In my family, a high standard has been set for Chicken and Dumplings. One so high that few people or recipes can successfully reach it. Why? Well, because we grew up with my mom making my great grandmother’s Chicken and Dumplings.
My mother did such a great job perfecting the recipe that even my grandmother would fail and call my mom to make them for her.
As you can imagine, we tend to judge other recipes by this high standard. Let’s start by saying that noodles that try to pass as dumplings are insulting. We’ll pass on those drop biscuit dumplings as well.
The dumplings must be flat, yet puffy with a firm bite, and most importantly, homemade.
I realize now that these dumplings are a lot like a large version of spaetzle. This makes complete sense considering my family is of German descent. There is a good chance that these dumplings were spaetzle at one point in my family history.
As a kid I would fish out all the dumplings from the pot and leave the chicken for my dad. I can’t say that this has changed too much, but as an adult I do include some chicken too, but mostly the white meat.
When we started buying locally raised, pastured chickens from nearby farms, and once I finally mastered cooking a full chicken and not just pieces, I knew it was time to try my great grandmother’s chicken and dumplings.
The whole process is actually quite simple and requires few ingredients. To summarize, you make a stock with the whole chicken, make your dough for the dumplings and cut it, remove the cooked chicken, cook the dumplings, then add the shredded chicken back in.
My mom warned me before I started that the key to the perfect dumplings is no stirring. Once you drop them in the boiling water, resist the urge to stir. Simply use a spoon to push them gently to the side and add more. If you stir them, they will break up and you’ll be left with a doughy mess instead of individual dumplings.
Are you ready to try it yourself? Well, here you go. It’s only 8 easy steps.
Homemade Chicken and Dumplings
1 whole chicken
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
¼ cup oil (I used olive oil, the original recipe calls for lard)
¼ to ½ cup milk
3 cups unbleached white flour
Place your chicken in a large soup pot. Cover it completely with water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to just above a simmer and partially cover the pot.
As the water begins to boil the chicken will be making your broth. Once the water is hot, the skin will begin to cook immediately and look a bit like this. Be sure you have a pair of tongs handy to work with the chicken.
Continue to cook the chicken for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, begin your dumplings.
In a bowl, combine the eggs, salt, baking powder, oil and ¼ c milk. Whisk with a fork. Begin to add in the flour, a little at a time, until a dough is formed. It should be firm and only slightly stickier than a bread dough. If the dough is too dry, add in more milk until you reach the right consistency for the dough.
Place the dough on a floured surface and begin rolling it out into a large circle. You want it to reach about 1/8 to 1/4 inch in thickness. Continue to sprinkle the dough with flour as you roll to keep it from sticking.
Next, check your chicken. It is best to allow it to cook until the chicken begins to fall apart. Use a large spoon and tongs to help you carefully remove it from the hot water. Transfer it to a plate and let it cool to the point where you can shred it with your hands or with a fork.
Ensure that your broth is at a low boil, you may need to increase the heat a bit after removing the chicken.
Return to your dumplings and begin slicing them. I used a steak knife with a serrated edge. Cut the dumplings into strips about 1 to 1 ½ inches wide. Cut across from the opposite direction to create diamond shapes.
If your chicken is cool enough to work with, begin shredding the meat you want to use for your dumplings. You can use all the dark and white meat you are able shred off the bone, or reserve some of the meat for later use. It really depends on how meaty you want your dumplings and how many people you are serving.
Shred the chicken and set aside. If all of the meat isn’t cool enough to touch continue on with the dumplings and you can shred the rest of the meat once the dumplings are cooking.
Carefully grab a handful of dumplings, keeping them somewhat separated and slowly add them to the boiling broth. Continue dropping the dumplings in one to two at a time and be cautious of hot water splashing out.
The dumplings will immediately rise to the top as they cook. As you need space, use a spoon to gently move the cooking dumplings to the side of the pot as you add in more. Do not stir! Continue this process until all your dumplings are in the pot.
Once they are all in the pot, allow them to cook 2 to 3 minutes and test one. They should be firm and cooked through, yet they will be soft and flexible, a little like a noodle.
Allow the chicken to heat through and the meal is ready to serve! Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serves about 6.