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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Southern-Style Chicken and Dumplings

A hot bowl of delicious!
 
What to do with leftover turkey? Well, one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner is the wonderful turkey stock you can make from the leftover turkey bones. Turkey stock isn't so much something you "make" as it is something you "do". To make the stock, make sure to remove any extra meat and save for use. Then hack down the turkey carcass into pieces that can fit in a large stock pot. Add a tablespoon of salt, a carrot, a stalk of celery, a half an onion and whatever herbs you may have leftover from your dinner. Fill with water and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for two or three hours. Once it's done, you can use for a quick and easy soup... or better yet, "chicken and dumplings".



Cold turkey stock. It has a runny gelatin consistency and there's a bit of fat I left when scooping it off the top.


So, Thanksgiving was last week and this post may not have made it in time. If you didn't make turkey stock, here's a couple of different options for the stock part of this:
  • Method 1: Put two whole chickens in a large stock pot with a tablespoon of salt, a few carrots, some celery, an onion, maybe a leek. Whatever you like. It isn't an exact science. Fill with water and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer for an hour. The meat will be falling off the bones. Debone as much as you can, then strain the stock and discard the remaining solids.
  • Method 2: Put 5 large chicken breasts (with skin and bone) into a large stock pot. Fill with 6 quarts of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Shred the meat and discard the skin and bones. (I'm a big fan of the Swanson broth)
Now that we've gotten the stock part of the way, let's move on to the important part. Chicken (or turkey) and dumplings.

I searched the interwebz high and low for a good chicken and dumplings recipe. There's the northern style with the nasty dropped biscuits. But the kind I love is the rolled kind that're fairly thin but have a bit of firmness to them. I tried a dozen recipes, but they were all soggy or too fluffy. I found post after post of people having the same problems, but no solution. Finally, I turned to the chicken and dumplings expert, my grandmother. Nobody makes them better than her. Why didn't I call her in the first place? Good question. Honestly, I just didn't think it would be that difficult. It would've saved me a ton of time and frustration.

So what in the heck is wrong with all the recipes? According to her in her heavy Texan accent, "y'all kids and yer interweb make everything so darned difficult." LOL. True. As it turns out, the secret is two ridiculously simple things: (1) Never use baking powder, they'll get fluffy which leads to soggy and (2) Thicken the stock before adding the dumplings. Once it's slightly thick, it won't make the dumplings soggy. What what? Srsly? All this time it was that simple? Yes. It was. And here's exactly how it's done. :)

Ingredients:
  • 2 gallons of chicken (or turkey) stock
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced (or diced)
  • 1 stock of celery, sliced (or diced)
  • 1 tbsp herbs de province (or whatever herbs you like)
  • 1/2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (plus 1/2 cup for rolling the dumplings)
  • 3/4 tsp salt (if using salted butter, omit this salt)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 cups of chicken (or turkey), approximately
Directions:
  1. Add the carrots, celery, herbs, onion powder to the stock and bring to a boil for 10 minutes to cook the carrot.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter and then add the flour to make a very thick roux. Whisk in the milk until smooth.
  3. While whisking the stock, pour the flour mixture into it. Leave on a low simmer to thicken while making the dumplings.
  4. To make the dumplings, mix 2 cups flour and 3/4 tsp salt.
  5. Using a pastry mixer (as pictured) or food processor, cut in the butter until mixture resembles course crumbs.
    
    
    Salt mixed in. About to cut in the butter with the pastry cutter.

    
    After pressing the pastry cutter the first time
    
    After about 20 passes with the pastry cutter, the butter is completely cut in and the dough has course crumbs
     
  6. Using a fork, gently stir in about half of the milk.
    
    How it looks after stirring in about half the milk
  7. Add the remaining milk and continue combining until it forms a dough.
    
    After all the milk is added, the mixture should stick together like a loose dough
  8. Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour on the counter to roll out the dumplings.
  9. Roll dumplings to between 1/8" and 1/4" thick. These dumplings will expand very little so the final dumplings will be more or less the same thickness that you roll them.
    
    Roll out to desired thickness
  10. Cut the dough into the size you desire. It doesn't really matter that much, it's a personal preference. I like mine about 1" square. Don't make them too large or they'll fall apart while cooking. If you pile them on a plate to transport them, make sure to put plenty of flour between them so they don't stick together. No need to shake the excess flour off. It'll help thicken the stock further.
    
    I made mine a little on the thin side. They would've been better just a smidge thicker.
  11. The broth should be thickened slightly and at a simmer.
  12. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper if necessary.
  13. Quickly drop the dumpings into the broth one or two at a time. They will sink to the bottom but will rise to the top as they are finished cooking.
    
    Dropping in a dumpling
  14. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes.
    
    They've floated to the top. All done!
  15. Spoon into bowls and serve.
    
    A hot bowl of delicious!
If you find it has thickened too much when you reheat the leftovers, you can thin with milk. Or water. But really, milk tastes better. :)

I hope you enjoy these as much as my family does!

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