Chicken and dumplings

Chicken and dumplings
chicken-dumplings.jpg

I was tempted to not post this one at all because I didn't think the picture was very good. However, it did taste really good and when you make this it will look better in real life! I also wanted to post this one because I wanted to stress how much better your food will taste if you use homemade chicken stock versus anything that comes in a can or a box at the store.

This dish comes together pretty quickly if you already have good chicken stock on hand. I'd recommend you make a batch on Sunday and make chicken and dumplings on Monday night. That's what I did. You can use some of the stock to make risotto another day. Homemade stock greatly improves any risotto! If you already have cooked chicken meat on hand (perhaps from your stock making), then this dish comes together even faster! I make my chicken stock with chicken backs so I needed to make some additional chicken for my version.

To make a good chicken stock, you can either use a whole chicken or chicken parts. I prefer using chicken backs or chicken wings for the high bone-to-meat ratio. The backs and wings also release a lot of collagen that gives the stock that rich texture and viscosity. You know you have great stock when it has a Jello-like texture when chilled. Cover your chicken parts with cold water. You want the water to just come up to the level of the chicken parts. That'll give you a nice, flavorful, rich stock. You can add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, bay, parsley, peppercorns if you'd like. Recently, I have been going with just chicken and water but then adding half an onion and one carrot in the last hour of cooking. This was a suggestion that Michael Ruhlman gave when I went to see him speak recently. It adds just the right amount vegetable roundness to the stock. Cook your stock at a simmer for 3 hours or so. Remove the solids, strain, and chill overnight. Then you can scoop the solidified fat off the top and portion and freeze. I do add a little salt during the cooking but not much. You can add salt whenever you are using later for your dish.

I'm aware that there are two types of dumplings that are traditional for chicken and dumplings. There are the flat, dense kind and then there are the fluffy, cloud-like kind. Your preference usually depends on how your mother/grandmother/aunt/neighbor/etc. made them when you were a child. I never had them growing up so without any dumpling precedent in my life, I chose the fluffy kind. Also, I thought my kids would prefer the fluffy kind as well. I wonder if I just set their dumpling preference for life??

Chicken and dumplings

Ingredients: 8 cups of homemade chicken stock, 3 chicken breasts, 4-6 carrots sliced into 1/4" rounds, 1-1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk, 3/4 tsp Kosher salt, olive oil, salt, pepper

  1. Heat your oven to 400°.
  2. Coat the chicken breasts with olive oli and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the chicken in the oven on a foil-lined sheet pan for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160°. Remove and let cool for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Bring your chicken stock to a boil.
  5. Add carrots.
  6. Season the stock with salt.
  7. When the chicken is cool enough, shred the meat by hand and reserve.
  8. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and 3/4 tsp of Kosher salt. Add 3/4 cup of buttermilk and stir with a fork until a dough forms. If the dough is not coming together, add another 1/4 cup of buttermilk and combine to form a dough.
  9. When the carrots are tender, add the dough by the rounded teaspoonful to the soup. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. 
  10. Add the chicken meat to the soup and heat through for a couple of minutes. 
  11. Ladle into big bowls and garnish with what you like - pepper, lemon wedge, fresh parsley, etc.