Monday, April 5, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings.

I've got a question for you. When you hear chicken and dumplings do you think gravy/broth filled with vegetables and chicken then topped with billowy biscuit like dumplings? Or do you envision a hearty gravy filled with only pulled chicken and poached thickish dumplings resembling a short noodle? The mason dixon line travels between these two. The former - a total northern thing and possibly out west as well as people moved out in that direction. The latter? Now that's a southern thing pure and simple. Since my introduction to American cuisine was limited to what I saw on TV cooking shows in the 80s and 90s I'd only heard of the puffy northern dumplings. Then while dating Mr. Maricucu we hit a Cracker Barrel in South Florida to satisfy a craving and boy was I surprised to see a plate of what looked like creamed chicken with some very puffy noodles show up on our table.

Photobucket


Was the plate for me? Nope. Actually I might be committing heresy by admitting this but I'm not a fan of chicken and dumplings in any form. If I had my 'druthers I'd take my chicken and gravy encased in a flaky pot pie crust any day. But I love a guy who happens to adore chicken and dumplings and since I like tinkering in the kitchen to preserve our beloved family recipes I figured I could tackle this one. A little online sleuthing turned up a cracker barrel copy cat recipe that began with making some homemade broth which I bookmarked immediately.

I know what you're thinking, "groan, not a super involved recipe again." No, not at all. See I have this little cheater's ritual which makes the whole process oh so easy. Every couple of weeks I'll hit up Costco or the local supermarket and buy two rotisserie chickens. The Costco chickens are a little larger and better priced but in a pinch the grocery store by my house does just fine. I remove the chicken breasts clean off the bone and use them to make a wonderful composed salad of baby greens, boiled new potatoes, bell peppers, green beans and a simple vinaigrette. Other times I'll make a quick chicken salad loosely based on an old Ina Garten recipe minus the nuts.

Photobucket


Then right after I take off the breast meat I continue picking off the dark meat. I end up with two piles. One filled with clean chunks of moist dark meat and the other with everything else (carcass, skin, and juices from the bottom of the rotisserie containers). I typically throw those two separate piles into the freezer until I want to make some some chicken and dumplings.

Photobucket


If I just want to make broth (great for freezing in individual sized portions and pulling out for illness) then I just dump the "other" pile into a pot, cover with water and add a splash of apple cider vinegar. I let that simmer all day long, sometimes replenishing the liquid and strain, then freeze. Delicious, very low sodium, homemade bone broth. But you're here for the chicken and dumplings.


Southern Style Chicken and Dumplings
adapted from Cracker Barrel Copycat Recipe

note: I make my broth with the two rotisserie chicken carcasses but if you'd prefer to start from uncooked chicken then please visit the previous link for raw chicken and veggie quantities. Also, my recipe makes a good sized batch of chicken and dumplings. Feel free to halve the recipe for a smaller family.

Broth
2 rotisserie chicken carcasses picked of their meat
dark meat from above mentioned carcasses
1 splash (couple of tablespoons worth) of apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt (or ground celery seed)
kosher salt to taste

Dumplings
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons of table salt
2 1/4 cups whole milk


Dump your frozen pile o'carcass into a large stockpot and cover with water. As a frame of reference this stockpot holds 8qts. Not a beautiful picture but one that holds the promise of flavor.

Photobucket


Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer. I usually start this in the morning sometime after breakfast and let it simmer a good 7-8 hours replenishing the liquid if necessary to keep it over the bones. This is certainly a wonderful time to use the crockpot too if you have one large enough. Just simmer covered in the crockpot on low and you won't have to worry about keeping an eye on the liquid. After simmering all day I end up with this beautiful golden colored broth.

Photobucket


Strain the liquid. I use a large fine mesh skimmer/spider that's about 7 inches across. It's much easier for me to scoop around with that than to balance a pot of hot stock over a large container. When you're done you'll have this spent pile of bones.

Photobucket


Behind door #2 you'll find this beautiful stock with a fine layer of fat (schmaltz anyone?). I don't remove the fat since I've never found it to be excessive but if you don't like it, go ahead and remove it.

Photobucket


This amount of bones/water usually produces 10-12 cups of stock. If you like a thinner gravy in your chicken and dumplings you'll use 12 cups (it's okay to top off with water if your broth is just a touch less than that). If you prefer a thicker gravy then use only 10-11 cups of stock. Put your stock back in the pot and set it aside.

Photobucket


Time to make the dumplings. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt.

Photobucket


Add the milk and stir to combine. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. It will look very wet at this point, don't sweat it.

Photobucket

Photobucket


While the dumpling dough is resting bring your broth to a simmer. Add the lemon juice, then the celery salt.

Photobucket

Photobucket


Also add the pepper and taste for salt, then adjust as necessary.

Photobucket

Photobucketc


Back to the dumpling dough. The dough has grown quite bit thanks to the baking powder.

Photobucket


Liberally dust your countertop (or other preferred dough rolling surface) then dump your sticky dough right on top. Dust more flour on top of the dough and knead it a couple of times gently to smooth it out.

Photobucket


Roll out the dough to a 1/2" thickness and then cut into rough 1"x2" rectangles. I don't break out a measuring tape for this people. Just guesstimate and then have at the dough with a pizza cutter. This is rustic, not perfection.

Photobucket


Now that your dumplings are ready and the broth is simmering it's time for a dip in the hot tub. Drop in the dumplings a handful at a time. Between each addition, give them a gentle stir with your spoon. Once the dumplings are coated in broth they won't stick together.

Photobucket

Photobucket


Keep adding the dumplings until they're all in the pot. They will puff up and float on the surface but that's normal.

Photobucket


Simmer the dumplings for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to keep them from sticking to the bottom. After simmering, the dumplings will no longer float and the stock will have thickened into a gravy.

Photobucket


Add the chicken and stir gently to warm through.

Photobucket


All that's left is to ladle it up into bowls and adopt a southern drawl.

Photobucket


How do you get kids to try something new? Tell them they can't have it and that it's not for them. There's no way they were going to take that for an answer after the fragrant simmering happening in our home.

Photobucket

2 comments:

Lowell said...

We make something very similar (with frozen pastry) called chicken pastry. Maybe the name is a regional thing? We put hard boiled eggs in ours. Delaney loves it.

Marielle said...

Oooh another rabbit hole to explore Lowell! Thanks for the info, I'm sure the dishes are quite similar. Interesting you mention the hard boiled eggs. They put that in giblet gravy in the south quite often.