One of my fondest childhood memories is of my Granny making chicken and dumplings. It seems like such simple food but she really didn’t make it that often and never in the summer. I never really understood why as it was one of my very favorites. My mom and aunts would make it now and then but it was never quite the same. And, of course, Granny being Granny, the recipe was never passed to anyone.
When I was finally out on my own and craving dumplings, I tried a 30 minute drop dumpling recipe from Rachael Ray. It was pretty good and hit a lot of the same flavor notes but just wasn’t the same. So as always, I set out on a quest for something that tasted like my childhood. Several years ago, I came across a recipe for Southern Style Chicken and Dumplings that seemed just about right. The writer was going for the dumplings her S.O. loved from Cracker Barrel. Oddly, those are apparently pretty similar to Granny’s (we don’t really frequent the Cracker Barrel that often so I didn’t know). I made a few adaptations and gave it a go and it was pretty darn close!
Of course, now I know why Granny didn’t make them all that often. This is not something you can do on the fly. You have to plan for this and set out a couple of hours of prepping and simmering. And you are going to have something simmering for hours. Not great on a hot summer day. My Granny was a pretty smart cookie! This is perfect for a Sunday dinner but probably not a weeknight.
I think Granny and PaPa would be pleased with my efforts! I know our family really tucked into these. And when The Boy was sick a couple of days later, the leftovers were exactly what he needed to make him feel better. I hope you enjoy them too!
Chicken and Dumplings
- 1 chicken (3-5 lbs.), cut into pieces, innards removed and discarded (freeze the neck for stock later)
- 1 large onion, peeled and rough chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 3 stalks of celery, trimmed and cut into large pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- store bought chicken stock, optional *
- 3 C all purpose flour
- 3/4 t baking powder
- 1 t salt
- 1/3 C shortening or butter (shortening really seems to work better here – for once, lard does not)
- 1 – 1 1/2 C whole milk
- salt and black pepper
Put the chicken, onions, carrots, celery, and bay leaf in a large stock pot and cover with water by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer gently for about an hour, skimming off foam periodically.
When chicken is cooked through, remove pieces from stock and set aside to cool, leaving stock simmering over low heat. When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones from chicken. Shred meat into bite size pieces (I like kind of big pieces in my stew).
Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer. You could get all fancy and use a cheese cloth or something to get it really clear but I’m not too picky about this. * You’ll need at least 6-8 cups of stock for the dumplings so you may want to have an extra box of store bought stock to make sure you have enough liquid. (This should not be done solely with store bought stock as the flavor will just not be right.) Wipe out pot and return it to stovetop. Return stock (6-8 C) to stock pot and continue to simmer over very low heat.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Blend shortening into flour with your fingers until well combined. You don’t want any pieces larger than peas. Make a well in the middle (much like making biscuits) and pour in about a half cup of the milk. Mix gently with hands, adding more milk as needed, until a shaggy dough is formed. Do not overmix as you will make your dumplings tough.
Turn your dough out onto a well floured surface and knead just a few times until a smooth dough is formed. You are going to be cutting on this surface so you may not want to use your countertop for this part. Roll to about 1/4 -1/8 inch thick. Using a pizza cutter (or a sharp knife), cut dough into small rectangles, about 1×3 inches, no need to be super precise here. Place dumplings on a piece of parchment or wax paper and allow to set for at least 30 minutes (I usually do this step while I’m cooking the chicken so it rests for about an hour).
Bring broth back to a gentle simmer (not a boil!) and drop dumplings in just a few at a time. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to a low simmer and add reserved chicken. Cook another 20-30 minutes or until desired tenderness. Stir occasionally being careful not to break your dumplings. Season generously with salt and LOTS of black pepper.
Serve in big bowls and be ready to be very, very happy.