So you’ve heard it all before. The best chicken and dumplings. So why am I boldly claiming that I am making the best chicken and dumplings?
Let me show you.
Cooking certain foods can be a labor of love. How many times have I either said, or heard, “it was made with love.” Well, love means “your efforts”. This recipe is not a quick meal. It can be, if you prepare the day before by making the stock. However, there are still techniques that change your soup from being really good, to having people, many people, (I am not bragging but maybe a little bragging to get my point across) tell you that they have never had a better bowl of chicken and dumplings. Now that, my friends, is like music to my soul.
I tend to be a giving person. I love to do nice things for others. It just warms my heart. Cooking is my passion, where I get to create and challenge myself. I create food and give it away. It brings me much joy. If someone is sick, or just had surgery, chicken and dumplings. Death in the family, chicken and dumplings. Today I am cooking for friends at church that just had a baby. What a blessing! Babies are exciting, especially when you are not the one that has to change diapers, get up all night long, and the many other sacrifices associated with being a parent. Today we celebrate because it’s fun to celebrate, in my opinion. It’s always fun to celebrate.
There are a few things that I have learned about the perfect soup.
- You must develop the flavors of the meat and vegetables
- You must not over cook the meat until it is a million shreds, or dry and hard to chew.
- Never cook your potatoes in hot water. Potatoes have to start with cold water to keep them in the intended chunks.
- Don’t add the milk or cream until the very end. It will burn and give you all sorts of troubles.
First thing is first. You want to develop the flavors of the chicken. I do this by searing the chicken in the pan first. I do not add any herbs at this time, only salt and pepper. The herbs tend to burn when you are searing meat.
Searing is easy. You get the pan very hot, add your oil, then put the meat in and let it cook until it is golden brown. Then you flip it. Searing is so important when you cook meat. It creates a very juicy finish. Meat that melts in your mouth. It also puts that carmel flavor in the bottom of your pan like here in my picture. That is where so much flavor comes from.
Once they the chicken is seared, they are done for now. They will not be cooked through but that is just fine. We are going to finish cooking them later. Their only job, for the time being, is to give the flavor to the pan, and by searing, you are locking in the juices, to create very, tender chunks of meat. I take the chicken out and place it onto my soup plate.
Next, you want to take full advantage of those pan drippings to develop the flavors in your vegetables. I diced celery, carrots and onions then threw them in the same grease from the seared chicken. Then I sauté them until they are also golden brown. That releases the sugars and then caramelizes the sugars for a more intense flavor.
Now you are ready to make the perfect potato. Have you ever cooked something with potatoes just to have them turn to mush? That is because you are starting them in warm, or hot, water. I have learned to treat my potatoes very delicately. It only takes a little bit of effort to do so, and the reward is really amazing hunks of potatoes, or mashed potatoes that are not water logged.
I deglaze my pan by adding cold chicken stock, or today I had turkey stock. I also add ice cubes to ensure my water is good and cold. The pan was just searing and blazing hot, so ice cubes are very effective. Then I throw those cubed potatoes into the iced broth.
At this point you want to make sure your broth is very flavorful. Potatoes really use up a lot of salt and flavor. If you do not season them well, you will be doomed to never having enough salt and flavoring. So, taste your broth now, or when it starts to heat up again, to ensure it has plenty of salt and pepper. I also have a few ingredients I will never leave out: Dill and Tarragon. I love sage and chives in my dumplings too. But I feel that it is not the same without dill and tarragon. I grow and dry my own but these are inexpensive herbs to find in the dollar section of your grocery. Sometimes tarragon is harder to find. Tarragon has a really hardy flavor so go easy on it at first. Just a pinch. It compliments creamy soups and completely worth trying.
Also, make sure you scrape the tidbits off the bottom of the pan after the liquids have been added
Now put the chicken back into the pan and boil every thing until the chicken can be easily cut with a spoon, or fork. That’s also how I knew it was cooked through. Once it is, you remove it again and place it on your plate.
Now we are ready for the dumplings.
Here is how I make them.
I use 1 tablespoon of milk for each egg. Today I used 4 eggs and that made the perfect amount of dumplings for my pan. I add salt and pepper and whisk the end and milk with my big giant fork. Again, make sure these are seasoned well. Like the potatoes, the dumplings will soak up the flavors from your broth, so make sure everything is very flavorful.
The secret to delicious egg dumplings is to make them tender and flavorful. I shared the flavor tricks but how do you get them to be tender? Patience.
I used 4 cups of flour and about another cup on my hands to keep the dumplings from sticking to my fingers. You are still going to have sticky fingers but it helps to have very floured hands.
You want to add the flour a 1/2 cup at a time. This helps keep them tender by not having too much flour. I add it and do not mix them up completely. You don’t want to develop the glutens in the flour, so slow and easy.
Keep adding flour and mixing lightly until you can pick it up with well floured hands. It’ll be slightly wet still.
Get your broth with the veggies boiling and throw the ripped pieces into the pan.
The dumplings will float to the top of the broth. But they are not done yet. Gently stir to make sure they don’t stick. You want to wait until the dumplings start sinking and mixing with the other vegetables. That is when you know they are done. You will have a nice thick broth with tender egg dumplings.
While you are waiting for the dumplings to sink, about 20 minutes, cut the cooled chicken. When the dumplings are sinking, add the diced chicken back to the pan.
Now it’s time to add the final touches. To really make your chicken and dumplings creamy, you want to add cream and corn starch, also known as a slurry. To do this without lumps, you need to temper the slurry with your broth.
First, add 1 cup of cream, or half and half, and a 1/4 cup of cornstarch to a cup. Whisk with a fork. Then, to the slurry, add a couple ladles of the hot dumpling broth.
Stir the slurry into the dumplings and cook for another 10 or 15 minutes, watching closely to prevent burning on the bottom. It will burn easily at this point.
I served this with delicious homemade breadsticks. Follow the link to use my quick bread recipe and alter it by cutting dough into breadsticks, and bake them in a 400 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes, until browned. All other steps are the same but these.
I learned a couple things today. A) It’s really hard to take a picture of something that is steaming; and, B) you should never run an add for your business and also decide to make homemade chicken and dumplings. But even though this took me all day to complete, blog and all, look at how these potatoes still look like potatoes. And the chicken is still tender, meaty and very hearty.
Try this recipe for yourself, on a cold day, when you are locked in for the day, and encourage your children to help you with it. You won’t be disappointed.