Update: Check out the new-and-improved Chicken and Dumplings recipe and photos at The Kitchn!
When I was a little girl, I would occasionally spend weekends in Columbus, Georgia with my grandparents if my mother and father went away on vacation. My days with them were always jam-packed with fun activities for a little girl. I would gather pecans in a big ol' gallon bucket in the back yard with my Poppy, or complete sewing projects with my Nana (which is ironic, because now I don't think I could even thread a needle. My, how I've digressed since Kindergarten). But the best hours were the always the ones spent in the kitchen with her -- just the two of us -- whipping up something delicious.
When my grandfather would steal away for an afternoon catnap, Nana and I would slip into the kitchen to start on supper. My fondest memory is helping her create from-scratch chicken and dumplings. She would throw on a flowery apron, help me wash my hands and tie back my hair, and then off to work we went. I had a little stool to help me reach the counter, but come to think of it, she may have needed the stool more than me. Barely reaching 4’10”, I was probably the same height she was. Nana would start on the homemade broth and put me in charge of the mighty dumplings. She was never too far to carefully monitor my every move as I sifted the dry ingredients into the bowl (trying oh-so-hard not to flour the whole room), gently cut the shortening into the flour with my fingertips, and slowly stirred in the milk. Once the dough was formed, we would stand side by side, rolling out the sticky ball onto the dusted kitchen counter. A gooey mess covered my fingers, dress and shoes; and flecks of white dotted my cheeks and hair. So much for cleanliness being next to godliness.
At 5:00 PM sharp, the piping hot chicken and dumplings were placed on the perfectly set table, alongside a pot of vinegary green beans and and a filled-to-the-brim dish of creamed corn. And supper wasn’t complete without a basket of Pillsbury dinner rolls and a big pitcher of syrupy sweet tea. We bowed our heads and joined hands, and a rumbling belly could usually be heard growling during grace. The minute Poppy said Amen, my eyes shot open and my hands lurched for whatever I could get my hands on. It was time to dig in and enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Well times have changed since those carefree days in Georgia. Dinner at my house is come as you are. At 5:00, not a crisp table linen or a fancy piece of china is in sight. When the aroma is so intoxicating that I can't even stand it, I declare it ready-to-eat. I puddle the chicken and dumplings into oversized coffee mugs and pass them out to the eager hands of "my" hungry boys lurking around the kitchen. And for the briefest of moments, a calm envelops the living room as the usual frat house banter quiets to a series of mmmms, uh-huhs, and nods of approval. Bowls are slurped clean, new beers crack open. In the background, a loud pop and roaring thunderous cheers. "Homerun! Braves win!" cries a voice from the TV. High-fives and fist pumps break the blessed moment of peace. And then, every cook's favorite question. "Is there more?" Of course there is.
Source: Nealey Dozier Yields: 6 servings
For the chicken:
- 1 large fryer chicken, whole
- 1 onion, cut in half
- 3 carrots, cut into 3 pieces
- 3 stalks of celery, cut into 3 pieces
- 1/2 cup whipping cream (optional)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the dumplings:
- 3 cups cake flour (all-purpose works fine)
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 1/2 tablespoons shortening, such as Crisco
- 1 cup milk (just enough to make the dough stick together)
Place chicken in a large stock pot and cover with water. Add onion, carrots and celery. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so water maintains a gentle bubbling. Cook chicken for approximately 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through (165 degrees).
Mix flour, baking soda and salt together in bowl. Cut shortening into flour mixture with fingertips. Add milk and stir until a ball just begins to form. Be careful to not over-mix. Roll out dough onto floured surface, about ¼ inch thick. Cut dough into 2” rectangles or squares. Place strips on wax paper and allow to harden up a little, approximately 30 minutes.
Once chicken is cooked, remove from broth and allow to cool. Remove chicken from the bone and shred into medium-sized pieces. Discard bones and skin (or see kitchen tip below on how to make stock with the remains).
Pour off 6 cups of the chicken broth through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth (reserve additional stock and vegetables if making chicken stock). Add salt and pepper to broth. Bring broth to a gentle boil and drop in dumplings. Cover and allow to simmer for 7-8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add chicken and cream. Allow to simmer until desired consistency is reached, approximately 10 - 15 minutes.
Note: If sauce needs help thickening, or if you like it extra thick, melt 4 tablespoons butter and and ½ cup flour to make a paste. Stir into sauce.
Kitchen tip: To make chicken stock, add carcass back to remaining broth. Add more water if necessary. Allow to simmer on medium-low heat for 2 hours. Strain multiple times through fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth. Refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze.