21 January 2011

Chicken and Dumplings - A Comfort Food Classic



Chicken and Dumplings. Could there be a more comforting comfort food! Of course, it's one of those old-fashioned favorites that stirs up a lot of controversy--mainly of the "fluffy" versus "flat" (dropped or rolled) variety. Having grown up on the fluffy kind, I was well into my middle-earlies when I discovered there was any other kind.

We were en route to Williamsburg, Virginia, and stopped for dinner somewhere in West Virginia. I wanted a real Southern experience, so I ordered I-don't-remember-what with three sides, including turnip greens and okra. When I saw what they called chicken and dumplings set before a diner at the next table, I was glad I hadn't ordered that. I wanted to walk over and inspect it thoroughly and maybe get into a little discussion about it, but my husband would have grabbed me by the elbow and held me back from making such a spectacle of myself.

The "dumplings" were flat and looked to me like thick, wide noodles. I like chicken and noodles, so I probably would have liked the meal well enough. I just would have had to let go of my preconceived notions about dumplings. My mother always made the fluffy kind. Are the fluffy dumplings an English thing? But I think my Southern grandmother (my father's mother) also made the fluffy kind. So I'm confused. What kind of dumplings does your family make?

This recipe takes a bit of time, but you can break it up. It's a great make-ahead dish. Just get the stew made, pop it in the fridge for a day or two, then heat it up, add the dumplings and serve. If you're skinny -- I remember when the energy exerted eating a gigantic meal could actually make me lose weight -- serve it on a pile of buttery mashed potatoes.

Chicken and Dumplings

(Serves 6)

The Chicken Stew

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 5 pounds), cut up

3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 large)
1 1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
6 to 8 cups lower sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup flour shaken with 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

The Dumplings

(Makes 18)

2 packed cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk (1/3 can be buttermilk, sour cream or plain yogurt)

1 In large heavy pot (will use my new 5 1/2-quart Le Creuset Round French Oven next time), heat 2 tablespoons oil. Place half the chicken pieces skin side down in hot oil, season with up to (the amount of salt, pepper and broth depends on weight of chicken used) 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, uncovered, until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes or so. Turn, season second side with up to 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and brown, about 5 minutes or so. Remove chicken to large plate. Repeat with second batch, adding 1 tablespoon oil to pan.

2 Add the chopped vegetables to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in herbs and broth. Stir in flour-water mixture. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to thicken. Return the chicken to the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour.

3 Remove chicken to large plate. Use two forks to remove the skin and take the meat off the bone. Cut meat into bite-size (about 1-inch) pieces and return it to the pot. Taste for seasoning. (You can stop right here if you want to and finish the dish tomorrow or the next day.)

4 While stew returns to a simmer, make dumplings. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Drizzle melted butter over flour mixture, stirring with large fork. Stir in milk. Let stand for 5 minutes before scooping onto stew.

5 Stir in the parsley (and a cup of frozen peas, if you like). Spray a #40 scoop (about 1.5 tablespoons) or round measuring tablespoon with cooking spray. Drop level scoops or rounded tablespoons of dough onto simmering stew. Cover and simmer dumplings for 20 minutes, then test one to see if toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If not, cover and simmer an additional 5 minutes.

30 comments:

Marc Frederic said...

Jean, No suet? I'm intrigued now, dumplings made without suet, I bet they are nice and light. I'll have to try your recipe and come back to comment further. The dish looks a real winter warmer, right up my street.

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

“…the energy exerted eating a gigantic meal actually made me lost weight.” Ah, I thought my sister was the only one who could do that. But then, she arranged food on her plate like Michelangelo working on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
I thought “dumpling” was a short woman married to a neighbor of mine. About the only version of bread I eat is something that gets doughy with dampness when you compress it. Ditto cookies. Some biscuits qualify. How do they stay moist on the bottom while being dry on top? Hi temp baking?

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

Jean said...

Marc, I hope you will make it and let me know how it turned out for you. No, no suet. I would have to make a special trip out to get some, but I always have butter on hand. I'm of the "everything is better with butter" school! And these dumplings are so light they might just rise up out of the bowl!

Jean said...

No baking involved here. The dumplings steam in the tightly covered pot, doubling in size. They're moist on the outside and dry (in a good way) on the inside. (Say Hi to Dumpling for me!)

Cranberry Morning said...

I have only had the fluffy kind, but still have never really gotten into the dumpling thing. Maybe I would if I could eat these, from this pic (which is beautiful, btw). Thank you for the recipe. I'm saving it!

Jean said...

Thanks, Judy. If you've only ever had bad dumplings, ones that were supposed to be fluffy but were more like lead, that would put you off. There's nothing not to love about a nice fluffy dumpling!

Jenn said...

