Who wouldn't love this wonderful comfort food since it is much like that served at Cracker Barrel®? I found this recipe on the Internet and modified it and I was practically drooling after looking at the recipe pictures. Well, I made it and my sweetheart Peggy and I really enjoyed it, though the lady who provided the recipe didn't know much at all about cooking, ingredients or proportions, so I had to fix her errors and omissions during the preparation. Having a thorough knowledge of cooking helps a lot in detecting Internet recipe mistakes. In any event, as much as we enjoyed what I made, I made some minor changes to the recipe afterwards to enhance the seasoning and slightly soften the dumplings.
Note that most chicken and dumpling recipes on the Internet are not at all useful as they create weird soups or puffy or almost dry dumpling mixtures and not the creamy thickened gravy type of broth that is characteristic of the best recipes, like this one ... And like the dish at Cracker Barrel®, which is very tasty.
Your ratio of chicken meat to dumplings and gravy in this recipe will be far superior to what is served at Cracker Barrel®. If I changed anything further in this recipe it would be to make more dumplings.
You may want to make and chill a Waldorf Salad in advance to serve as an accompaniment to the chicken and dumplings, to give variety in colors, textures and tastes. There is a fine Waldorf Salad recipe in Food Nirvana. Also, you might chill a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio wine to serve with this meal.
Have fun making and eating this dish. You will be most popular with your guests. You will not likely need to serve a dessert if you make the Waldorf Salad, for this meal is very filling and the salad is sweet. It is particularly nice to make and enjoy hot chicken and dumplings during cool or cold weather.
Ingredients: (makes six servings)
Chicken and Broth/Gravy Mixture:
1 large fryer or stewing chicken or roaster (5 lbs.) at refrigerator temperature, neck and giblets removed
2 quarts of chicken broth
1 quart of water
1 large onion, peeled and cut into thick slices
3 carrots cut into slices
1 clove of garlic, sliced
3 stalks of celery, cut into pieces about one inch long
2 tsp. of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. of Bells® poultry seasoning
1/8 tsp. of turmeric
2 tbsp. of cornstarch mixed in 1/2 cup of water (hold until the last step for thickening the gravy)
3 cups of flour
1 tsp. of baking powder
3/4 tsp. of salt
3/8 cup of Crisco® shortening, chilled
3/8 cup of butter or lard, chilled
3/4 to 1 cup of cold milk
1/2 cup of freshly chopped parsley
Place the chicken, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, poultry seasoning, turmeric, salt and pepper (but not the cornstarch) in a large pot and cover (or nearly cover) the mixture with the chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, with the pot covered. Cook the chicken for 1 hour at a simmer or very low boil until it is cooked through (about 165 degrees F). If the chicken isn't completely covered by the liquid you can turn it over two or three times during cooking to assure even cooking.
Once the chicken is done, turn off the heat, remove the chicken from the broth, letting any broth in the chicken drain back into the pot, then pull/cut the chicken apart into pieces and let them cool on a wood cutting board for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then remove the cooled chicken meat from each piece and cut/tear/shred it into medium to small size pieces. The idea is you want to avoid large chunks of chicken, so some squeezing of the cut pieces will partially shred them. Put those pieces into a large bowl. Discard the bones, fat, gristle, dark flesh, veins and skin.
Pour the broth from the pot into a large bowl through a sieve to capture the vegetable pieces. Discard the vegetable pieces.
Partially defat the chicken broth with a ladle or with a pourer designed to defat broths. Then return the broth to the pot. The idea is that you want some chicken fat in the final dish for flavor, but not necessarily all of it. This is a matter of personal preference, as well as that of actual rendered fat content of the chicken you use.
Put the flour, baking powder and salt together in an electric mixer bowl. Run the mixer on medium speed. Cut the chilled Crisco® and butter or lard into the flour mixture gradually in one tablespoon amounts and continue mixing until the contents resemble small peas. This may take a few minutes of mixing after all the shortening has been added.
Add the milk, only 1/4 cup at a time while mixing for a minute or two between milk additions, for you may not need a full cup. Repeat until a ball of dough begins to form. The formation of the mixture into dough will be obvious so it is easy to know when to stop mixing.
Roll out the dough onto a floured surface. I like to put plastic wrap on a granite countertop and dust it with flour. Then I partially knead and flatten the dough to a 1" thickness by hand to make rolling it out easier. Then I dust the dough with flour, center it on the plastic wrap and put a second piece of plastic wrap on top. Then I roll the dough with an ordinary rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thick. This works perfectly for rolling dough without having it stick to any surface, and the rolling pin stays clean.
Remove the top piece of plastic wrap, then use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife and cut the dough into rectangles about 1 inch wide by 2 inches long. Allow the dough strips to harden/dry for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour, then remove the pieces to a plate, being careful not to include any plastic wrap.
Bring the broth to a simmer on high heat and drop in the dough strips a few at a time so they don't clump together. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and allow them to cook for 10 minutes. Do not stir them while they are cooking. You now have dumplings of the style served at Cracker Barrel®.
Add the shredded chicken pieces to the pot. Mix briefly and gently with a large wooden spoon and allow the mixture to cook, covered, at a simmer to partially thicken it, about 20 minutes.
Mix the cornstarch with the 1/2 cup of water and pour it into the simmering chicken and dumplings mixture slowly, while mixing gently. Then increase the heat to medium and let the gravy come to a low boil while mixing gently and it will be thickened in a minute or two at a low boil, perfectly.
Serve the chicken and dumplings hot in wide shallow bowls that have been pre-warmed in a 180 degrees F oven.
If you want you can sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley on top of each serving to add color and good complementary taste.
Let each guest season their serving with salt and pepper, to taste.
Did you remember to make/serve the Waldorf Salad and the chilled Pinot Grigio wine?