Chicken and dumplings are perfect comfort food
Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 16, 2010
I did not grow up eating chicken and dumplings or chicken and pastry, but my husband grew up with his mother doing this dish. She did her mother-in-law’s cook’s recipe, but said hers was never as good as Cora’s.
In Tennessee it was called chicken and dumplings. Chicken and pastry was the name on the coast in North Carolina. The name seems to be debated. One commenter says pastry is flat and dumplings use a bit of leavening. John Egerton, in his Southern Food, gives the Pennsylvania Dutch credit for chicken and dumplings. He talks about cornmeal dumplings, which I have never had, which are cooked in pot likker from a kettle of greens.
If you order chicken and dumplings down South, they will be noodle-flat and slick, food writer Jean Anderson said. Northerners made theirs with biscuit dough, which makes them soft and fluffy. If you ask what your friends ate as a child, they will usually say the noodle type. Some of these noodles are heavily seasoned, usually with bacon drippings and poultry seasoning. Others are plain, which seem to complement rather than overpower the chicken.
For this recipe from Jean Anderson you will need 5 ½ cups of slightly-larger-than-bite-size pieces of cooked chicken and 8 cups (2 quarts) of chicken stock. I am giving the recipe for a stewed chicken since it is a good basic thing to know and the stock can be frozen and used at another time.
It is more flavorful that the Swanson’s broth that you buy and much cheaper. The stewed chicken is then used in the chicken and dumplings. Over-the-hill hens are hard to find these days but plump roasters can be substituted. A tip I learned; if the chicken is to be tender it must be started in cold water, and never allowed to boil.
One 4 ½ -5 ½-pound roasting chicken, giblets removed and excess fat discarded
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2 large celery ribs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks (include some leaves)
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 large whole bay leaves, preferably fresh
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Place the chicken, giblets and all remaining ingredients in a large stockpot and add enough cold water to cover the chicken by about 2 inches. Set over moderate heat and slowly bring to a simmer; this may take as long as an hour. Adjust the heat so the water barely bubbles, then simmer the chicken uncovered for about an hour or until an instant-read thermometer, thrust into the meaty inner thigh and not touching the bone, registers 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Carefully lift the chicken from the pot and set in a large shallow roasting pan; cool until easy to handle.
Meanwhile, boil the stock uncovered for an hour or more over moderate heat or until reduced by one third to one half. Strain through a large sieve lined with cheesecloth; discard all solids.
Boil the strained stock uncovered in a large heavy saucepan over moderate heat for 30-40 minutes or until reduced to 6-8 cups. (1 ½ to 2 quarts).
Using your hands, remove the chicken skin and discard. Strip the meat from the bones in smallish pieces.
You are now ready to make chicken and dumplings.
CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS
Makes 6 servings
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/3 cup firmly packed lard or vegetable shortening
1/3 cup milk (about)
8 cups (2 quarts) chicken stock or broth
1 chicken bouillon cube, if needed to boost the flavor of the stock
½ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
¼ teaspoon rubbed sage
½ teaspoon dried leaf thyme, crumbled
5 to 5 ½ cups slightly-larger-than-bite-size pieces of cooked chicken
¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley
Combine the flour, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the lard until the texture of coarse meal. Whisking hard with a fork, drizzle in just enough milk to form a soft but manageable dough. Scoop onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a ball, cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the chicken stock, bouillon cube, if needed, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper, sage and thyme in a large Dutch oven or stockpot and set over low heat.
Roll the dumpling dough as thin as pie crust on a lightly-floured surface, and cut into 1 ½ -inch squares. Gather any scraps, reroll and cut.
Add the chicken to the Dutch oven, bring quickly to a boil, then ease in the dumplings, a few at a time.
Adjust the heat so the stock barely bubbles, cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until the dumplings are done, stirring gently now and then.
Add the parsley, taste for salt and pepper, and adjust as needed. Ladle into heated soup bowls and serve.
Enjoy this comfort food to soothe in this cold winter weather.