The Key To Dolly Parton's Chicken And Dumplings Is Boiling The Whole Bird

If there's one thing Dolly Parton knows about food, it's that Southern comfort cuisine always takes the cake. Whether it's her bacon dripping-infused cornbread, her mac and cheese with fried apples, or her weekly biscuits and gravy, the country music queen, actress, philanthropist, and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer has a true knack for taking mealtime up a notch.

Parton's famous chicken and dumplings recipe, which she told Parade was her specialty, reflects a commitment to preserving the authenticity of the South. When it comes to the all-time classic fare, her adoration for the staple is deeply rooted in her Tennessee upbringing, as she grew up surrounded by feelings of warmth and hospitality.

The core of her masterpiece involves an entire chicken — bones, skin, and all. This choice is a nod to the tradition of utilizing every part of the animal to create a belly-filling, soul-satisfying dish. Many folks, including Parton, swear that cooking with the whole bird instead of buying pre-packaged breasts, thighs, wings, drumsticks, and other chicken cuts is one of the most nutritious, economical, and impactful ways to yield maximum flavor.

How Dolly uses the whole chicken in her recipe

Dolly Parton's chicken and dumplings are as simple to whip up as they are satiating. Her homemade chicken stock is made with — you guessed it — a whole chicken or stewing hen, plus a peeled, uncut onion, salt, pepper, and chopped celery leaves, which all simmer together in a Dutch oven to achieve perfection. This slow-cooking method, coupled with the collagen from the bones — which boxed stock typically omits — infuses everything with savory goodness. 

After the chicken is thoroughly cooked, the white and dark meat practically falls off the bone. Then, the chicken is shredded into ideally-sized chunks, so the main ingredient is present in every bite. This attention to detail and straightforwardness are testaments to the icon's dedication to providing an undeniably cozy culinary experience.

Behind Parton's beloved chicken and dumplings lies a tightly woven tapestry of history and cultural influence. Throughout her life, she has thought of meals as much more than a means of nourishment; they are a thoughtful representation of togetherness. Not only does she put her whole heart into her work, but she also puts a whole chicken into her chicken and dumplings recipe.