Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chicken & Dumplings


Chicken & dumplings is one of those iconic "comfort foods". It, like many things, is deeply controversial on the Northern and Southern styles of dumplings. (To get the full rundown of the history, which I find terribly interesting, check out the Good Eats episode on chicken & dumplings)

I've decided to do the Southern style, because it's what I remember getting at those hole-in-the-wall joints in and around Atlanta. 

This is a combination of Alton Brown's "flat" or Southern dumplings and Paula Deen's broth. I didn't like either of the recipes on their own, but together, I think we have a winner.

Chicken & Dumplings

For the dumplings:
8 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 2 cups, plus extra for rolling
2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/3 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup skim milk, chilled

For the soup:
3 carrots, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 leek, chopped (green and white)
4 sprigs of thyme
4 sprigs of parsley
2 chicken breasts, bone in
8 cups water
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper (to taste)
1 (10 3/4oz) can condensed cream of celery soup


==

Get your veggies into a pot. 

Add a teaspoon of pepper and 2 quarts (8 cups) of water. 

Go ahead and cover the pot and cook on low until the chicken is ready to come in. You don't have to do this (you can just toss the chicken in with the veggies, together), I just did because I was experimenting a little to try to up the veggie flavor. 


==

In the meantime, get the dumplings together.

Add the flour, salt and baking soda to a food processor.


Pulse a few times to combine and add the shortening.


Pour the crumbly dough out onto the counter.

This part can get kind of messy and you can use a bowl for this, but I find it more of a pain to use the bowl. Personal preference on that one.

Make a well, like making pasta, and pour in the milk a little at a time until it's all incorporated. Add a few dustings of flour to get the texture right.

Knead as few times as possible to combine.


This is as combined as I went.


Split into 2 parts. You don't have to weigh it.


Roll each out to 1/16" thick.


Carefully transfer to a sheet pan lined with floured wax paper.


Do the same to the other one. They don't have to look pretty.


Toss the chicken in the pot with the veggies. I found that the broth was already very well developed as a vegetable stock, so I was ok with doing this in 2 parts.

It would be much faster just combining everything in the beginning but I wanted to test it. Science.


Let the chicken go for about an hour, until it's cooked through. I ended up adding some fresh parsley and thyme to the broth too.


After an hour, pull the chicken and remove the skin and bones. I tossed them back in the pot while the chicken cooled. About 15 minutes. 


Once your chicken has cooled, shred it with forks or by hand and store in the fridge until service.


==

Go ahead and strain all the solids from your soup. I let it go another hour because I had the time but you can strain it after the chicken is done, no problem.

Throw the strained broth back in the pot and add the can of cream of celery soup. Bring it to a boil.


Once it comes to a boil, adjust seasoning and add salt and pepper as you see fit.

You could actually add a little water if the broth is very strong. It won't hurt much as the dumplings will drink up a lot of the liquid.

Bring the broth to a rolling boil and ready the dumplings.


==

Get your sheets out and get a pizza cutter.


Cut them into strips then across the grain into rectangles.


Just gather them up and add to the broth a handful at a time.


Ensure that the broth maintains a boil as you're not supposed to stir AT ALL.

The reasoning here is that the dumplings will fall apart if you disturb them. Mine started sticking together and I GENTLY stirred them and didn't have any problems.

Cook them for 10 minutes. The goal is to get them done but not have them fall apart.


They'll start floating to the top. Try the keep them submerged with a slotted spoon  or something.


The starch from the dumplings will thicken the soup considerably. You may notice the level of the liquid drop dramatically from the dumplings soaking it up. It's ok. Add a bit water if you're seeing the level drop too much.


When your 10 minutes are up, serve by placing a handful of chicken in a bowl.


Ladle on the soup and dumplings. The ratio is up to you.

Serve with black pepper.

==

Overall, this was one of the better meals I've had/made in a while. It was deeply satisfying. The broth was so thick it was almost a gravy. The black pepper accentuated the very intense chicken flavor of the soup and the dumplings actually tasted good on their own! Usually they taste flat and useless. These were like flat, slick biscuits floating in chicken gravy. Delicious.

Next time I may add some water to make the soup go further. I don't think it would impact the flavor of the broth at all as it was very potent. Play with it and see what works for you!


Enjoy!

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