This is one of BeeBop’s all-time favorite dishes and one of mine, too. Chicken and Dumplings brings up all kinds of good memories from childhood. I really don’t know anyone who doesn’t remember their mama making chicken and dumplings. Just mention it and people get this wistful, longing look like they’re going back in time in their minds. I only make this about twice a year and I don’t really know why. It’s so easy to do. Even easier if you do the chicken one day, refrigerate it and then finish it up the next day.
Back in the day, this was an inexpensive meal that could feed a large family, especially if you had your own chickens. It’s still inexpensive and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it. BeeBop’s brother, Uncle J, really enjoys chicken and dumplings, too. So we had him and our two beautiful nieces over to share this big ole pot of goodness with us. That was three adult good-eaters and two children and we still had leftovers for two more meals. That’s what I call thrifty!
You know what? I had a really pretty picture of the chicken, celery, onion, etc in the pot ready to boil and I have no idea where that picture went. I’m sometimes a little too vigilant about keeping my photos and memory cards organized. Anyway, just imagine that there’s a nice photo right here showing everything in the pot ready to boil. Okay!
Trim and cut the celery ribs in half. Peel the onion and leave it whole. Place the chicken, celery, onion and peppercorns in a very large pot and add water to barely cover the chicken. Bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook about 45 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken from the broth and store in the refrigerator. Remove the celery, onion and peppercorns from the broth. Store the broth in a separate container in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. The recipe may be made up to this point and held for several days before proceeding.
Remove all the skin and bones from the chicken and set it aside.
See the top panel? That’s what the chicken broth looks like after it’s been in the refrigerator and the fat has risen to the top. Skim the solidified fat from the broth and put it in a small saucepan over low heat to melt.
Place the broth, reserved chicken and parsley in a very large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Taste for salt and add up to a tablespoon if needed. I was using dried parsley this time because that’s all I had on hand. I do prefer fresh flat-leaf parsley and would use at least a quarter of a cup of finely minced flat-leaf parsley in this. I know the parsley is not traditional in southern chicken and dumplings, but I like the little bit of color it gives to an otherwise very pale dish. It also adds a little to the taste.
Make the dumplings:
In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder and melted chicken fat. Gradually add milk until the dough reaches a good consistency for rolling. The dough should be slightly less firm than a pie crust. If the dough seems too wet add a little flour. If too thick, add a little more milk.
Now, this where our ideas about chicken and dumplings might diverge somewhat. In the part of the south where I grew up the dumplings were always, ALWAYS, rolled and cut into strips. They even sell the rolled dumpling strips in the freezer section of the grocery stores in the south, though they’re not very good. I know in other areas it’s typical that they are dropped by little spoonfuls into the boiling broth. I never even knew there was such a thing as dropped dumplings until I was grown. Really. I’ve had both and I prefer the rolled type.
On a well-floured surface, working with half of the dough at a time, roll the dumplings out as you would a pie crust. Cut into long strips or squares as you prefer. I use a pizza cutter to make quick work of the cutting.
Drop the dumplings individually into gently boiling chicken stock. Continue until all the dough is used.
Cook approximately 20 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through. Stir several times while cooking to keep dumplings separated, but be careful not to break the dumplings when you stir.
I usually serve these with some fresh green beans on the side. Green peas would also be good. And why not have a peach cobbler for dessert?