Monday, January 9, 2012

Chicken & Dumplings (as good as from Cracker Barrell)



Homemade Chicken & Dumplings

As strange as it may seem, one of the first comfort meals I learned to cook was Homemade Chicken & Dumplings. (Although this is not how my mom makes chicken & dumplings.  Hers are dropped and are fluffy like a biscuit.)   As a young married couple we spent lots of time with another young couple.  We laughed, cruised many a country road, and had little structure to our lives (those were the days LOL).  A few times we ate dinner with them and one of my friend's specialties was this recipe for Chicken & Dumplings.  My very picky husband must have felt pressure to be nice and taste her dish (he would never have tasted it for me), but he instantly fell in love this creamy comfort dish.  Since learning to make this I have enjoyed many a plate of chicken & dumplings at Cracker Barrel restaurant knowing the entire time that mine is every bit as good as what you get in this restaurant.


For years I have cooked chicken breasts (bone-in and with skin) (which develops a richer broth for my chicken & dumplings than just using boneless skinless chicken), but I have since discovered a very frugal way to make this dish.  A few weeks ago I cooked a whole chicken in my crockpot.  We ate dinner with it and then deboned the rest of the meat.  We placed the meat in a freezer container and the bones, skin and remaining bits of meat in a separate freezer container (for making broth at a later date).  I've been trying to stay with a meal plan and cook rather than eat out, and the other morning I quickly put the bones, skin, bits of meat portion in my crockpot and placed about 4 cups of water in the crockpot.  I turned it on low and it cooked all day (probably 8-10 hours).  I put the container that had the meat we had deboned in the fridge to thaw.  When we got home from work, I strained the broth in the crockpot through a small strainer into a large pot, added in the meat I had, and mixed up a batch of dumplings.  (My crockpot doesn't develop a full rolling boil which is needed in order to cook the dumplings.)


This was truly a feast!  Man, it was delicious!  And FOR THE RECORD, we loved it even better warmed up the next day.  


Here's how I made Homemade Chicken & Dumplings AT HOME MY WAY:


Homemade Chicken & Dumplings

  • Large pot of meat / chicken broth (as above instructions or however you choose)
Then mix up the dumplings:
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 rounded Tablespoon shortening or 1 1/2 Tablespoon Margarine/butter
  • 2/3 plus 2 Tablespoons milk
Instructions:

Mix the dry ingredients.  Cut in the shortening/margarine/butter until crumbled very small.  Stir in the milk.  Using floured hands, form into a ball.

Divide the dough in half.  On a floured surface, roll out the 1/2 section of dough using a floured rolling pin.  Roll to about 1/4" like a thick pie crust.  Cut in squares (I use a pizza cutter).  (This recipe would not be good for dropping - it needs to be rolled and cut.)

Bring the broth/chicken in the pot to a rolling boil.  Drop the dumplings in the boiling broth.  Stir lightly.  

Roll the remaining half the same way and add to the pot.

Thicken by mixing 1/2 cup COLD water with 2 Tablespoons flour, stirred until smooth.  Add that mixture to the pot.  You may have to do this again to thicken the broth to your liking since your pot of broth may be a different amount than mine.

HINT:  My family likes the illusion of buttery chicken and dumplings.  I add 2-3 drops of yellow food coloring to the thickened mixture and stir to give it a hint of a buttery look without adding extra butter.  But that is entirely optional.

HINT #2:  If you were really being prepared, you could make the dumplings ahead, freeze them uncooked on a cookie sheet (flash freeze) and store in gallon bags for dropping in.  I have done this and it works great.

HINT #3:  This recipe (for the dumplings) also works great for using in beef broth with beef / roast, etc.  I usually cut the dumplings smaller for beef broth but that's just because that's how we're use to seeing it on the plate.

Remember not to stir a whole lot.  You don't want to destroy the dumplings as they cook.

I serve this with my favorite (breaded stewed tomatoes) (recipe coming soon) and easy cornbread.  In the picture, I took day old cornbread, sliced them, buttered them and browned them in the broiler.  That freshened them right up and they were mighty tasty!


Rolled and cut a one-half section of the dough.


Meat and broth cooking.


See how they puff up when cooking?\


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