My mother never made us chicken n' dumplings growing up, but I'm versed enough in the American cooking vernacular to know that there're two great schisms in the chicken n' dumplings universe. We can all agree that the meat should be tender, that the dish should be overwhelmingly comforting, and that one serving is never enough. What we have a bit more trouble with is the broth and the dumplings.
Some insist that the broth oughta be clear, nearly soup-like in body, while others like theirs to be creamy, opaque, and rich. In extreme cases, folks will even insist that the liquid portion should be as thick as gravy, pooling into a slow puddle that creeps across a plate rather than splashes in a bowl.
The dumplings are an equally great divide. Thick, noodle-y dumplings, or biscuit-like balls? Serving a Southerner the wrong kind might mark you as some sort of outsider. A really kind-hearted outsider who likes to share his food and spread deliciousness around, but an outsider nonetheless.
Well at the risk (OK, near certainty) of pissing off half of the readers here, I will offer the version that I've been making for the last few years and will be raising my own children to believe is the One True Chicken N' Dumpling recipe.
Mine's got drop dumplings made with a biscuit-like dough, albeit a little leaner than my normal biscuit dough, with an egg in them to help them puff as they simmer. They come out soft and tender on the outside, with a slick surface that reminds me a bit the top layer of dough in a New York pizza, right where it meets the sauce. The centers of the biscuits are light, fluffy, and tender.
I make my broth rich and creamy, but not so rich and creamy that you can't eat a bowl of it with a spoon without wanting to fall asleep immediately afterwards.
If you happen to make it with leftover turkey or roast chicken (as I heartily suggest you do), save some gravy and add it to the broth before you add the dumplings for some extra richness.
These are my dumplings, and I'm sticking to them. My children will be free to explore other options once they are self-supportive and no longer living under my roof.
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.