Thursday, March 21, 2013

Step by Step How to Make Homemade Southern Style Chicken and Dumplings

Homemade from scratch, Southern style chicken and dumplings, made from a whole chicken and rolled dumplings, and served here with steamed, buttered carrots, crowder peas and corn muffins.
Homemade from scratch, Southern style chicken and dumplings, made from a whole chicken and rolled dumplings, and served here with steamed, buttered carrots, crowder peas and corn muffins.

Homemade Southern Style Chicken and Dumplings

I didn't grow up with what many of you deem to be a classic Southern style rolled dumpling. Mama's chicken and dumplings had fluffy little puffs of biscuit dough floating in them and they were so good. It's the way I made them when I moved on from my parent's house to the house I shared with my husband, and they remain my favorite still today.

Frankly, no two Southerners are likely to agree on how chicken and dumplings should be made anyway, but I know of quite a few other Southerners who quietly admit that they grew up with drop dumplings too. Guess it just all depends on what you grew up with.
This is a good place to insert a quick reminder... that this is a blog, not just a "recipe site," and yes, there is a difference! I want to first thank all of you who have supported my work over the years. Your notes to me are uplifting and encouraging, however, if you aren't interested in the chit chat, info, photos, tips and such in a post, as always, you'll find the complete recipe text with measurements and instructions, as well as a printable document, a little bit further down the page. Just swipe or scroll down to the bottom of the post!
We kinda take chicken and dumplings for granted these days, but years ago, it was a meal that was more often served up at special times like Sunday dinner, or when involving the attendance of the pastor, company or for a special occasion, such as a birthday. Today, we can use all sorts of shortcuts that help with throwing it together anytime we want it, but back in the day, it was not as common a meal as it is now, served up simply because we have the taste for it.

Mamas would often send children out for intentional exercise to chase down and deliver to her one of the older hens, usually one that had stopped producing eggs. Have you ever tried to catch a chicken? I have and it is indeed exercise! Fortunately, the adults and very often mama herself, would take care of, well... the hard parts of bringing that chicken to the table. Thank goodness we only have to go to the grocery store and buy our hens and chickens in a cellophane wrapper or bag... minus all that drama.

The slow stewing process of making homemade chicken and dumplings was a perfect way to use those older hens and let's face it... stewing a large chicken in a big stockpot and then adding a filling dumpling could fill a lot of bellies for families that were much larger back then, than they are today.

So yes. This is the real deal, old-fashioned recipe for made-from-scratch, Southern-style chicken and dumplings like our great grandmothers might have made it. Dough, rolled and cut into squares or strips. No cream of chicken soup. No boxes or cans of chicken broth. No whompf biscuits or flour tortilla dumplings or baking mix dumplings. No rotisserie chicken meat or boneless, skinless chicken breasts. No shortcuts. Not that there's anything wrong with a single one of these shortcuts. I've certainly used them all!

I do something a little different with this recipe... imagine that! Rather than the typical stew, I wanted to make a thick and creamy, stark white gravy, something that is somewhat reminiscent of the chicken and dumplings served at the Cracker Barrel restaurant. Now... in all honesty, I can't even tell you the last time I went to Cracker Barrel. The Cajun and I just don't eat out much - heck we barely really even get out all that much. But let's just say this is my vision of it.

By the way, while we Southerners like to think of chicken and dumplings as being our very own, well... it ain't exactly so. It's actually a dish that is eaten in some form in many other areas of the country.

Some folks in the Pennyslvania Dutch area of the U.S. call a similar dish "Pot Pie," or sometimes "Slippery Pot Pie," which is totally different from the chicken pot pie that we Southerners know and love, which, at least for me, must have both a top and bottom pastry crust. If you've ever heard somebody referring to your chicken and dumplings as pot pie, that doesn't mean they are wrong. It just means that for some folks, our chicken and dumplings, is their pot pie, depending on where they or their parents grew up. If you're in the Appalachians, you may know a similar stew with flat dumplings called "Chicken and Slicks," though I think more people learned about that one from a broadcast episode of Cook's Country, from America's Test Kitchen. Interesting little trivia there.

Anyway... this post is a little long, and about to get longer, as it's intended for those of you who have never made a scratch version of chicken and dumplings. I wanted to present a clear, step by step, picture tutorial on how to make my version of creamy, homemade from scratch, Southern style chicken and dumplings. For those of you more experienced in making this dish, but who might want to just try a different method, or if you're just totally bored to tears, just scroll or swipe on past the step by step pictures to get to the recipe text.

Now... let's get cookin' y'all!

To prepare the stock, quarter the chicken and place it into a tall stockpot. Cover with water, plus about an extra inch; add the celery, carrot, onion, parsley, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered, at a steady but low simmer for 1 hour. Do not boil.

Remove chicken and once cool enough to handle, hand pull the meat into large chunks. Don't use your mixer to shred it. You'll want larger pieces for a total of about 4 cups of hand pulled chicken.

Strain the stock into a container, discarding the skin, bones and vegetables. If you have time, cool and refrigerate the stock so the fat will rise to the top as pictured below and then scrap it off. Otherwise, skim off as much of the liquid fat from the top of the stock as you can and reserve two quarts. Cool and refrigerate or freeze any remaining stock for another use.

For the dumplings I use a basic buttermilk biscuit dough mix of all purpose flour and shortening with a few seasonings. I split the dough into two balls, rolling out and adding the first group of dumplings to the bubbling broth. This first batch will help to thicken the broth. While those are cooking, I roll out the second batch of dough to drop.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.

Add the lard or shortening.

And cut it in to form pebbles. Whenever you see somebody say "until it looks like peas," this is what they mean - where there are little pebbles or pea-like bumps of fat mixed fairly evenly throughout the dough.

Add about half the buttermilk.

Use only enough of the remaining buttermilk so that dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface. The key here is generously floured. You want plenty of bench flour for the dough.

Knead 4 or 5 times, or until dough is smooth and no longer sticky, sprinkling the top with additional flour as needed. Notice - plenty of flour. This is key.

Separate into two dough balls; set one aside.

Roll one ball of the pastry dough out, flip it over.

Continue rolling it very thin, to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch. These have a little leavening in them, so they will puff up some as pictured at the very top of the page, so you need the dough to be rolled quite thin to begin with so your dumplings don't end up too thick.

Cut into desired size shape. Squares, rectangles, whatever you like.

Sprinkle top of dumplings with additional flour and let them rest while you work on the stew.

Start on the stew by melting the butter in a Dutch oven or large pot. Some folks just take the broth the chicken was boiled in and drop dumplings into that. To me, that's too much like a soup and I more prefer a thicker, richer, more stew-like consistency to my chicken and dumplings, so I make a quick, blonde roux for a milk gravy.

Stir in the flour, a little at a time.

Cook over low heat for 1 minute, or until smooth, stirring constantly. You don't want it to brown like a gumbo roux. This is a very blond roux we're making.

Slowly incorporate the milk, a little at a time.

Cook over medium heat until it begins to thicken and you have what is basically a milk gravy. If you'd rather not have a milk gravy, just skip this step and add in the chicken stock.

Begin adding the 2 quarts of reserved chicken stock, a little at a time, stirring constantly until it's fully incorporated.

Bring mixture to a boil and stir in the chicken base. Taste, add the salt, pepper and garlic powder. The chicken base I use is Better than Bouillon {affil link} and I love it. It gives a great boost of flavor to soups and stews such as this, and is really worth having on hand, so it's a pantry staple for me. If you don't have that, substitute a little dry bouillon.

Start dropping the dumplings into the bubbling broth. Bring broth back up to a low boil, cover and cook over medium low for 10 minutes.

While that's cooking, roll out and cut the remaining ball of dough. After the first 10 minutes are up, start dropping the next batch of dumplings, gently stir and continue cooking uncovered, gently stirring occasionally, another 10 to 15 minutes, or until dumplings are cooked through and tender.

When dumplings are tender, add the reserved chicken and gently stir in. If you put the chicken in earlier than this, it tends to get tough and dried out - in other words, overcooked. Ain't nobody got time for that! (Sorry, that's become a catch phrase around here for the past year so I couldn't resist the voice in my head.) The chicken is already cooked, so all it needs is a warm through, so adding it in at the end just makes more sense to me.

Cook a little longer, just until chicken is warmed through. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve immediately with a side of skillet cornbread, corn muffins or biscuits and a side salad or vegetables, such as crowder peas, Southern green beans, creamed corn or buttered carrots and sweet tea.

Since The Cajun and I never finish a whole pot of chicken and dumplings in one sitting, I put the leftovers in a Lock & Lock {affil link}and pour a little milk over the top, giving it a stir while it's still warm, before storing in the fridge. This helps with it getting too thick but without a big dilution of flavor.

Now... go make some!

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Posted by on March 21, 2013
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