Monday, May 21, 2012

Chicken & Dumplings

It is only right and proper that I begin with the ultimate in Southern food.  My husband swears when I make this that it is his absolute favorite thing I cook, though I'm pretty sure he says that about everything I make, so I can't be sure.  Please remember that I am never going to be cooking for less than four people, and sometimes as many as 8, with the hope of leftovers.  My typical pot of choice for this is my largest silver stock pot with the thick bottom.  Those cheapie thin bottom stock pots have issues with burning whatever you cook, no matter how careful you are to stir frequently.  Also, my chicken and dumplings is a full MEAL, and I make it with some veggies, just to make sure my kids get something decently healthy in their bodies, whether they like it or not.

Here goes:

Chelsea's Chicken & Dumplings

2.5 pounds chicken (I prefer breast meat or tenders, use what you like)
14 to 18 chicken bouillon cubes
14 to 18 cups water
1 bag shredded carrots
1 bag frozen southern hash brown potatoes
Dash of lemon juice
Cavender's Greek Seasoning to taste (this is the most important part!)


6 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
9 tbsp shortening
2 cups milk

I start the chicken first.  Add 14 cups of water and bouillon cubes, lemon juice, and a healthy sprinkling of the Cavender's to your stock pot with the chicken and carrots, and boil for about 15 minutes.  Turn it down to a simmer and pull out your chicken (Do NOT use your hands - use a slotted spoon!).  Slice or shred it up depending on your preference (I always remove every last bit of chicken fat, because I just can't stand biting into it) and put it back in the simmering juice.  While it simmers, make your dumplings.

Dumplings:  Mix your flour, soda, and salt together.  I sometimes add black pepper if I'm feeling it, since it gives it a nice flavor.  Sometimes I toss some Cavender's in there, and sometimes I do it exactly like it says above.  Once your dry ingredients are mixed, cut your shortening in.  I use a fork and just make it crumble nicely.  Add your milk and mix.  At this point I usually have to stick my hands in there and knead it like I'm making bread.  Once you get a nice dough, roll it out flat on your flour-dusted cutting board and slice your dumplings.  I have a small countertop, so I do it half at a time.  As I finish cutting them, I feed them into my simmering pot.  The whole process of the dumplings takes the longest, so you will likely be simmering for close to an hour by the time you finish.  As you drop them in, you will have to stir everything up so they don't stick together.

Once all of your dumplings are in the pot, your soup should be thickened from the extra flour that was added from rolling your dumplings.  You shouldn't need extra, in fact, you may need to add those other four cups of water and bouillon cubes to the mix if too much of your liquid has boiled off.  You can add that at any time, or not if you don't need it.  Just remember to keep it as an option.  Not every meal will come out the same way every time. 

If you want potatoes in there (and we love potatoes at my house), toss that bag of the pre-cut ones in now.  I sometimes cook up fresh ones, but this is the fastest way, and chicken & dumplings can be a bit time consuming already.  Keep stirring after you toss them in, and turn your pot back up to about a medium high, unless your stove cooks really hot, then you might want it at medium so you don't burn the rest.  Once it bubbles a bit (not a full boil, mind), turn it back down to low.  This is when I taste-test a spoonful.  Sometimes I need to add another dash of lemon juice, sometimes it needs a bit more Cavender's.  You decide.  Once you have your seasonings just right, put your lid on and turn it back down to low.  Simmer for 10 minutes, and you have a fantastic meal, chock full of yummy potatoes and carrots and chicken and tons of dumplings.  And that's doing it my way.  If you have any questions, let me know.  I'll be happy to answer any that you have.

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