Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings

Everything I cook is comfort food. Among my favourites is chicken-and-dumplings. Really, this is the ultimate comfort food. A couple people have asked me for the recipe, and I told them I'd write down what I do next time I make it: it's not like I'm working from a real recipe here. Well... next time was yesterday; so I'm writing it down.

From Chicken and Dumplings

In rural North Carolina, people make "chicken and pastry," rather than "chicken and dumplings." What they refer to as "pastry" is a homemade sort of pasta made from flour, salt, and pepper. Ames makes it with her mother's recipe, but I've made it a couple times using the "Granny's Chicken and Pastry" recipe from Carolina Country. I've made some really good chicken and pastry with that recipe, but I've never been able to follow it exactly. The pastry dough in that recipe always comes out way too stiff.

But I admit I prefer softer dumplings to true Southern "slippery noodles," and so I've mucked about looking for a good way to make those. I've referred to Alton Brown's recipe from Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run, but I've never tried actually following it. My "recipe" is as follows:

Today I used a whole chicken, I generally just use chicken thighs:

  • 1 chicken
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 quart water
  • 1--2 quarts chicken broth
First saute the onions in a large pot. I like to cook them in bacon grease, but butter would work as well. Chop them fine, put them on to cook with plenty of salt and pepper (I never measure, I just use enough). When the onions are all transluscent, set them aside and put the chicken in the pot. I've done the chicken in the oven and on the stovetop: I'm not really sure which is better. Today I put a whole chicken in the pot, brushed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted it at 385F for an hour.

From Chicken and Dumplings

Once the chicken looked about done, I pulled it out of the oven and put it on the stovetop. I added the onions back to the chicken, put about a quart of water on it, and got it to a rolling boil for about 45 minutes. When the chicken was easily pulled apart with a fork, I removed it from the heat.

From Chicken and Dumplings

Now's the tricky part: we need to pull the chicken from the bones, and we need to make dumplings. So I generally take the chicken out of the pot and set it aside to cool. In the meantime, I get the dumplings going.


  • 2 Cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp shortening
  • rice milk
That's actually pretty close to Alton's recipe.

From Chicken and Dumplings

I mix the dry ingredients in the mixer and hit them with the whip attachment to get them blended. Then I cut the shortening into the mixture. Finally, I pour a small amount of rice milk (chicken broth, milk, or water would work just as well) into it until I get a sticky dough. This gets rolled out and cut into 1" X 1" squares.

From Chicken and Dumplings
From Chicken and Dumplings
From Chicken and Dumplings
From Chicken and Dumplings

There's never enough broth left from a chicken, so I always end up topping it up. I add about another two quarts of water and then add chicken base to make up a broth. If you have chicken stock lying around, that'll work even better. So now we've got dumpling dough cut into squares and about three quarts of broth: it's time to get them dumplings cooked.

From Chicken and Dumplings

The trick to cooking the dumplings is to get them into boiling broth as quickly as possible, without losing the boil. So I get the broth to a very strong rolling boil and start throwing dumplings in. I find I can easily throw in a handful at a time without having any trouble; but if the boil slows to a simmer, let it get going again before putting in any more. If you're making southern-style pastry, it only takes 15 minutes to get them cooked; but fatter dumplings take longer, say 30 or 40 minutes.

From Chicken and Dumplings

While the dumplings cook, get all the chicken off the bones. I probably throw away too little, but this time Ames picked the bones for me and the meat looked great. When the dumplings look done, add the meat back in.

From Chicken and Dumplings
From Chicken and Dumplings

So that's it. It's not really that hard, but it takes most of a day: there's a lot of "hurry up and wait" with chicken and dumplings. But it's the most comforting comfort food I know, and it's well worth the day's investment to make it right.

From Chicken and Dumplings

Postscript: I got the idea of roasting the chicken in the oven from an episode of "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" where they visit Dish, a restaurant in Charlotte about a mile from where I used to work. I generally do the chicken entirely on the stovetop, but when I saw this video, I decided to try the oven. There's an excerpt from it on YouTube:


Gwen said...

I'm making this tonight. I've been waiting for the stars to align, and tonight's our lucky night!

By the way, I didn't realize until I saw your pics that I could use my Kitchen Aid cast iron pot on the stovetop. I found the original box, read the outside, and lo and behold, I can! Awesome. Thanks!

clumsy ox said...


Don't be shy with the salt and pepper!

Let us know how it turns out for you.

Gwen said...

Mark, it was SO good. In fact, I'm back here again because I'm making it tonight and needed to re-check your dumplings recipe. There are very few recipes that my entire family LOVES, but this was one of them. It's going in my recipe book for sure. Thanks for posting!

Gwen said...

I love the way I keep coming back to this post, over and over. I LOVE this recipe.

I've started using 1 tsp b. powder in the dumplings (rather than 1/2 tsp). It's working well; I like the dumplings slightly less dense and chewy.

Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Carry on.

Gwen said...

One day I will write down this recipe instead of coming to your blog every time I want to make it. If you ever pull this post, I'll be up the creek!