Southern style chicken and dumplings are a classic comfort food that both my husband and I grew up on. In fact, in my husband’s family, everyone gets together on Christmas eve where it’s a tradition to have a tamale and chili dinner. Along with that dinner it is always requested that Nanny make her chicken and dumplings – and you’d better be at the front of the line to get them or there’s not a chance you’ll get a bowl! Years ago when Nanny gave me her recipe, she insisted that they have to be made in an oval cast aluminum Dutch oven like hers. (I think it’s a Turquoise Club Aluminum Cookware Oval Roaster).
You would think that our mothers and grandmothers had very similar recipes, but they don’t. Both families make rolled dough dumplings, however one family makes biscuit-style dumplings with a basic biscuit dough recipe and rolls them out and drops chunks of biscuit into the boiling chicken broth, which will puff the dough into big pillowy dumplings, like the recipe I have here. The other family makes a dough that’s more noodle-like and cut into strips or squares and when dropped into boiling broth will stay fairly flat and be slightly chewy. I really like both recipes, but I grew up on the latter version and these happen to be my very favorite.
Although this is a “chicken” and dumpling recipe, I happened to have a turkey carcass that I saved from Easter in my deep freeze, along with leftover breast meat. It all froze very nicely and came in handy for this recipe. Honestly, I like turkey and dumplings even better because the turkey makes such a tasty broth.
If you have a turkey carcass from a roasted dinner or even a rotisserie chicken carcass leftover, keep the bones in a zip top freezer bag in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. I don’t even defrost mine, I just cut open the bag and place them in a deep baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil and roast the bones at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. This is not mandatory, but does give the broth and extra depth of flavor.
Now pile all the roasted bones in a stock pot and fill to cover with cold water.
With the bones I add 1 quartered onion, 1 head of garlic halved, 2 or so carrots chunked, 2 or three stalks of celery, salt, pepper and ground nutmeg. Don’t worry about peeling and dicing, you’ll be straining this broth through a fine mesh colander. I’m telling you, this makes the most delicious broth and can be used for all kinds of soups and stews!
Note: If you want to skip the homemade broth, you can use pre made chicken broth. May favorite is Kitchen Basics.
Also, when making the dough, just bring all of the ingredients together into a firm ball. There’s no need for a lot of mixing and kneading.
The idea is to get the dough rolled out thin – about 1/4 of an inch and cut into strips or squares. I like to use a pizza cutter for this step, however a sharp knife will do fine.
- Homemade Chicken Broth:
- 6 split chicken breasts
- 4 quarts water
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
- 1 head garlic, cut in half
- 2 stalks celery cut into large chunks
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- For the Dumplings:
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup reserved chicken broth, cooled
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- For the Finished Soup:
- 10 to 12 cups chicken broth (reserve 1 cup for dumplings)
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoons kosher salt, to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 to 6 cups cooked chicken, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups half and half
- For the Broth: Place chicken in a large soup pot and cover with water.
- Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
- Cook over medium heat for about 45 minutes or until chicken is very tender.
- Remove chicken to a platter and set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, bring chicken broth to a boil, then lower heat and reduce the broth to about 10 cups.
- When chicken is cool enough to handle, chop into bite sized pieces; set aside.
- For the dumplings: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper; whisk to combine.
- Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a fork or pastry blender and mix until crumbly.
- Stir in cooled chicken broth and continue to blend until the dough forms a ball.
- On a heavily floured work surface, roll out dough to about ¼ inch thickness.
- Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dumplings into 1 ½ to 2 inch squares.
- Place dumplings on a floured plate and generously dust the tops of the dumplings with flour while piling them onto the plate to prevent sticking.
- Finish the soup: Bring the finished broth to a rolling boil.
- Drop the dumplings in one at a time, letting them sink into the broth.
- Reduce heat to medium-high and cover with a tight fitting lid and cook the dumplings at a medium boil for about 20 minutes. (The soup should have thickened slightly into a thin “gravy” with the additional flour on the dumplings.)
- After dumplings have cooked, stir in the half and half; heat to a low boil and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. (If soup is too thin, make a slurry by whisking together 4 tablespoons flour with 4 tablespoons water until smooth – stir in slurry a little at a time until the soup thickens to the desired consistency. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes after adding.)
- Stir in the cooked chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately.