Regional Soups is this month’s theme for Soup Saturday Swappers and this Chicken and Dumplings recipe is the quintessential East Tennessee soup. If you make good chicken and dumplings, your stock is high; if you know someone who makes good chicken and dumplings (and they like you enough to make some for you), you’re golden.
This month Ashley of Cheese Curd in Paradise is hosting the Regional Soups theme. In her instructions she wrote: “Share a recipe unique to your state, city, or even your neighborhood!”
Around these parts, Chicken and Dumplins is food currency. That is illustrated by when it graces the tables in the East Tennessee mountains. Chicken and Dumplins is served at Thanksgiving; it makes an appearance at Christmas; it is part of Easter feasts; it is Sunday dinner when the preacher comes to call. Chicken and Dumplins is funeral food (when someone passes and people bring food to the mourning family), and it is also the food that shows just who is most favored.
“I heard mama made Chicken and Dumplins for Jimmy for his birthday supper.” Shakes head, “Well, she always did love him best.”
Chicken and Dumplins equals special occasions, holidays, and celebrations. Chicken and Dumplins equals love.
When someone knows just the knack for making pillow-light dumplins, you know that’s a great cook. Now, I don’t claim to be one of those people, but I know a few. And I’ve begged to be taught. Maybe one of these days someone will take pity on me and give me a lesson in dumplin making. In the meantime, let me tell you some of the things I’ve learned, and share with you my current evolutionary stage in Chicken and Dumplin cooking.
The first thing is, you have to cook a whole chicken. This is not a recipe for pulling meat off of a store-bought rotisserie bird (although those do have their place elsewhere). The chicken needs to be about 4 pounds, and it needs to go into a pot covered with water along with some onion, celery, carrot, bay leaf, marjoram, sage and a bit of butter. And it needs to simmer. It needs to simmer until that chicken is falling apart tender.
Then, you need to pull the chicken out and let it cool. The next step is to carefully, selectively, pull that chicken; discarding the skin and the bones and any gristle and veins. Pure beautiful chicken is all you want going back in that pot.
For the dumplins, the trick is to use similar principles to biscuit making. And one of the most important things about a good biscuit is to not overwork the dough. The ingredients get mixed in a bowl, turned out on a heavily floured surface, kind of poked and pushed into shape, folded a time or two, poked back to the proper thinness, then cut. I had always cut my dumplins into little rectangular strips. But my friend Donna told me her mama uses a biscuit cutter, then quarters hers. So, that’s what I’ve done for this recipe.
When they are cooked in the chicken stock, they puff up, so you don’t want them too thick to start. Mine were a tad over 1/4 inch thick. Then, they go into the stock to simmer. And that’s it.
Of course, I’m sure my version needs correcting…and as I hone it, I’ll share it with you. But this is it. For now.
- FOR THE SOUP:
- 1 - 4 to 5 pound whole chicken
- 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced (about ½ cup)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1½ tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon marjoram leaves
- ½ teaspoon ground sage
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- enough water to cover the chicken
- FOR THE DUMPLINS:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground sage
- 2 teaspoons dry parsley flakes (optional)
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup water (or less)
- 2 large eggs
- extra flour for shaping and cutting
- In a large stockpot, add the chicken and enough water to cover it.
- Then add the onion, celery, carrots, butter, salt, marjoram, sage and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for a couple of hours.
- When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and onto a large cutting board to cool enough to handle.
- Carefully pull the meat, removing and discarding skins, bones, gristle and any veins.
- Place the pulled chicken meat back into the stockpot.
- FOR THE DUMPLINS:
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sage and parsley flakes (if using).
- Stir with a fork to mix.
- Add the vegetable oil and stir to combine.
- Slowing drizzle in a bit of water at a time, stirring between additions (you may not need all the water), just until you have a dough that begins to pull from the sides of the bowl.It will be a little bit tacky to the touch. Do not over work.
- Dump the dough onto a heavily floured surface and dust the top with a bit of flour.
- Using the tips of your fingers, push the dough into a round. Gently fold the dough a couple of times, pressing back into a round.slightly thicker than ¼ inch. Do not over work.
- Using a 2½ inch circle cutter, cut the dough into rounds and then quarter the circle, setting aside the quartered dumpling pieces; repeating this until all the dough is used.
- Bring the stock back to a boil. Add the dumplings, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the dumplings are tender, about 25 minutes (they will puff when cooking),
- Taste and adjust the seasonings with additional salt and pepper, as needed.
- Serve hot.
Be sure to check out the other Regional Soups posted by fellow Soup Saturday Swappers linked below: