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+++Enter At Your Own Risk+++ At the gentle nudging (I said gentle y'all) of a few friends, I have started these blogs in order to share my culinary goings-on and daily misadventures through my own brand of humor (ok, sarcasm). I just write about stuff! At 50, I have learned that living has gotten in the way of life - and I am going to blaze my own personal trail to fun (hopefully)! If it is feminine, great. If it is not, so much the better! Hopefully fun that does not land me in jail............

Monday, March 21, 2011

Legendary Southern Foods: Chicken & Dumplings

One of the most sought after and hotly debated foods in the South come packaged in a stock pot at your nearby family get-together. The old women made them and passed the recipe, techniques and secrets down to their kin over the generations. Today some folks create these little bowls of heaven, and some were never told firmly enough to give up the ghost and move on to some other dish...

Chicken and Dumplings

Growing up I refused to eat Chicken and Dumplings.  I think the reason is there are two kinds and I Hate one/Love the other. I must have gotten the wrong one early on... I will explain.

Possible Culprit #1 - A lot of people make PUFFY chicken and dumplings.  The dumplings are made with what I assume include either self rising flour or with leavening agents of the cook's choosing. They are lighter and airier like biscuits. I really do not like them. I think I associated DUMPLINGS with puffy biscuits in thick soup.

Possible Culprit #2 - For some reason some folks go as far as to put yellow food coloring in the broth. Why?  Does yellow denote chicken?  I think it reminds me of overly dried chicken skin. Gross.  Why add an unatural chemical to your dish? Glowing Dumplings look like they came straight out of a radiated section of "The Manhattan Project". I googled but never found a reason for the addition of the food coloring.  People, stop doing it! Most of us city and country folk make fun of this brightly colored dish no matter how good it might taste.

Possible Culprit #3 - Why complicate that which is perfection in its simplicity?  While poking around the InterWeb I found a recipe published by Paula Dean. I am sure it is a great recipe for dumplings. But, back in the day, my people used what they had and kept food simple. I believe in simplicity and using what you have, not stocking up on what will go bad.  But, in all fairness, here is her recipe to try. Again, I am sure it is fabulous, but I am not biting... http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/cda/recipe_print/0,1946,FOOD_9936_26265_PRINT-RECIPE-FULL-PAGE,00.html

I have learned that I LUV the Slickers. My person LUVS the puffy dumplings.  At some point I will have to make the puffy ones for him.

A little hint here when making dumplings:
  • Do NOT wear clothing that you want to keep clean when working with flour and dough. You are going to get dough or flour or both on you unless you are one seriously orderly cook.  
  • You might want to get an apron if you are anal about staying clean.  
  • Personally, I leave a disaster in my wake. It IS worth it and other people WILL clean it up to ensure their rights to eat the dumplings. 
  • You might want to leave the cell phone and laptop alone in another room while cooking as well. Just say'n...
A few years ago I came across a recipe that used all purpose flour, salt, water and nothing else. I was also lucky enough to be given THE secret to tasty dumpling dough.  I will keep that little tidbit to myself until one of you asks for it. In the end, my dumplings came out like tasty jumbo egg noodles, only I think better.

Let's get down to business!


1 cut-up or whole chicken
Black pepper
Plain flour
Ice water
*You will need a rolling pin and a floured surface.


Wash and place the cut up chicken in Dutch-Oven with plenty of water to boil. Add salt to boiling chicken (to taste), black pepper and a half to whole stick of butter. Make sure there is enough water in pot to create ample broth for dumplings. Water can be added throughout the process - so don't stress here. Maintain a low boil. This means, if you leave the lid off the pot, it isn't boiling so violently that it is splashing everywhere. I personally keep the lid on the pot.  I have cats. Enough said.

Here is the annoying part (pawn this off on anyone you trust with hand washing and good vision):
When chicken is tender and well done (approximately 90 minutes into cooking), remove it from the broth and let it cool. Once cool to the touch, remove the bones, skin, fat and anything that you just simply cannot identify. I pour the broth through a strainer to make sure there are no bones in the broth.  I put the good meat back in the broth (or you can set it aside while you make the dumplings and add it back when the dumplings are basically done - it is up to you).

FYI, I do not care for skin or fat. ALL that either goes into trash, is used to make more broth, or is flung at the cats. If you choose to make more broth, simply toss all the bones, skin and etc. into a pot of water and boil it for an hour. Sieve that broth and pour it into the dutch oven with the original broth as well! It adds more flavored liquid that can be reduced (boiled down) for intensity.

Warning:  Do NOT give your pets chicken bones.  Chicken bones are dangerous to them.  I am joking about flinging bits at the cats.  I give my animals the good meat.


2 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour **
1 teaspoon salt mixed into flour
Ice water

Turn the heat up on your broth to warm it to a rolling boil while you make the dumplings.

I sift flour and salt together as to not get a lump of salt somewhere. I doubt it would happen - but why chance it. Can you imagine the face of the unlucky pal who bites into a salt pocket in a dumpling?  Wait, that could be entertaining actually...

Then I stir in enough water to make a stiff dough.

Place dough on the floured surface, dust the top of the dough (and the palms of your hands) with flour and knead it in, making sure the dough is stiff. You might have to dust the board, pin, hands and dough several times while in the process of making dumplings. Roll out with floured rolling pin until very thin, about an 1/8 of an inch.
That is a bit much on the floured surface!

Note:  You ARE covered in flour at this point.  I promise you are.

Cut rolled-out dough into about 1 inch by 1 inch (+-) strips and let them dry for a few minutes. They should be partially covered with flour.  The size is really a matter of preference so do not start measuring with a ruler...

When the broth is boiling, slowly drop the dumplings into the broth at a slow pace. As they cook they will become somewhat stiff; that's what you want. DON'T add too many at one time as it lowers the temperature of the mixture and slows the boil. If the mixture does not boil, the dumplings might stick to either each other or the pot.

If some flour drops into the pot - no problem. This is a good thing. Helps thicken the broth. The heat should be about medium to medium-high (whatever it takes on your stove to boil the liquid). As the dumplings cook, turn the heat down gradually. Cover pot and let dumplings begin to change to a somewhat almost translucent deal. Yea, this is where experience comes into play. They thicken as they are done.
Daughter made these in RI.  They were great!

*Note - Alternative - if you do not have space for working dough, or a rolling pin, simply pinch off pieces of dough and mash them into flat-ish blobs - and drop them as you go into broth.

**NOTE - These are what are known as slickers. The dumplings are giant egg noodle like creatures. If you like the puffy style of dumplings, simply use "self-rising" flour instead of "all purpose" to get a puffier dumpling.

*** Option: Add chicken breasts, thighs, drumsticks or what-have-you for extra meat if you like. You can also cook a couple of chickens up, process as above to the point of clearing the good meat from the bone and "leavings" then divide the broth and meat into two pots. One to freeze (without dumplings in it) and one to make NOW. This takes only a tiny bit more time than making a single batch and saves you a lot of time the next time you make the dish.

****Option 2:  Use canned biscuit dough. Simply roll it flat and cut into strips. This is a viable option when in a hurry, but does not save tons of time considering how much time it takes to prep chicken.

BONUS:  Check this website out concerning choosing, buying and storing flour! http://whatscookingamerica.net/Bread/FlourTypes.htm

Reducing (bowling down) the broth will strengthen the flavor AND the salt taste. Go light on salt.
You can substitute or add bouillon or store-bought broth. Bouillon adds salt. Again be careful.
If the dish is too thick or salty, add water when heating it up. Simple.

Make sure you really like the people you are feeding this to because you will see them again - every time you make this dish.

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