Winter circled back around one more time to visit Colorado Springs. Dire predictions of a blizzard and warnings to stay off the road kept me inside. Well, that is not the only reason that I stayed inside—I also was stricken with a nasty flu. After several days of surviving on canned soups, I wanted some old-fashioned comfort food. I wanted chicken and dumplings.
Being sick, I was banned from making anything, lest I become our home's typhoid Mary. But I wrote down a shortcut version of the recipe for the acting cook to follow. I was afraid that the results would be less than comforting. However, with a little couch-cooking, it turned out excellent. Still rich and creamy, with comforting chicken flavor. It is such a quick recipe, I think it is a keeper for a week-day chicken and dumplings.
The challenge to making chicken and dumplings is always the dumplings. There are two types of dumplings: the flat type, which resembles thick noodles, and the round version. . It is a matter of preference as to which you want, but they play an important part of the soup. The flour from the dumplings helps thicken the broth.
What's the difference? The flat dumplings are made from stiffer rolled dough and then cut into shape. The round dumpling is made from a thick batter dropped by the spoonful into the broth. My experience in making chicken and dumplings is that the flat version will not thicken the broth as much as the round
My dumplings dissolved! What happened? One of my first attempts at making chicken and dumplings, all of my dumplings disappeared. The soup was rich and thick, but not a dumpling remained in the broth. I immediately called up my grandmother, the source of all my dumpling knowledge. After she stopped laughing, 5 minutes later, she asked me if the broth had been boiling when I dropped in the dumplings. It had not been. She may have had a good laugh, but I got some great tips for making dumplings that have helped ensure that my dumplings are delicious.
Start with boiling broth: Having the broth at a slow boil when you start dropping in the dumplings is the key to making the dumplings regardless of which type you are making. The high heat of the boiling liquid seals the dumpling into shape as soon as it hits the liquid.
Do not rush adding the dumplings: As the dumplings are added to the hot broth they will sink and then come back up to the top. Typically, I will add several at a time, wait the 30 seconds or some for them to start coming back up and then add more. Add another round of dumplings, then wait. I continue in the same way until all the dumplings are in the pot.
Keep the broth at a high simmer: Make sure to adjust the heat as you go to keep the broth between a simmer and slow boil. This will keep the dumplings intact.
Cover the pot and don't stir: Once the dumplings are in cover it, and here is the next important part, do not stir the pot for at least 15 minutes. After 15 minutes or so, uncover the soup and stir to separate the dumplings, if necessary. Let them continue to simmer until done.
Taste a dumpling: Gummy dumplings are undercooked dumplings. Pull one out of the broth after they have been simmering for 15 to 20 minutes. If it is still gummy in the center, let them keep cooking and try again in a few minutes.
Thicken, if needed: I typically make the round dumplings, and my broth thickens nicely. But after stir to separate the dumplings, if you want to make your broth thicker, that's when you want to do it. Adding a blond roux, flour or cornstarch dissolved into chicken broth, or a little heavy cream, will thicken a broth nicely.
Makes 4 servings
32 ounces chicken stock
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4- to 1/2 inch rounds
1 stalk celery, sliced thinly
1 medium onion, diced
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
In a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, add chicken stock, onions, celery, onion and chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook 20 to 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Using a fork to stir, mix in 1/2 cup milk to form a soft, but thick batter. Add up to 2 additional tablespoons of milk if batter is too thick.
Increase heat to bring broth to a low boil. Drop by the tablespoonful into simmering liquid. Keep the dumplings spaced apart to prevent them from sticking together. Continue to add dumplings until all batter is used.
Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir. Check dumpling for doneness by tasting or breaking one apart. If dumpling is gummy in the center, allow them to simmer 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Your Turn: What is your favorite comfort food recipe?