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
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
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
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.