Dumplings

For a rich flavor and velvety texture, start with a whole young chicken, wet chicken base and cream of chicken soup. (Stacey Little/Southern Bite)

I’m not sure what it is about a big ol’ pot of chicken and dumplings, but sometimes there’s just nothing that fills your stomach and warms your soul quite like it. It’s got to be one of my favorite comfort foods. And while there are plenty of shortcuts out there (and y’all know I love a shortcut), sometimes you want the old-school, authentic favorite. This is that recipe. Though I do offer up a few shortcuts in the post, I just can’t help myself.

Let’s get started.

Over the years, I’ve learned that nothing is more important about chicken and dumplings than getting your stock right. It’s got to have that super rich flavor and velvety texture.

To do that, I start with a whole young chicken. The bones help richen the broth, so I always use a whole chicken. Opting for a young chicken means the meat will be super tender and since they’re smaller, they’ll cook faster.

To add even more flavor, I use one heaping tablespoon of a wet chicken base like “Better Than Bouillon.” If you don’t have that, three chicken bouillon cubes will work as well.

And as one final punch of flavor, I add a can of cream of chicken soup. This step is certainly optional but highly recommended. It helps to thicken the stock some and adds some great flavor.

I also like for my stock to be a little thick, so I add a cornstarch slurry to thicken it up a bit. This step is also optional. Simply whisk three tablespoons of cornstarch into about 1/4 cup of cool water and then whisk that into the stock. When you bring the stock to a boil, it will thicken up and give it a velvety texture.

Now let’s talk dumplings.

If you are short on time, you can absolutely snag some store-bought dumplings that are delicious. Mary B’s frozen dumplings are probably my favorite. While they’re not my preference, even canned biscuits will work in a pinch. With those, I suggest getting the ones with the flaky layers and then separating the layers and adding them individually to the stock.

But when you want authentic Chicken and Dumplings, you need to make your own. And they’re really not that hard. I start with two level cups of all-purpose flour. (Quick note about measuring flour: stir the flour with a fork, then spoon the flour into a dry-measure measuring cup, and level off.) All-purpose flour produces a thick, dense dumpling that has an almost al dente pasta texture. That being said, if you like lighter, fluffier dumplings, you can use self-rising flour instead. The denser, all-purpose-flour-based dumplings are what I’m used to and I find them much easier to work with when rolling them out and cutting them. The self-rising flour ones also tend to break up in the stock if they’re stirred too much.

Speaking of cutting them, once you get the dough rolled out to about 1/8 inch, I use a pizza cutter to make cutting them into strips, then into individual dumplings, super easy.

Regardless of the exact method, Chicken and Dumplings are one dish I think everyone needs to try at least once. Hopefully, with this recipe, we can make sure of that. Y’all enjoy.

Old-Fashioned Southern Chicken and Dumplings

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Serves: 4 to 5

Ingredients

  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) whole young chicken
  • 3 ribs celery, each cut into 3 large pieces
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base (like Better Than Bouillon) or 3 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (see note)
  • 3/4 cup ice water
  • 1 (10.5-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch (optional)

Instructions

  1. Remove the neck and innards (if included) from the chicken and discard. Place the chicken in the bottom of a large stock pot. Add the celery, onion, chicken base, salt and pepper. Add enough water to just cover the chicken – about 12 cups. Place over medium heat and cook the chicken at a low boil for an hour or until the meat begins to fall off the bone.
  2. Remove the chicken from the stock and set aside. Remove the onion and celery from the pot with tongs, a strainer or by pouring the stock through a fine mesh sieve.
  3. Make the dumplings by placing the flour in a medium bowl. Add the cold water and stir with a fork until combined. The dough will be shaggy. Use your hands to work the dough until it forms together. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times to ensure everything is combined. Dust flour under the dough and on top; then use a rolling pin to roll the dough until it’s about 1/8-inch thick. Turn the dough in a clockwise motion periodically to ensure it’s not sticking to the surface. Add flour under or on top, if necessary.
  4. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 1-inch strips; then cut each strip into about 2-inch lengths. Allow the dumplings to rest.
  5. Once cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the chicken and shred. Discard the bones and skin. Set the meat aside.
  6. Return the stock to medium-high heat. Add the cream of chicken soup and whisk to combine. Add salt and pepper gradually to taste. I’ve used as much as 1 additional tablespoon of salt in this step. It’s important to get the stock seasoned well before adding the dumplings. If you prefer a thicker broth, whisk together 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of cool water to form a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the broth and bring to a boil to thicken.
  7. Bring the broth to a rolling boil. Add the dumplings to the stock one at a time, dropping them into the broth and not on top of one another. Stir gently. Once all of them are added, cook them for about 5 minutes or until they are tender and begin to float. Gently add the chicken to the pot and stir to combine. Cook long enough for the chicken to heat through.

Stacey Little writes recipes for SouthernBite.com and ”The Southern Bite Cookbook.”

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