your pot and bring to a simmer.
6.   Once your broth is simmering, add in your dumplings. Just drop them in one at a time (careful not to splash!) and let them cook while you shred your chicken.
7.   Shred your chicken! Two forks will do the trick. Discard all the bones.
8. Turn the heat to low and add in your shredded chicken. Let it cook until it gets nice and thick, which will take 20 to 30 minutes. Finally, season with salt and pepper to taste and eat it all up!

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