Chicken And Dumplings Your Whole Family Will Devour

Chicken and dumplings may be the grandmother of all comfort foods. While it's sometimes thought to have come out of the Great Depression, Southern Kitchen says the dish likely dates back to the turn of the century –- the 17th century, that is. By the mid-1800s, recipes for chicken and dumplings were published in cookbooks put out by Real Housewives of various southern states, though chances are those recipes were developed by the housewives' domestic servants (in earlier days, their slaves). 

One thing chicken and dumplings wasn't, was poverty fare. While chicken's pretty cheap these days, Wide Open Eats says that this wasn't the case before the 1960s when large-scale factory farming became widespread. Before then, chickens were primarily kept as egg layers and only found their way into the pot once they were tough old birds past their egg-producing prime and needed hours of simmering before they were tender enough to eat.

Stephanie Rapone of Pantry to Plate is all about fresh, healthy meals that don't take all day to cook. She says this recipe should take about an hour from start to finish, prep time included. While there are several steps involved, none of them are too complex for even a kitchen rookie. "For a beginner cook," Rapone says, "if they follow the steps, it will turn out great and they will feel accomplished," Rapone is confident the finished dish will look and taste just as good as anything that ever came out of Granny's kitchen.

Brown the chicken for your chicken and dumplings

To make this recipe, you will be using skinless, boneless chicken thighs. Rapone says you could make this dish with cooked, shredded chicken, in which case you'd skip the chicken prep up to the point where you add it to the cooked dumplings right at the end. She does say, though, that "I wouldn't do breast meat/white meat only because it will end up just overcooking and being dry when you reheat it with the dumplings."

Start by blotting the chicken on both sides with a paper towel to remove any extra moisture, then season it with half a teaspoon of kosher salt per side (one teaspoon in all). Heat one tablespoon canola oil in a Dutch oven or 5+ quart pot over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Add the chicken to the pot and brown for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. 

If your pan's on the small side or you're using a larger amount of chicken, you may need to do this in batches so you're not overcrowding the pan. Rapone tells us "you don't have to worry about cooking the chicken all the way through," though, since it will have ample time to cook later in the process. Once the chicken's browned, remove it from the pan and put it to the side for a few minutes. Don't drain any remaining oil or grease out of the pan since you'll be needing it in the next step.

Chop and cook the chicken and dumplings' veggies

The next step will be to cook the onion, celery, and carrots, but these will, of course, need to be chopped first. If you're the super-organized type, you can have the veggies all prepped beforehand. The good news is, you don't have to peel the carrots! The Kitchn says that carrots when cooked in a stew are perfectly okay unpeeled as long as you scrub them first.

Anyway, take your chopped veggies and add them to the pan where you cooked the chicken –- no need to add more oil. Cover the pan (if you are using one without a lid, aluminum foil makes a good substitute) and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the vegetables for 3 to 4 minutes until they are slightly softened. Remove the lid and let the veggies cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until they are just beginning to brown. At this point, either push them to the side of the pan or else just remove them and pile them on top of the chicken.

Start making the chicken and dumplings stew

Chicken and dumplings is a thick, rich, hearty dish and it starts off with a creamy base which you'll now start constructing. Add 3 tablespoons of butter to the pan and let it melt. Take the remaining butter and put it in the freezer –- don't skip this step! Frozen butter will be needed in order to make the dumplings. Okay, back to the pot. When the butter's melted, whisk in ¼ cup flour. Add the onion powder, the garlic, one more teaspoon of kosher salt, and whisk the seasoned flour mix until smooth,

Pour about one cup of stock into the mix. If you're using store-bought stock, you'll be using about ¼ of the carton at this point. Whisk until you have a thick, smooth, creamy sauce. Whisk in another cup (or ¼ carton) of stock –- Rapone says "It will thicken again, but not as thick as the first time." Add in the rest of the stock, switching from a whisk to a wooden spoon. Stir in the veggies if you left those in the pan. Finish off the stew base by adding 2 1/3 cups of milk as well as the black pepper.

Return the chicken to the pot

Take the chicken and any accumulated juices (and the veggies, if you removed those from the pot) and add them back into the stew base. Stir until the juices blend in, then turn up the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it starts boiling, turn the heat down to low -– quickly, so the milk doesn't scorch! Cover the pot with the lid (or foil), but not all the way. Rapone recommends leaving a gap of about an inch, warning that "otherwise it will boil over."

Let the stew simmer for 15 minutes. It is strongly recommended that you set a timer, since you'll be busy making the dumplings during this time and may need a reminder to check the chicken. Once the timer goes "ding!" (or "buzz!" or "cock-a-doodle-doo!" or whatever you've set it to do), take the chicken out of the pot and set it on a plate to cool. Re-cover the stew and let it keep simmering.

Time to make the dumplings of chicken and dumplings

While making the dumplings might sound like the trickiest part of this dish, these ones are actually not too difficult to make. Wide Open Eats says that traditional southern chicken and dumplings was most often made with rolled dumplings, but these ones are dropped instead of rolled so you can skip the whole bit with the rolling pin.

Mix the flour, the salt, and the baking powder with a fork, then take a cheese grater and grate the remaining butter that you remembered to put in the freezer back before you started making the sauce. Rapone says to grate as much of the butter as you can, but says not to worry if you can't grate it all since " you will have a little that won't make it through the grater." Stir the butter in to the dry ingredients. The mixture will be kind of lumpy, but this is a good thing, since you want it to have little chunks of butter. Add in the remaining milk along with 1 tablespoon canola oil and mix with a fork just until it looks like, as Rapone describes it, "a shaggy dough."

Cooking the dumplings

To shape the dumplings, Rapone suggests using either two tablespoons or a cookie-dough scooper — you know, the ones that are shaped like an ice cream scooper, only not quite as big. You're going to want to scoop up a chunk of that shaggy dough that's about 1 ounce in size. No kitchen scale in hand? Each dumpling should be slightly smaller than a golf ball. Be sure not to pack the dough too tightly! Rapone says "the best dumplings [are] fluffy and chewy at the same time, without being dense."

Drop each dumpling into the simmering soup carefully, since you wouldn't want them to splash. Cover the pot up again, once more leaving that 1 inch gap. Cook the dumplings for 6 minutes, then turn them over using a spoon. Cover the pot again and let the dumplings cook for 6 minutes on the other side.

Finishing up the chicken and dumplings

While the dumplings cook, you'll need to shred the chicken. This can be done using a fork (or two), but you can also do it with your hands. Once the dumplings have cooked for a full 12 minutes, add the shredded chicken back into the stew along with any juices it may have accumulated on the plate. Stir it in, but be gentle! Avoid breaking up any of those just-cooked dumplings if you can.

Taste the dish, then season it with a little more salt and pepper if you think it needs either or both. While traditional chicken and dumplings really doesn't need anything more, at this point you'll have satisfied tradition so you can add in whatever you like. Rapone suggests extra garlic or onion powder, and says 'I also like to add celery seed or herbs de Provence in with the flour." You might also add a little cayenne or hot sauce if you want to spice the dish up a bit. 

If you don't finish all the chicken and dumplings in one meal, Rapone says the "leftovers are awesome!" There's no need to store the dumplings separately, and you can just reheat it in the microwave, stirring every 45 seconds, or on the stove top with a little broth or milk added. You can also make the soup ahead of time and freeze to enjoy later with freshly-cooked dumplings in a time-saving move that Granny would be sure to thumbs-up.

Chicken And Dumplings Your Whole Family Will Devour
No Ratings
Chicken and dumplings is a comfort food that's been a popular staple on American tables for over 200 years. This recipe is sure to become a family favorite.
Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
45
minutes
Servings
5
servings
Chicken and dumplings in bowl
Ready in 60 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 to 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 4 ½ tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 carton (28 to 32 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 ⅔ cups milk, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon iodized salt (table salt)
Directions
  1. Blot the chicken with a paper towel to get the extra moisture off and season on both sides using 1 teaspoon kosher salt (total).
  2. Put 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chicken to the hot oil and brown for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Once browned, put on a plate to the side.
  3. Add the chopped onions, carrots and celery to the Dutch oven. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes to soften the vegetables. Remove the lid and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until they start to brown.
  4. Push the veggies to the side of the pan or remove them. Add 3 tablespoons butter to the empty space and melt. Put the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons butter in the freezer. Whisk in ¼ cup flour into the butter. Add the onion powder, granulated garlic, and another 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the butter and whisk until smooth.
  5. Pour in about 1 cup of stock (¼ of the carton) and whisk until incorporated into the butter and flour mixture.
  6. Add another 1 cup (or ¼ carton) of stock and whisk in again until slightly thickened. Pour in the rest of the stock while you stir in the vegetables and add 2 ⅓ cups of milk and fresh ground black pepper.
  7. Add the browned chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate into the pot. Turn heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, then reduce to low. Cover almost all the way with the lid (leaving about a 1" gap) and simmer while you mix the dumplings. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
  8. Mix dumplings: Add 1 cup flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl and mix using a fork. Using a cheese grater, grate the 1 ½ tablespoons frozen butter. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and stir with a fork.
  9. Add the ⅓ cup milk and 1 tablespoon canola oil and mix until it's a shaggy dough.
  10. Once the 15 minutes timer is up, remove chicken from the soup and place on a plate or cutting board. Using two tablespoons or a small ice cream-style cookie dough scooper, drop dumplings into the simmering soup.
  11. Cover the pot, leaving a 1" gap. Cook for 6 minutes, then turn over the dumplings using a spoon. Re-cover with the lid and cook for another 6 minutes.
  12. As the dumplings cook, shred the chicken before adding it back into the soup and gently stirring it in.
  13. Taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper. Enjoy!
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