Is there a more quintessential comfort food than chicken and dumplings? Man, I really don’t think so. Say it to a lot of folks and instantly memories of grandmothers in warm kitchens with wonderful aromas flooding the house come to mind. Just typing this makes me want to run and reheat the leftovers from last night.
Now there are about as many recipes for chicken and dumplings as there are grandmothers out there. From what I’ve found, it breaks down into to major camps. Those that go the puffy, almost a biscuit route, and those that go the egg noodle route. And even within those two camps, there are differences over how the dumplings should be made. So please, no letters that this recipe isn’t really chicken and dumplings. 🙂
This one comes from the Slavic side of my family. The dumplings used are called Haluskis and they are used not only in this dish, but in chicken paprikash as well. Yes, I know. The Haluski or Halusky that you may remember was a cabbage and dumpling dish. The term Halusky or Haluski also applies to the soft dumplings themselves. And I know I’m sounding like a broken record, but they also vary from family to family. At the basic core, Haluskis are like a spaetzel, just a tad bigger. The differences come from how stiff the dough is. I encourage you to play with the Haluski recipe below by adding/removing an egg, more water, etc until you get the consistency your family likes and stick with that.
I’m not going to use a “formal” recipe here. Just pretend I’m your grandmother and you’re looking over my shoulder. Okay, now that we’ve washed that horrid visual out of our minds, let’s get started. First what we need to do is make the stock. You can skip this and use the boxed kind, but do not, repeat do NOT use chicken broth. Chicken broth is thinner, and lighter than stock. You want Chicken Stock. If you are using pre-made stock, skip ahead. If you are making your own: Add a little olive oil to the bottom of a large stock pot and place on medium high heat. Dice up 1 large onion, 4-5 carrots, 4-5 stalks of celery and ¼ of a fennel bulb. Just use the white bulb part, no fronds. Add everything to the pot. Stir this for a bit, don’t let it burn, but you do want some caramelization to happen. Once you get to that point, add in one whole cut up chicken, stir things around a bit, then add enough water to cover. Add in 3 bay leaves, and some thyme. Maybe a spring or two. You’re going to strain this, so leave them on the stem. Keep some water handy, and you will want to keep adding water as you go. Bring this to a good boil, then reduce to a point that it is just on the verge of boiling. Skim off the fat and scum that float to the surface and add water as needed. After about an hour, remove the chicken pieces and take the meat off the bone. Return the bones to the stock pot and put the meat in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a warm wet towel and set in the fridge when cool enough. Now, let the stock go for about 2 – 3 more hours. You want a deep rich color and flavor. Once done, pull out all the large stuff with a slotted spoon and discard. Take the stock then and strain it using a fine mesh strainer. Put this back in the pot and place back on a low heat. You should have around 6-7 cups of stock at this point. If you are using the box stock, put 6-7 cups of stock in the pot and you are now back in the game, so go back to paying attention. 🙂
Time to make a roux, or a mixture of a fat and flour. A roux, for those that may not know, is nothing more than a way to thicken a fluid. Reason why a roux is used, rather than just adding flour to the liquid has to do with lumps baby. Lumps suck, and that’s what you’ll get if you just add flour right to the soup. In simple terms, flour mixes with a fat easier than a plain liquid. So, take 4 tablespoons of butter and melt in a small sauce pot over medium low heat. After it’s melted, slowly stir in 4 tablespoons of flour.(A roux is always a 1:1 mix between fat and flour.) I’ve found a wooden spoon is best here. Keep stirring and moving the roux around until is just starts to get a little golden in color. Very slowly, start whisking in about a pint of cream. This should make a very thick, almost a béchamel, sauce. Add this to the stock pot and whisk until mixed. Note: If you are going to serve this family style at the table, put everything into a nice dutch oven. I only use the same stock pot so as to keep down dishwashing duties. The consistency and taste of the soup at this point should be what you are used to for chicken and dumplings. If to thin, add some more roux, if too thick add some stock. To the pot add 4 sliced carrots, a small bag of frozen corn, and the chicken from the fridge. Salt and pepper to taste, and turn heat down to a low. At this point, take a bag of frozen peas out of the fridge to defrost.
Dumpling time: Spot on easy this one. Again, adjust moisture to flour ratios if you want. For me, I’ve always started with 3 eggs, 3 cups flour, ½ to ¾ cup cold water and salt and pepper to taste. Mix the dough thoroughly, but do not beat it down. If you over knead it, the gluten produced will make the dumplings too tough. The dough should be like a half way between batter and bread dough. Place the dough on a board, and then using a knife cut bits and pieces into boiling water. Rinse the knife in the water after each cut to prevent sticking. When the dumplings float, remove them and add them to the stock pot/dutch oven.
Let this simmer away until the carrots are done, then add the bag of peas. This is just so much better when the peas have a little bite to them, and still have their deep green color at serving time. Speaking of serving, this is a very rich dish. It has basically everything in there, but I like to serve a side with it that will cut that richness a bit. Examples: Steamed asparagus, cucumber and onion salad, spinach with vinegar and pepper, etc.
Turns out this was a hard one to get “on paper.” I can make this in my sleep, but it was hard to put into quantitative terms. Play with it, let me know what you think.