In my experience; Northerners have a tendency to screw up chicken and dumplings.That’s not to say I haven’t had decent versions of the dish north of the IHOP/Waffle House line, but they’re few and far between.
Southern chicken & dumplings, despite their many regional variations throughout the south, tend to be a rich, unctuous affair. More often then not the dumplings work overtime as the main attraction, filler and most importantly to provide a creaminess to the broth in the absence of milk or cream.
Northern (particularly Midwestern) chicken and dumplings are usually just chicken soup with a pile of Bisquick batter floated on top for the final half hour of cooking. It isn’t the worst thing, but once you’ve eaten the southern version, the Yankee equivalent just doesn’t satisfy as much on a cold winters night.
This recipe is fairly involved prep-wise, but once you have everything in the pot it’s incredibly low maintenance, plus you end up with a far richer-tasting dish then you’d expect from a bunch of stewed chicken and vegetables.
A note on butchering chicken: I really wanted to provide you with pictures on how to do this, but I didn’t have a camera operator handy and didn’t want to get salmonella all over my camera. The recipe calls for a whole chicken because you need to use the carcass for stock. If you’re absolutely terrified of butchering your own chicken; try to find a butchered one at your market that still has the ribs and back. If you can’t find that; pick up a couple of chicken necks and use those in place of the carcass.
You’re going to need the following:
- 1 Whole Chicken, breasts, thighs, legs and wings separated- carcass split in half.
- 1 lb of Carrots, washed (not peeled) and sliced into 2″ chunks
- 1 bunch Celery, trimmed and sliced into 2″ pieces
- 1 Onion, quartered
- 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 1/2 quarts Water
- Fresh Parsley, chopped
- Kosher salt
- Fresh Ground Pepper
For the Dumplings:
- 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 5 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 1/2 cup to 1&1/2 cups water
Once browned; add the 2 1/2 quarts of water. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Skim any surface crud, cover and reduce to a low simmer for about an hour.
In a Dutch Oven or heavy skillet; heat the other half of the veggie oil on medium high.
Brown the rest of the chicken pieces; in batches if you don’t have enough room in the pan. Set chicken aside but keep the pan on the heat. Add the onions and sweat them out in the hot chicken fat until translucent, then set aside.
(Sweating the onions is really important if you use a slow cooker for the final steps, but do it regardless because it will just plain taste better)
Now that it’s probably been an hour; strain your stock and set it aside. Let the remaining chicken parts you just strained cool for a few minutes; then strip as much meat off the bones as you can.
Put that meat with the rest of your chicken and throw away the bones so your cat doesn’t choke on them.
Throw all your chicken, onions, carrots and celery into a stock pot or slow cooker. Fill it up with as much stock as possible and add 2 tablespoons of salt and 1 tablespoon each chopped parsley and fresh ground pepper.
If you’re making this on the stove; bring to a low boil (on high) then cover and simmer on low for 4 to 6 hours. If you’re making this in a slow cooker; do 2 hours on high and at least 3 hours on low.
Take this time to clean up all the chicken grease that no doubt splattered all over your stove top.
To make the dumplings:
45 minutes before you’re ready to serve; combine the flour and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add a half cup of water to the mixture and add more water (only if necessary) until it forms a sticky batter solid enough to manipulate with your hands.
Form the batter into balls (clods, really) no bigger than a golf ball (they will swell up during cooking) then dredge them in flour so that they’re fully dusted and dry to the touch.
Bring your stew up to medium high and gently place the dumplings on the top of the liquid.
IMPORTANT! DO NOT STIR THE DUMPLINGS INTO THE STEW!
Not unless you want flour-flavored chicken soup anyway. Instead; use a slotted spoon to gently submerge each of the dumplings just under the surface, just getting the tops of them wet with the top layer of chicken fat and stock.
Put a lid on it and simmer for about 35 minutes.
If you’re ready to serve but your dumplings are a little large and unwieldy; they should be tender enough for you to split them with a ladle.
These are even better on the second day; but the dumplings have a tendency to suck up all the stock while sitting in the fridge. When this happens; I like to “Truck Stop” the dish by making a supplemental stock of water, bouillon and a little bit of Wondra flour, adding this to the leftover chicken and dumplings and reheating the whole mess on the stove in lieu of the microwave.
This creates almost an entirely different dish; closer in flavor to canned chicken and dumplings only better because you know where it came from.