Saturday, December 18, 2010

Favorite Chicken and Dumplings

It's getting cooler here in Texas. There are some places in the U.S where you can eat soups and stews year round. Texas is not one of those. The window for great warm foods is pretty small here otherwise you end up sweating the whole time you are eating. Christmas time is usually a good time to have some wonderful comfort foods, and this is one of my favorites.

One of the best parts about this recipe is that it is super easy, yet really delicious. I am going to put step by step directions along with pictures to make it even easier.

These are the ingredients. Then I will explain some different ways you can fix them.

5 cups of chicken stock
1 whole chicken or at least six breast or thighs
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 Tbs of baking powder
1 TBs Kosher salt
1/2 Tb freshly ground blk pepper
1 cup of heavy cream
2 stalks of celery
1/2 onion
3 carrots
thyme, fresh is best, but I usually use dried about 2Tbs

You can get your chicken several ways. If you do not like to cook whole chickens you can do parts, but the flavor is not as good and you probably really can't get good chicken stock that way. If you choose to do pieces you may have to also do chicken boullion to get all of the required stock. If you choose to do a whole chicken you also have options. The easiest quickest way is to buy a rotisserie chicken. They are already seasoned and cooked. You can bring them home, pick the meat off the bones, have no innards to get rid of, and then boil your carcass to get your stock. If you want to go the more economical route buy your own whole chicken, thaw it, get your innards out, throw in stock pot and boil for several hours under the meat is falling off the bone.
This is how your chicken should look after it has cooked and is ready to be picked off the bone.

Once it is cool enough you can start shredding the meat , being careful to look for little bones that sometimes splinter off during cooking. Also you will have some skin from your chicken, just pick off and throw away. Put all your shredded meat in a bowl and put aside. Then I strain the juice of my chicken stock to get all the filmy stuff out. Measure out your cups of stock. If you still have stock left over do not throw it out! Freeze it to use for soups or other meals. I pour some into ice trays. Once it is frozen I pop the little cubes into a freezer ziplock and can use cubes as needed.

Now you are ready to make your dumplings. Mix together your flour, baking powder,salt, and pepper in a big mixing bowl. Add your heavy cream and mix until thick and sticky. I have never made this recipe that I didn't have to add more cream. It is a really dense dough and does not stick together well.

This is a picture so you can see how it looks. I added probably a half of a cup to a cup more cream then it called for because even with kneading I can not get it to stick together without adding more. Play with it until you get it right. Once it starts sticking together really good, roll it out on a floured surface. Warning: your hands will get a work out kneading this dough, it is thick. You also will use a lot of arm muscle rolling it out. It needs to be no more than about 1/16th of an inch thick. This sounds really thin, but trust me if you roll it out thicker your dumplings will come out of your pot.
Roll them out thin and small, 1 by 1 inch squares. The dumplings are the longest part of the whole process, but also the best.

After this you are going to chop up your celery, carrots, and onion and add them and your thyme to your stock. Reheat over medium heat until boiling. Add your dumplings to boiling stock, cover and simmer for about twenty minutes. Note: if your pot is almost full before you put in your dumplings get a bigger pot. I can't say enough how much the dumplings rise. After this you add your chicken and salt and pepper until hot and then you eat!

Enlisting super heros to help out never hurts!

Your finished product!

 Another great twist on this recipe we have tried is grilling a whole chicken all day to use. It gives the meat a smoky flavor that is really nice, but it does involve more time of course. Vary it up and enjoy. Having a warm bowl of this next to a nice fire is the best way we have found.

Also we have a family of four. This recipe will usually feed all of us with a little bit left over, however you may want to double the recipe if you want left overs to feed everyone the next day or if you have a larger family. This means two whole chickens instead of one so keep in mind the size of your family or how much they eat.

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