If I'm in the mood for true comfort food, I go back to recipes from my childhood. Chicken and rice, Italian beef, and pinto beans are all contenders for the prize of childhood favorites, but at the very top of that list is this old fashioned chicken and dumplings. Truly a favorite of mine since I was a snaggled toothed side pony-tailed little girl that used to drive my parents crazy at the dinner table with my songs and cheers. Yes, I really did that.
My mom and grandma both make excellent chicken and dumplings. Although they use different recipes, they are equally fabulous. I have never been able to get my mom's dumplings to get quite as tender as she gets them, so I usually make my grandma's version. Tender, silky, and melt in your mouth delicious. I could possibly eat the entire pot, but I make myself stop at one bowl. My kids, however, don't hold back. My little guy that turns up his nose at most things these days, gobbles an entire adult size bowl, while my 5 year old devours two adult size bowls in no time flat.
That just makes my heart giddy watching my kids enjoy the same dish that was also a favorite of mine when I was a kid. I have many memories of visiting my grandma over the summer and eating chicken and dumplings. As I got older, she taught me exactly how she makes them, so I could enjoy them in my own home, and boy am I grateful that she did. She learned this recipe from her mother in law, my great grandma, who never used a recipe. She just cooked by what looked right to her, so as she cooked, my grandma would take measurements of all of the ingredients as they went into the pot and bowl. These kinds of recipes and stories are so special to me and I hope to pass them along to my children. I'm certain they will be passed on because they are quickly becoming my kids' favorite too.
Both of my kids also love to help me make this dish, especially cutting the dough into strips and dropping them into the simmering broth. I can't help but smile when my 3 year old comes in the kitchen, sniffs the fragrant air, and asks, "I help?" Sure baby. He usually ends up covered in flour and leaves with chicken scented hands because he likes to throw the skin to our dog after we de-bone the chicken. Everyone in our house likes when it's chicken and dumpling night. 🙂
One last note. I've seen many chicken and dumpling recipes that include peas, carrots, mushrooms, and other vegetables. While I love vegetables, this is not how my family enjoys them. Grandma didn't do it that way, so we don't either. Simple is best for this dish, in my opinion. Please serve vegetables or a nice salad on the side, but don't stick them in the dumplings....or at least don't tell my grandma!
Old fashioned chicken and dumplings
- 1 whole chicken innards removed
- 2 ½ tsp. sea salt or more to taste
- 3 cups unbleached flour
- 1 ½ tsp. sea salt
- ¼ cup expeller pressed coconut oil chicken fat, or pasture raised lard
- just under 1 cup water
- ¼ cup milk optional
- Place whole chicken in a large stockpot and cover with water.
- Add 2 ½ tsp salt.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 1 ½ hours or until chicken is done.
- Remove chicken, place on a cutting board, and let cool to the touch. Reserve broth.
- In a separate bowl, mix together flour and 1 ½ tsp salt.
- Cut in fat. I just mix and pinch with my fingers until well cut in.
- Add water and mix.
- Turn out onto a board and knead until it come together in a ball.
- Divide dough into fourths.
- One at a time, roll out until very thin and cut into strips approximately 1.5 in x 4 in long.
- Drop into pot of boiling broth in which the chicken was cooked.
- Cook for about 15 minutes or until dumplings are tender but not falling apart.
- While dumplings are cooking, debone chicken and add at least half of the chicken back into the pot. You can use the whole chicken if you wish, but I like to save the other half for another meal.
- Taste broth for salt, and add additional salt and pepper if desired.
- Optional: Stir in milk right at the end to create a white silky broth. This is not necessary, but it's how my grandma does it.