Chicken and Dumplings

Warm comfort for cold times.

January 2017By Comments

Photograph by Kate LeSueur

Could there be a better time for chicken and dumplings? The very word “dumpling” brings to mind coziness and sustenance and gentle pats on heads that are at this moment likely addled by seasonal ailments, holiday drama, and the bewildering business of democracy. There’s a chill in the air, and I for one am feeling a powerful urge to take refuge in the kinds of foods we don’t eat much of anymore, the fattening, nostalgic stuff of corner diners and buffet tables and grandmothers’ kitchens.

It would seem hard to argue about the simple comfort of this dish, yet it should come as no surprise that folks do like to draw a line in the flour in regards to their preferred dumpling (not to mention what goes with it, as I was reminded while listening to my dad reminisce about his grandmother’s dumplings made with freshly harvested squirrel meat: “It could be a little chewy”). Some prefer the “drop biscuit” kind, the sodden nubbin of dough floating atop the stew in potpie style. I myself am partial to the so-called slick dumpling, described by Kentucky food writer Cissy Gregg as “a thin strip of dumpling that nestles down in the gravy in loving companionship with the pieces of chicken.” That’s what my grandmothers made, and right now I’m inclined to go with the dough I know.

Serves 4 to 6

Chicken

1 whole small chicken
3 carrots, cut into chunks
3 celery ribs, cut into chunks
1 large onion,  quartered
1 small head of garlic, ends trimmed
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
salt to taste
flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Dumplings

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup whole milk

Place chicken, vegetables, pepper, and salt in a tall, deep stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil (skim off any foam that rises), then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour till chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pot and allow to cool. Pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth (discard vegetables). Reserve about 6 cups. Shred the chicken into chunks and discard bones and skin. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Add milk and stir just until the dough begins to form. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead 4 times. Roll out dough to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Cut dough into rectangles or squares. Let firm up a bit while you heat the broth.

Return broth to a simmer. Add dumplings a few at a time, so they don’t clump together. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes; occasionally give the dumplings a gentle stir to keep them from sticking together. When they are fluffy and tender, return chicken to the pot and allow the meat to warm and the broth to thicken. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parsley.

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  • Blargette

    Huh. I am feeling like making some party food.

  • PatBryanTX2

    Or, make soup, with veggies and a potato. Make egg noodle pasta dough. Roll out on pasta machine at #4. Cut dough into square, rectangular or trapezoidal 2 – 3 sq. in. pieces. Drop in simmering soup 6 at a time stirring so the noodles do not stick together. And that is Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie.