Why It Works
- Keeping the flavors simple allows the chicken, broth, and dumplings to shine.
- Reducing the broth concentrates its flavor.
- Rolling the dough into large "noodles" increases the surface area of the dumplings, which allows more of their starch to dissolve and thicken the broth.
When I was growing up, my German great grandmother cooked two versions of chicken and dumplings: the fluffy, raised biscuit kind, and the flat kind. Hands down, my sister and I always preferred the flat, slippery dumplings. (We loved the fluffy kind with sauerkraut and pork.) It was also slightly more work for her to make the flat dumplings, which made it even more of a treat. Here, a simple biscuit-type dough is rolled out and cut into squares before simmering in the chicken broth. Even though they do end up puffing a little, the surface of the dumplings becomes rather slick. The excess flour helps to thicken the broth. The result is a rich and particularly hearty chicken soup—a nice switch up from the standard broth with noodles or rice.
She always started her chicken and dumplings with a tasty homemade broth. The flavors are few in this simple dish, so starting with a quality chicken can make all the difference. The chicken is simmered until the meat is tender and falling off the bone, then the broth is strained and reduced to a flavor-concentrated mere six cups.
After I looked at my grandma's dumpling dough, two things made me nervous. She used vegetable shortening (I compromised with mostly butter), and unlike many flat dumpling doughs which include egg, her recipe swapped the egg for a bit of baking powder. It'd been years since I'd tasted her recipe, and suddenly I was skeptical that her version wouldn't leaven and disintegrate into the broth with nothing to bind it. To avoid a waste of good chicken stock, I did a test comparing an egg-based recipe to hers by simply simmering the batches in water. In the end, her dumplings rocked (stupid me). The egg dumplings were hard and doughy, but my great grandmother's were soft but satisfying, and held together surprisingly well.
She never added any vegetables to her chicken and dumplings, just a spritz of lemon juice and a pinch of nutmeg, so in her honor (and because I'd been humbled) I kept it that way: simple. To get my veggies in, I served a quick sauté of honeyed carrots and sugar snap peas on the side.
1 whole small chicken, about 3 pounds
2 medium onions, ends trimmed and quartered
1 small head garlic, ends trimmed
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 bunch parsley, stems reserved, leaves chopped, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice from one lemon
Pinch nutmeg (optional)
Place chicken, onions, garlic, peppercorns, parsley stems, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add water to pot to just cover chicken (about 10 cups). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook until chicken is tender and falling off the bone, about 1 hour.
While broth is simmering, make dumpling dough: In a medium bowl, stir flour with 2 tablespoons butter, shortening, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, mashing with a fork until mixture resembles coarse wet crumbs. Stir in milk until it forms a dough. Let sit about 20 minutes.
When cooked, transfer chicken to plate. Strain stock and return to saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat until reduced to 6 cups. Skim fat from the top and season to taste with salt and ground pepper; keep warm. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and shred into bite-size pieces; reserve.
On floured surface, roll dough into a rough 10- by 10-inch square about a quarter inch thick. Cut dough into 1 1/2-inch wide strips, then cut each strip into 1 1/2-inch squares.
Return broth to simmer over medium heat. Add dumplings to broth, one at a time. Cover and simmer until dumplings have puffed slightly and are cooked through, stirring gently once or twice to make sure that they don't stick to each other. Return chicken to pot to heat through. Stir in 1/3 cup parsley leaves, lemon juice, nutmeg (if using), and serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 49g||63%|
|Saturated Fat 16g||82%|
|Total Carbohydrate 30g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||5%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 13mg||67%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|