Chicken and dumplings can be grouped with mashed potatoes, meatloaf and mac-n-cheese when it comes to comfort food staples. Comfort foods have long been served at family dinner tables, and in recent years have moved to the forefront on menus at trendy restaurants. These foods are typically given a modern or unique spin in restaurants, but sometimes they're simply left in their classic form for a new generation of diners seeking comfort in their dining experience. Chicken and dumplings is a classic Southern comfort food dish, and it fits the bill as a great home-cooked meal or fashionable menu item du jour.
Cooking the Chicken
In order to make perfect chicken and dumplings, you need to start off with the perfect chicken. There are many ways you can prepare a succulent and juicy chicken, but Martha Stewart recommends starting with whole chicken, cut into parts by your local butcher, and boiling it with carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper. The meat will fall off the bone, and you'll have a great homemade chicken stock to work with. Celebrity TV chef Tyler Florence thinks that oven-roasting a whole chicken that's been rubbed with herb butter is the way to go. In this case, a 375-degree Fahrenheit (190.5-degree Celsius) oven will roast a three-pound chicken to perfection in about an hour. Once it's cooked, just pull the chicken from the bone and shred it for the dumpling dish. Common spices used for the chicken include rosemary, sage, thyme or poultry seasoning, and salt and pepper.
Cooking the Dumplings
After you get your chicken just right, the dumplings are cooked in a chicken stock. If you've used the boil method for cooking your chicken, then you have your stock ready to go. If not, you'll need to make your stock separately. If you've roasted your chicken, you can use the drippings from the roasting pan to help flavor your stock. Using chicken bones in addition to garlic, celery, carrots and the same spices you use to cook the chicken is another way to coax more flavors from your stock -- just remember to remove the bones once it's finished. You'll make your dumplings from flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, butter and milk or buttermilk. The basic ingredients are rolled into doughy balls about the same consistency as a thick cake batter. Once they're rolled and ready to go, just drop them into your chicken stock and boil until they're cooked through. To test the dumplings, run a skewer or a toothpick through one. When it comes out clean, it's ready.
Sauce and Finishing Touches
Some people like a thicker sauce for their chicken and dumplings recipe. Using the chicken stock, add some flour, heavy cream and butter once the dumplings are cooked. This will thicken the sauce into more of a gravy-like consistency. Add in the shredded chicken and cooked dumplings, along with some green peas, diced carrots and celery, and let it all cook together over low heat for about 20 minutes. The final result will be the perfect chicken and dumplings.