Monday, December 5, 2011

Chicken n' Dumplings: This is for you cuz!

My cousin got to come visit a couple three years ago, and while she was staying I decided I should make chicken and dumplings.  It's cheap, easy, and oh so yummy.  She recently asked me how I make chicken and dumplings.  I gave her a brief rundown via a social networking site, but there's nothing like a good old tutorial if you've never done something before.

Here's what you'll need:

A chicken
A pot big enough to hold the chicken and plenty of water
2c flour (plus some extra for fiddling)
1c water (for the dumplings)
Spices - whatever makes you happy.

Things I have learned through trial and error:

  • The more tender your chicken is, the easier it is to get the meat off the bones. 
  • It really doesn't matter what kind of flour you use, what matters is how you want your dumplings. 
    • All purpose flour gives a chewier, firmer dumpling. 
    • Self-rising flour gives a fluffier dumpling and provides a little salt.

  • There is no wrong way to make a dumpling, drop, tear and squish, roll and cut - it's just a matter of preference. 
  • It's REALLY hard to season your chicken and dumplings "wrong".  You're working with a chicken and flour.  That's about as blank slate as you can get in the world of dinner.  
  • It's really hard to cook your chicken "too long".  
  • You CAN cook your dumplings too long.  They proceed to fall apart.
  • You can freeze this, but the dumplings might change texture a bit (get softer), especially if you have soft fluffy dumplings. 
    • If you want to freeze it, freeze your dumplings raw, and freeze your chicken and broth separate.  Then just bring to a boil, drop in your dumplings, and your done. 

So you got a bird, and you got a pot.  Put the bird in the pot.  ;-)

Now get out those spices.  Whatever you want, really.  Take it tex-mex and add chili and cilantro.  Go for old world and put is caraway.  Give it a Caribbean flair with some allspice and ginger.  Do what ya do!  For an old-school Grandma's style, just put in some salt and pepper and call it good.

Me? I'm a spice fiend.  I love the stuff.  You might be wondering what all you're looking at here.  And no, this isn't all necessary, but I've been told I make fabulous chicken and dumplings :-P

What you see: 

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chili Pepper
  • Old Bay style seasoning
  • Garlic Powder 
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Allspice
  • Sage
  • Paprika
  • Rosemary 
  • Tony Chechere's Creole Seasoning
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Bay Leaves
What you don't see:

  • Worcestershire Sauce
How do I know how much to use?  Well... really?  I don't.  I'm guessing about 1/2 tsp of everything, except salt and pepper.  I start off with a teaspoon of each of those.  Salt is by guess and by gosh.  The amount of salt you need kind of depends on how much flour makes it into your broth with your dumplings.  So, keep it out and handy.

I use a general rule of thumb about all my spices:  Dust the bird's back (because I usually put it in the pot breast down) with each spice, twice with salt and pepper.  By the time I'm done, I can't see the bird anymore.
This usually works out well for everything except salt.  I usually end up adding a little more salt after I add the dumplings.  But, it's easier to add than to take out.  The Worcestershire sauce is usually a couple good shakes from the bottle.

No, potatoes aren't necessary.  I wanted to use these up because they were starting to get a little soft and sprout.  The onions are a good idea, but also not necessary.  Some people put carrots, peas, and other veggies in their chicken and dumplings.  At that point it seems to be to be more like rustic chicken soup than chicken and dumplings.  Yes, I know that is splitting hairs.  I am a purist.  Hush!

I prefer to put my onions in from the very beginning so they cook down really soft, add flavor, and somewhat disappear in the cooking.  The potatoes sort of helped thicken the broth.  My chicken and dumplings have more of a broth-like sauce than a gravy.  If you want gravy style, I'll get to that in a minute.

Cover it with water.  Clap a lid on it, turn it up to med-high and forget about it for a little while.  It's going to take that bad boy a while to reach a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat so it won't boil over and forget about it again for a couple hours.  When you check on it, take a fork or something and move the bird around by it's leg.  If the bone slides out, it is safe to say the bird is fully cooked and ready to be deboned.  You don't have to technically cook it that long, but it makes the broth richer.  It is also easier to pull the meat off the bones if it's falling off on its own.

Use whatever means is necessary to get the chicken out of the pot and into a bowl where it can cool.  Turn the heat off for now.  You don't want your broth boiling down too far.
Let the bird cool enough to handle safely, then pull the meat off and put it back in the pot.  The bones and skin can be saved to make stock out of.

Now comes the dumplings.

Mix your cup of water with your two cups of flour and squish.  The more you squish, the chewier your dumplings are.  If you want them light and fluffy, don't squish them much after the flour and water are incorporated.  If you want them chewy, work in more flour and knead it till it's starts to feel rubbery and dry.  (That's how I like mine.)

Bring your pot of broth and meat back to a rapid boil.

Remember, the dumplings will swell when they cook, so don't make them too big.  If you decide to drop them, just pull off balls of dough and drop it in the boiling broth.  If you want classic square dumplings, roll them out and cut them into rectangles or squares.

Today, I pinched dough off in balls and just squished it out in my hands.  It's way less messy than rolling them out on a floured counter top.
I don't have very large hands.  I guess they're average.  But anyway, that gives you an idea of about the size of the dumpling before being cooked.

It only takes them a few seconds to cook, so about the time you've dropped it in it's done.  Drop them in one by one so they don't stick together.
When you've dropped the last one in, you can turn the heat off and it's ready to eat.

If you want thicker gravy style broth, BEFORE you put in your dumplings, get a small bowl and put a few tablespoons of flour in it.  (I say a few, 3-5, possibly even more depending on how thick you want your broth.)  Get some of the hot broth and mix it into the flour until it is a thin paste.  Pour the flour paste into the pot and stir it around well.  It will thicken up as it boils.  Now you can add your dumplings.



  1. yummy yum yum!!! can't wait to try it :D thanks!

  2. Mmmm mmmm mmmm!I love chicken dumplings and make them two different ways with big fluffy puffs of dumplings and thin rolled out strips of dumplings. Consistently always upon a cold drizzly day because it not only fills you up but sticks with you!

  3. Nothing like a drizzly day for dumplings. I love them all year, though. It's a little time consuming to make, but so worth it. One of these days, I'm going to get really ambitions and freeze a few batches of dumplings so I don't have to wait as long to have my chicken n dumpling fix lol!


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