Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

This is one of my favorite comforting meals from childhood. My mother makes hers differently than the traditional puffy biscuit-like dumplings. Instead, her dumplings (which she buys frozen) are essentially glorified pasta slices. When I would ask why she didn't make her dumplings "the right way", she would respond by describing traditional dumplings as "chunks of dough wads."

Maybe she knows, maybe she doesn't- describing any food product as a "chunk" or a "wad" will make it thoroughly and forever unappetizing. To this day, I have never tasted chunky dumpling wads.

I make my dumplings with all-purpose flour, eggs, water, sea salt, black pepper, and Herbes de Provence. I don't use an exact recipe- I work by the feel and taste of the dough, and the amounts change based on how much you want to make and the humidity of the day. I snapped only a couple of dumpling-making photographs (my body was enveloped in flour).

This is a basic recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour
Sea salt to taste
A few grinds of black pepper
Herbes de Provence
2 eggs

In a large bowl, season the flour to taste. You must be able to taste the salt- I have made this mistake many times. If the dumplings are not salty enough before you cook them, you will never be able to appropriately salt the dish. Form a well in the flour, crack the eggs into it, and slowly incorporate. Once the eggs and flour are thoroughly mixed, sprinkle the dough with water and continue to mix, adding more water as needed until everything comes together. The dough should be easy to work with, but not too sticky. Knead the dough with a series of folds, adding more flour as needed. I kneaded mine for about 45 minutes- an excellent hand workout!

The purpose for working the dough so long is to pack in as much flour as possible and to form gluten- if these are achieved, then the dumplings will be more noodle-like and less doughwad-like. You can tell you are getting close when the dough is no longer sticky and when it will thoroughly stretch without breaking.

The more flour, the better. Any excess flour on the dumplings will help to thicken the overall product.

Form the finished dough into a disc, seal into plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours.

Roux time! This dish requires a white roux, so essentially the flour/fat mixture will be heated until just blended but not darkened. I use butter for this roux; as there is very little heating involved before adding liquids, there is no risk of burning the butter solids. You could use oil, but I feel that butter imparts a better flavor in this dish.

Starting with a single ladle, whisk homemade chicken stock into the roux. Once all of the stock is incorporated, taste for salt and pepper and alter as needed. You can further flavor the dish with white wine and/or cognac.

Slice the chilled dumpling dough into quarters and roll them out evenly and thinly on a heavily floured surface.

Slice and set aside, making sure that each dumpling is dusted with flour.

One-by-one, drop the dumplings into the gently boiling stock (this prevents sticking).

Once the dumplings are cooked, add the baked chicken.

Just before serving, I like to add fresh peas and chopped fresh parsley.

Serve and enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I want some chicken and dumplings for breakfast tomorrow! YUM!!! I like that you make them thin and pasta-like (the big gooey ones are gross).