Chicken and Dumplings from Scratch

When I was a kid, I can remember a couple of my friends' mothers making chicken and dumplings regularly. I still remember Mrs. Altizer whipping together a batch in no time at all one Sunday after church. Mrs. Kerschner made dumplings to serve with mashed potatoes on a week night!

The first time I ever made chicken and dumplings was after I'd been married for about five years. I used a recipe called "Chicken Fricassee and Dumplings" from a Betty Crocker cookbook that was a gift when I first got married in 1983. The ex-husband didn't like them because the chicken was still on the bones. I didn't like them because the dumplings were like biscuits - they weren't like the slippery dumplings I remember from my youth.

For years, the slippery (noodle-like) dumplings eluded me. I would occasionally make the drop dumplings, but I never found a recipe that told me what I was doing wrong. I had to satisfy that slippery-dumpling-craving with occasional visits to Cracker Barrel.

When I saw the picture for this recipe on Pinterest, I knew I had found the dumplings of my memories. The recipe, from the Tasty Kitchen, is easy to follow and a bit different from standard noodles. When I make homemade noodles, the dough is very stiff. I mistakenly used the food processor the first time I made these dumplings but it wasn't necessary. I used the pastry cutter (sorry Alton Brown) to blend the butter into the dry ingredients and it's easy to stir the milk in with a silicon spatula.

The dough will be very soft and you need to use a lot of flour with this recipe to keep it from sticking to the work surface. Someday, when I'm all grown up, I'll remember to buy a pastry mat. Just a few light strokes with the rolling pin and I had a uniform thickness of about 1/8". Uniformity is NOT required when you cut the dumplings with a knife or rolling pizza cutter. Useless trivia: Cracker Barrel uses a special tool to insure uniform dumplings. The prep cook uses a sugar packet to size the cuts.

This day happened to be "Harry's making homemade chicken stock" day. I pulled about four cups from the huge, simmering stock pot and poured it into the smaller pot, added 4 cups of water and about one pound of cooked chicken.

Once the stock and meat was at a strong simmer, I added the dumplings. Go ahead and add the leftover flour from the table - it will help thicken the stock or broth into a nice stew-ish consistency. Simmer for about 20 minutes, taste checking the broth and dumplings.

I forgot and added my black pepper before I took the picture. I love lots of black pepper on anything creamy, so adjust accordingly.

You can use leftover chicken or maybe a deli-rotisserie chicken, along with packaged broth or chicken stock to speed up the process. Because we already had our chicken stock and picked meat, these homemade chicken and dumplings took me about 40 minutes to make.

Chicken and Dumplings from Scratch - serves 6

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup of milk (you might need a little less)
2 quarts chicken broth OR 1 quart of chicken stock and 1 quart of water
1 pound cooked, boneless chicken

While you are mixing the dumplings, bring the broth to a strong simmer over medium heat.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, pair of knives, or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gently stir in 3/4 cup of milk. The dough should be very soft, like biscuits, so add the remaining milk until you have the proper consistency. It will be sticky!

Spread a generous amount of all-purpose flour on your work surface and dust your rolling pin liberally with flour. Pour/scrape the dumpling dough onto the flour. Use light strokes to roll the dough into a uniform thickness, about 1/8". You might have to dust your rolling pin with flour more than once.

Using a knife or a pizza roller (my choice because it was so fast!), cut the dough into square-ish shapes about 2 inches by 2 inches. Don't worry about perfection - the dumplings will change shape while they are cooking and won't be the same size no matter what you do!

I use a slotted spatula to transfer the dumplings from the table into the simmering broth. You want to add most of the flour you have left-over from the rolling to thicken the broth. Stir the dumplings gently and add the chicken meat.

Continue to simmer the dumplings for about 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Usually, I add a few chopped veggies to our chicken and dumplings. Diced carrots and celery add a great flavor. Simply saute them in a splash of extra virgin olive oil or canola oil in the bottom of the stock pot before you add the broth. I like to saute the carrots and celery just until they start to color to add more flavor to the broth. They will finish cooking as you simmer the dumplings.

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