With fall’s arrival just a few days ago, it’s safe to say that comfort food weather is well underway. Sure, it’s still above 80 during the day, but the evenings are getting cooler, quieter and the sun is setting just a little earlier every night. Cozy nights at home mean cozy meals; it’s the perfect time to break out the crock pot or the giant chili cauldron and get to cooking. A cozy fall tradition around our house? Chicken and dumplings.
As with many traditional recipes, everyone’s got their own way of navigating chicken and dumplings. Some people swear by boiling an entire chicken; other people use a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Some love thick, noodle-like dumplings; others like their dumplings light and fluffy. Growing up, Mom’s chicken and dumplings recipe was a torn and tattered page out of a Southern Living magazine from who knows when, which flawlessly combined some old-school methods – like boiling a whole chicken – with more user-friendly twists – like simple, quick-drop dumplings.
Me being me (hi, have we met?), I took Mom’s recipe and made my own, “this-is-2010-and-I’m-a-damn-busy-woman” version, without sacrificing the flavor or the traditional essence of a good pot of chicken and dumplings.
I began by combining chicken stock with water, and added aromatics to the pot to enhance the overall flavor; things like celery tops, garlic, onion, parsley and thyme. Once the broth was nice and boiling, I added chicken tenders to the pot, allowing them to mix and mingle with the aromatics as they boiled. I found that chicken tenders provide flavor to the broth and a good amount of quality meat to the end product, and I don’t have to stress over boiling and dismantling an entire chicken. Don’t care for tenders? Try whole chicken breasts, or even boneless thighs, for those dark meaters out there.
So we’ve got broth. We’ve got chicken. What’s left? Dumplings, of course! Around here, we like our dumplings light and fluffy – and gigantic. I’ve found that a prepared baking mix, like Bisquick or Jiffy, provides the fluffiest dumpling. Of course, you can always make them from scratch, using flour, buttermilk and Crisco or butter. Or you could make them with a pie crust dough, which yields a super dense, chewy dumpling. The choice is yours! Mind you, my dumplings are so fluffy, they’re pretty short lived; if you have any leftovers, be prepared to discover the next day that your dumplings have disappeared and turned your dish into a creamy (and rather delicious) chicken soup. The dumplings are best when they’re right off the stove.
A recent addition to my chicken and dumplings is a bag of frozen peas and carrots. Wait a second, is that a scowl I’m seeing? Come on, now! There’s nothing wrong with frozen vegetables, especially if they add a little color (and a trivial amount of nutrition) to an otherwise colorless dish. Get creative here – maybe add corn, or baby broccoli crowns – or heck, baby corn! There isn’t much out there that would ruin a good pot of chicken and dumplings, I’m pretty certain.
So when the thermometer dips below 50 in the weeks to come, reach for this recipe as a satisfying, tummy-warming meal. You’ll love it, I promise. Enjoy!
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Chicken & Dumplings
4 c. chicken stock
8 c. water
Tops off 1 head of celery
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 onion, halved
1/2 c. parsley
4 thyme sprigs
1 1/2 lb. chicken tenders
1 c. frozen peas and carrots
For the Dumplings:
2 c. Bisquick (or other baking mix)
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
2/3 c. milk
1 Tbs. parsley, finely chopped
In a large soup pot, combine the chicken stock, water, celery, garlic, onion, parsley, thyme and chicken tenders over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for at least half an hour, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the stock ingredients have softened.
Remove the chicken and set aside. Pour the stock through a fine mesh sieve and discard the stock ingredients. Return the stock to the pot and bring to a simmer.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the Bisquick, seasoning, milk and parsley with a spoon until thoroughly mixed and sticky. Drop spoonfuls of the dumpling dough into the simmering stock, cover the pot, and cook for about six to eight minutes until the dumplings are cooked through.
Shred the chicken and return it to the pot. Add the peas and carrots and cook until warmed through. Serve.
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