I think that tends to be the reason so many people have an dislike for dumplings...they have bad experiences with them!! Yours look so wonderfully fluffy and light! I love chicken and dumplings, always reminds me of my childhood!

Jean said...

Thanks, Jenn! Me, too. Takes me back to being a little girl at my grandma's house!

ZipZipInkspot said...

Very much enjoyed this post. I too am used to fluffy dumplings, but I hail from the Finger Lakes region of New York state, where the dish turned up from time to time.

Here in Kentucky, dumplings are flat and noodly, and the dish is served as a side dish, not a main course.

So for example, one might serve country ham as a main course, with corn pudding, green beans with new potatoes atop, soup beans (pinto beans in a heavy, viscous, hammy broth), kale greens (served all over town in country-style restaurants), fried okra, sometimes slaw or other cold vegetables, and chicken and dumplings, all as sides. However, I do not see the dish here as often as it appears on menus, again as a side, in North Carolina or Georgia, where I've lived and have family.

Jean said...

Natalie, thank you so much! I really appreciate that information. The only Southern states I've visited so far are Virginia, West Virginia and Georgia. My Southern grandma was from Virginia but lived for a while in North Carolina before heading west.

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

Being from New England, I had never even heard of chicken and dumpligs before I went to college (and the first time I did, I thought it was a funny way of talking about Chinese pot stickers!) So I never knew about the fluffy versus flat divide. But having only had the dish in restaurants in MO, I have only seen the flat kind, never the fluffy, and the fluffy look so much better!

Jean said...

Thanks, Katie. I love knowing the history and geography of foods, and I was wondering if this was something New Englanders had a version of. Apparently not! Do give the fluffy dumplings a try. They are nothing like the flat kind.

Angie's Recipes said...

Dumplings in a chicken stew :-)) Just writing that has already made me salivate.

Jean said...

Yes, it's a perfect combination, Angie! At the first sign of a cold, make a pot of it and eat it all week. The dumplings reheat well and don't even get soggy.

Heidi said...

I made these tonight and oh my goodness, how divine. We could even taste the butter in the dumplings. I have another chicken and dumplings recipe I've used that's fine, but it's gone now.

Jean said...

Heidi, thank you so much. You made my day! I hope you'll make more of my recipes.

Georgia (The Comfort of Cooking) said...

Jean, this looks wonderful, warm and so comforting. Absolutely delicious recipe! I've been looking for one just like it, too. Thanks for sharing this. It's a must-try for me soon!

Jean said...

Thanks, Georgia. It is a very comforting dish. If I catch the virus that's going around, I want someone to make this for me to eat every day--I think it would cure me!

Grant said...

Hey Jean, well it certainly looks delicious! But dumplings are not big here in Oz, not the cooked kind, or the named neighborly kind that Sully refers to :-) If it weren't so much work I'd give them a try...

Jean said...

Thanks, Grant! But this is easy work compared to the sorts of things you do for recreation! The dumplings are pretty quick and easy. Try just throwing them on top of some soup.

Anna Johnston said...

Hey there Jean. Wow., these dumplings really would have been light 'n airy huh...., no suet. Love the comfort food sound of this dish too..., very warming to the bones 'n soul. Love it :)

Jean said...

Thanks, Anna. When your winter comes, maybe you can give it a try!

Ma What's 4 dinner said...

best....dish....ever!!!!

Lots of yummy love,
Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner
www.mawhats4dinner.com

Jean said...

Thanks, Alex. Love the way it adds to the ambience of home while it cooks.

Michelloui | The American Resident said...

It's a cloudy, blustery, cold day here today and looking at this bowl of chicken and dumplings I'm feeling comforted already! This looks completely lovely and delicious.

Jean said...

Thank you so much, Michelloui. Maybe that's why I love cooler weather--for the comfort food!

Brooks at Cakewalker said...

Jean, I've never made or tasted Chicken and Dumplings, but I've long been intrigued by the dish. Your impulse to dash over to the neighboring diner's table for a chat about their meal brought a smile. I'd likely prefer fluffy dumplings over the flat variety, and when I prepare them for my family, this will be the recipe I use! BTW, I applaud your disserte regarding comment etiquette.

Jean said...

Brooks, thank you! I hope you'll enjoy the dish as much as we do. You can't just eat CAKE all the time! [Note to readers: This is a reference to Brooks' occupation as a maker of beautiful and delicious cakes.]

Anonymous said...

I love chicken and dumplings, I use almost the same recipe, but instead of all purpose flour for my dumplings, I use self-rising four as it makes the dumplings even "fluffier"!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

That's great, Anonymous! I always say, A dumpling can't be too fluffy! Maybe I'll make this for dinner today. Was just wondering what to make.

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