My maternal Grandma taught me one way to make chicken and dumplings—with biscuit like dumplings cooked ever so gently on top of pieces of chicken in the stew pot and my mother-in-law and her mother taught me another way of doing it. I like both methods, but I’ve made far more Chicken ‘n’ Dumplin’s the Southern way and everyone who’s tried them seems to like them, so I’m sharing this recipe with you.
Since I was taking half of this recipe to a friend who just had a baby, I made a BIG pot-full. This is great comfort food to make up and freeze a portion for later use, or to invite friends and family to join you for supper. The recipe can be cut in half if you prefer.
I started with a large (large) pot (it’s really a canning pot for about 7 quart jars, but I use it more often than not for cooking large stews, soups, gumbo, etc. rather than for canning). To that pot I added about 3 quarts of water, one large peeled onion and one unpeeled carrot (minus the top.) If I’d had a few stalks of celery they’d have joined the other two veggies as well. Flavor is why we cook them with the chicken. (We do remove them before adding the dumplin’s.)
Next I cut a whole chicken hen in two and added that to the pot along with 2 additional large chicken breast halves—with bones and skin. The reason you want to use a whole chicken—bones, skin and fat—is because of flavor. You can use skinless, boneless chicken pieces if you want, you’ll just miss out on the exceptionally good flavor they cannot provide. You could add some chicken base to ramp up the flavor, if you choose, after the chicken is cooked. (IF you use chicken base or bullion cubes, follow directions on the label.) You might have noticed that I didn’t mention the addition of salt yet. That’s because if you add salt and then need to add chicken base or bullion cubes—well, you just probably won’t want all that extra salt! And bullion cubes are far saltier than the chicken base.
These are some of the ingredients I used. (Sorry I didn't get smart enough to photograph everything.)
Bring the ingredients to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes or until well done. Chicken is done when a thigh or breast is fork-tender and/or the leg joints begin to come loose. When the chicken is done, remove it (and the carrot and onion) to a colander placed over a bowl so it can cool—and you can catch the juices as they drain out and eventually return them to the pot. At this point I strain the stock just made in order to remove any tiny bones, skin or other yucky items to improve the nature of the stock. Do this carefully. The stock is very hot at this point. I use a large strainer set over a large bowl and dip the broth out with a ladle, small pan or glass measuring cup and pour it through the strainer till everything that shouldn’t remain in the broth is removed. (Discard that yucky stuff.)
Return the chicken stock to the pot and simmer. I ended up with about 1 gallon of stock. To that stock I whisked in 4 cans (10 ¾ oz. each) of Campbell’s brand condensed cream of chicken soup. It does make a bit of difference to me, because different soup brands use different formulas (recipes) so yours might not taste exactly like mine if you use a different brand. But don’t let that stop you! It’ll be good anyway!
While the stock is beginning to simmer and the chicken is cooling, it’s time to make the dumplin’s. Start with 3 cups of plain flour and 1 ½ teaspoons of salt. Stir those together then add 1 cup of milk and ¼ cup of vegetable oil. Stir the ingredients into a soft ball. It should be kind of like biscuit dough. Knead it gently till it’s smooth. Flour a flat surface and pinch off a portion of the dough roughly the size of ½ cup. Work it in your hands till it resembles a smooth ball. Pat it flat on the floured surface, then roll it out with a floured rolling pin till the dough is very thin. Then using a sharp knife, cut the dough into about 1 ½ to 2 inch squares. Drop them into the bubbling broth/soup mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon. Repeat the process until all your dough has been added to the broth. Stir from time to time to keep the dumplin’s from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
You might need to add hot water (about 1 cup at a time) to keep the soup level constant. It will take about an hour to cook dumplin’s. While they cook at a simmer, remove the skin, bones and other undesirable material from the chicken. This stuff makes for good flavor, but you don't want to leave it in! Get rid of it! Thank you.
If you freeze or refrigerate leftover chicken and dumplin’s, you’ll probably need to add a little water because the dumplin’s will absorb a lot of water from the broth.
Chicken and Dumplin’s Recipe
3 quarts water
1 large onion, pealed
1 large carrot, minus top
1 whole chicken, cut in half
2 large chicken breasts with skin and bones
4 (10 ¾ oz.) cans Campbell Cream of Chicken soup
3 cups of flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
Simmer vegetables and chicken about 45 minutes, or until tender. Remove chicken and vegetables from stock. Strain stock. Let chicken cool.
Whisk canned Cream of Chicken soup into broth. Keep simmering on medium heat while making dumplin’ dough.
Combine flour and salt. Stir in milk and oil. Mix until dough is smooth, resembling biscuit dough. Knead dough on floured surface until it becomes a smooth ball. Pinch off about ½ cup of dough and make a small smooth ball. Flatten the ball on the floured surface and roll very thin with rolling pin. Slice into 1 ½ to 2 inch squares. Drop them into the simmering broth. Continue till all the dough is rolled out, cut and dropped into the broth. Stir occasionally to keep dumplin's from sticking on the bottom.
Cook at a simmer while deboning chicken. Add broken chicken pieces, continuing to simmer and stir until dumplin’s are cooked thoroughly.