To say it was a long weekend is an understatement. I found it quite necessary to simmer up some comfort food, and what better than chicken n dumplins? I have to tell you that I’m posting this because I’ve been asked more than once how I make mine, cause the dumplings are chewy and compact instead of light and fluffy. I think originally I found a sort of copy cat recipe for Cracker Barrell’s take on the dish, but mine have never been just like theirs, and honestly, I had to write it down as I went the best I could because I’ve never did more than dump a little of this and that….believe me when I tell you that I’ve never had any complaints, and it’s often suggested by my dinner guests that it be on the menu. I just wing it, but I will put in parenthesis a roundabout measure for what I used for this batch. So….here goes:
What you’ll need:
- chicken (we always use breasts, but if you like dark meat…go for it!)
- celery, onion, carrots
- about 10 cups flour (this is a large batch)
- water or stock
- salt/pepper and your favorite poultry seasoning
I start by simmering chicken breasts (4 boneless/skinless), bone-in will give you a richer stock and is what I prefer, boneless will work fine and is what I had thawed and used for this dinner.
When the chicken is almost cooked through melt butter (3/4 of a stick) in a heavy skillet and add diced celery and onion by equal amounts (1/2 cup each) and cook over medium heat until onions are cooked clear. Your butter will be starting to brown a bit and that’s good. Just don’t let it burn.
Add an equal amount of flour (6 Tbsp.) for the butter you used and continue cooking and stirring, scraping it off the bottom, most important if it’s really thick until your happy with the color. Add salt and pepper now and through out the remaining cooking time. I let mine cook just long enough to walk to the fridge and grab the milk.
Add about a quart of milk to the butter mixture, being sure to stir it in vigorously and quickly (We’re basically making gravy…I call it a souped up white sauce and it’s the base for a whole lot of dishes at my house). Add diced carrots (1/2 cup).
Remove your cooked chicken breast from the boiling water and skim off some of the white yuck at the top of the pot. Make sure you have about three quarts of liquid in your pot. If you don’t, add some (either water or stock) and bring back to a boil, making sure your pan is big enough to accommodate your butter mixture and also your dumplings. If you notice in the later pics, this is when my in-laws caught wind of what was for dinner and I knew I would need a double batch of dumplings…so I upsized my pot. Now pour your boiling butter mixture (a.k.a white sauce supreme) into the boiling water you cooked your chicken in.
When your chicken is cool enough to handle break into large pieces (If you cut it across the grain it will shred in the pot, and I have two that won’t eat chicken, so breaking it with the grain makes it easier to avoid) and add to the pot with the everything else.
If your making mashed potatoes, start them now…
Now on to the dumplings.
This was hard to do just because I have never measured and kept catching myself not doing it. So…don’t worry, it’s always delicious. Get a large bowl and add about eight cups of flour. You can easily make more or less…this is a “double batch”. I’ll go ahead and give you what I wrote down as well as some pointers along the way. Add 2 Tbsp. baking powder, salt the crap out of it, and 1 Tbsp dried parsley(I’ve been known the add 1/2 that amount of rosemary instead). Mix all those dry ingredients and make a well in the center. Pour 2 cups water in the well then add three eggs (two if you’re halving it…I have a mild egg allergy so I don’t use more than three in anything). You can break them up in another bowl, but I just put them straight in (the less bowls to wash the better). Take a long fork and jab the well to puncture your eggs, then start blending the eggs with the water. Your flour will start mixing in and its fine. Just start grabbing more and more flour around the well once your liquids seem combined. Mix it all together.
It may be dry and crumbly. I start using my hands and sort of squeezing it together to get it all moist. If it’s really dry you can try to add some more water, but that’s hard to do. Too much to start with is better if you can estimate that sort of thing. I always eyeball it. When it all seems moist (it doesn’t have to be wet…just able to hold together, although wet is absolutely fine…honestly I shoot for somewhere between holding when squeezed together and wet.)
If you have wax or parchment paper wet your counter a bit then lay that down…the moisture will help keep it from slipping and it will help a bunch with clean-up. Put a bed of flour down, then grab out about half your dough. If your dough is wet, sprinkle a healthy layer of flour on top, too.
Either roll or pat your dough out into about 1/2 inch thickness, then use a dull knife (I use one of my kids plastic kid knives) to cut inch wide by 1 and 1/2 inch rectangles. It’s not that big a deal. I just start cutting strips then cut across the other way wherever the knife lands. I end up with some big, some small. The kids are always excited when they get a big one!
Drop dumplings into the boiling concoction from earlier, repeat with the rest of your dough, then let it boil at a moderate rate (more than a simmer, less than a full rapid boil that will go over your pot), stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking.
Your sauce will thicken from the loose flour on the dumplings. After 45 minutes to an hour you’ll be ready to eat and if it’s not as thick as you like just mix 1 Tbsp. cornstarch into 1/2 cup water, then stir it into your pot. It will thicken a bunch within just a few minutes!!! I tend to add more liquid than I need and then thicken it because we use the sauce for our mashed potatoes, too (there’s no such thing as too many starches when your making comfort food). Last night we had seven eating….I mean EATING…and there was plenty left over for my son to devour when he gets home from school today. Well, if I don’t eat it all before he gets to it!