Mom’s dumplings — just saying that conjures up a flood of sensations and memories of Thanksgiving dinners reaching back long before my birth into my mother’s kitchen, of course, but into her mother’s and lots and lots of other mothers. My mom’s are the best — better than mine and certainly better than Cracker Barrel’s, which are just misnamed noodles. The woman’s dumplings are pure poetry on a plate.
(If you need to learn how to make chicken stock, read this. The stock pictured here is nothing more than the carcasses, necks, gizzards, and hearts of two roasting chickens + salt and water.)
Mom’s Dumplings …the “and chicken” kind, the fattening kind, the delicious kind…
serves 12 or more
15-16 c. chicken broth, with fat
7 ½ c. self-rising flour (or 7 ½ c. all-purpose flour plus 3 slightly rounded T. baking powder and 2 scant t. salt), plus more for rolling
1 ¼ c. shortening
3 c. buttermilk
½ c. water
- Put the broth into a large pot so that it no more than half-fills the pot. Bring to a simmer while you mix the dumpling dough.
- In a large mixing bowl, cut the shortening into the flour until it is in small pieces.
- Stir in the buttermilk and water to form a sticky dough.
- Turn the heat under the broth to medium-high while you roll out the dumplings. It should moderately boil.
- Flour the rolling surface. Dump out about half of the dough, sprinkle with flour, and knead 6 or 8 times. Pat or roll the dough 3/8” thick. Cut into rectangles about 3” x 2”.
- Taste the broth and add salt if needed to make it a little saltier than you would prefer to drink.
- Drop dough into the boiling broth one by one. As the surface becomes crowded, use a wooden spoon to push dumplings away from the side of the pan to allow a clear space to drop another strip into the broth. Continue in this manner around the perimeter of the pan, dropping in each strip in a new spot so the raw pieces of dough do not stick together. When half the dough has been added, sprinkle pepper over the surface. You may need to adjust the heat down to medium-low as the broth thickens to prevent “spitting.” Roll out, cut, and drop in the remaining dough, but stop if the pot is getting too full. (You can always bake any remaining strips as biscuits.) Pepper the top layer again. Stir the dumplings to distribute some of the pepper, but don’t be too rough.
- Cover the pot tightly and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for fifteen minutes. Check the center of a dumpling. It should appear dry and tender. Expect the dumplings to have lost their individual character, and the broth will have thickened and whitened until it is challenging to distinguish individual dumplings. If that’s how it looks and feels, you did it right!
The finished dumplings will hold their heat quite awhile if you leave them covered and off heat while you complete your meal, which makes them handy for Thanksgiving or other big meals. To reheat leftovers, you will want to add some water and heat them very slowly on the range or in the microwave at reduced power. It takes some time, but it is worth it to go slow. Dumplings may be frozen. Serve with chicken or turkey, vegetables, cranberry sauce, and cornbread dressing if you are a true southerner.