Old Fashioned Chicken and Fluffy Drop DumplingsYou just cannot beat this Southern classic of stewed chicken with dumplings in the comfort meal category. While most of us Southerners can agree on that, it's the dumplings that can cause a stir as much as our cornbread can.
Some of us, like me, grew up with fluffy drop dumplings. Some of my fellow Southerners will say those are Yankee dumplings, and frankly that's just fine with me. Mama was Southern, I grew up Southern, and those are the ones I prefer so for me, they are Southern enough. Others prefer dumplings that are rolled out into squares, and say that those are more traditional for the South. I could agree with that too.
Truth is, these days folks like dumplings done in any number of ways actually - from dumplings made with biscuit dough that has been flattened and cut, or pinched off and dropped, or made with flaky biscuits that are separated into layers and tossed in flour, to flour tortillas cut into squares or strips, and today you can even buy ready made dumplings from the freezer section of your store. All of them are good.
None of them are wrong.
For the record, drop dumplings should always be tender and fluffy inside, like a good biscuit. They should not be chewy and dense. If the only drop dumpling you have every had was a hard lump of chewy dough in the middle, then you haven't had drop dumplings. The secret to fluffy dumplings is to keep them at a low simmer, never let them boil, and don't overcook them. Use a wider topped pot, give them room to expand and when they look fluffy, test them with a toothpick as you would with a cake, to see if they are done. Take care not to boil them or overcook them and you'll be happy with these drop dumplings.
I have both chicken stock and chicken base in this recipe, so be careful not to overdo it with additional salt since both of those tend to have enough sodium in them already. The base is not necessary when making a homemade stock, but adds a nice richness to the dish. Definitely add it if you are substituting a store bought chicken broth. Try to find a hen if you can - they are perfect for recipes like this. This recipe results in tender chicken, a stew that is flavorful and perfectly light and fluffy dumplings... just the way I like 'em!
I like the addition of chives in these too, though you can use any number of fresh herbs. I also like to add in some carrots and peas in my chicken and dumplings - just a little extra color and flavor and a way to incorporate a bit of vegetables in the dish. Many purists don't think there's a place for veggies of any kind in a chicken and dumplings, and in fact, someone once said my recipe was more of a chicken stew. I say in a way they are right! What is chicken and dumplings, but stewed chicken with dumplings in them?
Now, while I prefer the fluffiness of a drop dumpling, like many Southerners, you may prefer a rolled dumpling instead. Check out my recipe for a Zesty Herb Rolled Pastry Dumpling and I think you'll love those, or go the more traditional route with these Southern style dumplings. Like the idea of using canned biscuits instead? Try these canned biscuit dumplings on my shortcut chicken and dumplings for a change. Want to try flour tortillas? Cut them into squares or strips, drop into the broth and let them low simmer just until they soften.
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Recipe: Old Fashioned Chicken and Fluffy Drop Dumplings©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 30 min |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 6 to 8 servings
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable shortening
- 1-1/2 cups of self rising flour
- 1/2 tablespoon of dried chives, or 1 tablespoon of fresh snipped chives
- 3/4 cups of milk
- 1 small hen, whole chicken or a mixture of other chicken parts
- 1 large stalk of celery, sliced thin
- 1/2 of a large onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped, optional
- 5-1/2 cups of reserved chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon of chicken base (like Better Than Bouillon), optional
- 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon of rosemary, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme, crushed
- 3 tablespoons of bacon fat or butter
- 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of milk or half and half
- 1/2 cup of frozen peas, optional
Using a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the flour until it is mealy; add chives. Set aside in the refrigerator to chill until needed.
In a large wide pot, add the chicken and top with celery, onion, carrots, chicken stock, chicken base, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Stir to mix well. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook about 30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink. Strain the stock into another container if desired, returning the broth back to the pot. Cut up the larger chunks of chicken and cut up, returning them to the broth.
Now we're gonna make a very blond roux. In a separate pan, heat the bacon fat over medium high heat until melted. Whisk in the 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture is bubbly and smooth. Remove from the heat. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the broth from the chicken pot and slowly add to the roux - be careful because it will steam up right away and can easily burn you. Immediately turn the burner down to a medium low simmer and return the pot to the burner; add additional broth, 1/2 cup at a time for a total of 2 cups, stirring constantly until the liquid has been fully incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of milk to roux and blend in.
Add the peas, if using, and the roux mixture into the hot stock, stirring in well. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Retrieve the flour and chive mixture from the fridge, stir in 3/4 cup of milk. Using a cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough into the simmering liquid until all of the dumpling dough has been added. Cover immediately, so that the dumplings begin to steam; simmer on low about 10 minutes before checking. When they are fluffy, insert a toothpick to see if they are done. If not, allow to low simmer until done, without disturbing the dumplings. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Carefully scoop broth and a few dumplings into individual serving bowls.
Cook's Notes: If you have a heat resistant, glass pie plate, use that as a lid when you are ready to drop the dumplings. This will enable you to see when the dumplings fluff up, without releasing the steam. The secret to fluffy dumplings is to keep them at a low simmer, never let them boil, and don't overcook them. Use a wider topped pot and don't overcrowd the dumplings because they will need room to expand. When they look fluffy, test them with a toothpick as you would with a cake, to see if they are done.
May substitute cooled chicken stock or broth for part of the milk in the dumpling for extra flavor. To thicken the stew, use up to 1 cup of instant potato flakes, stirred in 1/2 cup at a time. Stir in the first 1/2 and cook for about 5 minutes; repeat with the second 1/2 cup if more thickening is needed.
If you make your stock in advance, refrigerate and scoop off the top layer of fat. Use that fat in place of the bacon fat to make a roux. Instead of a roux, you can also substitute a can of undiluted cream of chicken soup.
For the Slow Cooker: Substitute boneless chicken breasts and/or thighs for ease of preparation. Cut into chunks and add to slow cooker. Whisk together 2 cans of cream of chicken soup with 1-3/4 cup of low sodium chicken broth and 1 cup of water. Add the pepper, rosemary and thyme above, omitting the salt. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours. Turn cooker to high. Prepare dumplings as above and drop into top of broth. Cover and cook another 45 minutes or until dumplings are tender.
Prefer a rolled or biscuit dumplings? Either one make a fine dumpling too.
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