How do you like your chicken and dumplings? A quick poll revealed differing views among my friends. Some insisted on rolled dumplings. Some dropped dumplings. Some called for no vegetables whatsoever; others craved peas and carrots. There were those who wanted tons of herbs and those who preferred only thyme. Some were willing to experiment with adding fish sauce or Maggi or bourbon; for others it was Meemaw’s way or the highway.

My collection of community cookbooks also were no help in determining a definitive Texas chicken and dumplings recipe. I expected the drop-versus-roll debate to cut along clear geographic boundaries, but that’s not been the case. Church ladies and charitable organizations throughout the state recommend rolling and dropping their dumplings with equal fervor.

So, I figured, why should I define it? Why force anyone to make chicken and dumplings my preferred way? Instead, I offer a highly customizable, choose-your-own-adventure recipe. You can drop your dumplings or roll them. You can add wine or sherry or both, or cream or peas or herbs. No matter how you make them, you’ll end up with a rich, flavorful sauce in hardly any time at all, thanks to cooking the chicken at high pressure.

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You’ll have to cook the dumplings on the Instant Pot’s sauté setting, though. You can cook them at high pressure, but I found they fell apart before they were cooked all the way through. So you’re preparing them the old-fashioned way, bubbling away with the lid off. I think Meemaw would approve.

Photograph by Jenn Hair

Chicken and Dumplings

Serves 6

FOR THE CHICKEN:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, trimmed and diced
2 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken stock (or water)
½ cup white wine (optional)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt

FOR THE DUMPLINGS:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup melted unsalted butter
½ cup whole milk

OPTIONAL FINISHES:
2 tablespoons sherry
½ cup cream
½ cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, dill, tarragon, or a combination)
1 cup frozen peas

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Set the Instant Pot to the sauté setting, and add the butter. Add the vegetables and a pinch of salt; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the stock, wine (if using), chicken, thyme, bay leaf, and a teaspoon of salt. Cook at high pressure for 6 minutes; release pressure manually. Use tongs to remove the chicken and set aside to cool.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, make the dumplings. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt, then add the butter and milk. Stir to combine; you may have to finish combining with your fingers. If you are making drop dumplings, set aside. Otherwise roll the dumpling dough on a floured surface into a ½-inch thick square, about 12 by 12 inches. Cut into 1-inch by 2-inch rectangles.
  4. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces.
  5. Add the chicken to the broth and turn on the sauté setting. If you’re making drop dumplings, pinch off bite-size pieces of the dough. When the broth comes to a simmer, start adding the dumplings a few at a time. Add more each time the broth comes back to a simmer, using a slotted spoon to gently push the dumplings down into the liquid. Do not stir. Once all of the dumplings have been added to the pot, cook for 8-10 minutes, or until dumplings have puffed and cooked through. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve.
  6. If you are using any of the optional finishes, add them when the dumplings are finished and bring back to a simmer. Turn off Instant Pot and serve. (This stew will be thicker on day two.)