Dumplings, the Chicken’s Best Friend

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.

Tutorial: Mom's Southern Dumplings

This is two attempts my sister and I made to document Mom’s no-recipe method of making dumplings.

Tutorial: Mom's Southern Dumplings

You are going to need to need a big pot half-filled with rich chicken stock, including the fat, all the fat! This is about 1 gallon in an 8 qt. pot. Bring it to a simmer while you make the dough.

(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.)

Tutorial: Mom's Southern Dumplings

Make your dumpling dough, which is basically biscuit dough. See recipe below for specifics.

Tutorial: Mom's Southern Dumplings

Set up a work station near the pot of simmering stock. I use my Corian cutting board, but the clean counter works fine, too. I also use a rolling pin and a pizza wheel, but your hands for patting out the dough and sharp knife will do the job, too.

 

Tutorial: Mom's Southern Dumplings

Knead the dough 6-8 times on a floured surface. (I work with 1/2 of it at a time with this feed-a-crowd amount of dough.) Roll or pat the dough into a rough rectangle just a little thinner than you would for biscuits, about 3/8″ thick. Use a little flour on top of the dough and on the pin as needed, but don’t manhandle the dough. Easy does it.

Tutorial: Mom's Southern Dumplings

With a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough into squares or rectangles — no precision required.

Tutorial: Mom's Southern Dumplings

Turn the heat to medium-high and let the broth begin to boil moderately. Taste the broth — it should be a little saltier than you like, because the dumplings are bland. Drop the dumpling rectangles into the boiling broth one by one.

Tutorial: Mom's Southern Dumplings

Enjoy the process! I think it is so much fun to watch ingredients like these transform themselves before my very eyes.

Tutorial: Mom's Southern Dumplings

See all that yellow on the surface of the broth? That is the lovely fat, which is going to give a rich flavor to the dumplings without tasting greasy at all.

Tutorial: Mom's Southern Dumplings

Use a wooden spoon to press the dumplings in the pot away from the edge of the pan as you drop in another dumpling. Work your way around the perimeter of the pot as you add each dumpling, so that the raw pieces of dough do not stick to each other in the broth before they get a chance to cook a bit. Also, as the pot fills with dumplings, you’ll probably want to adjust the heat down to about medium-low to keep it from “spitting” too much as it simmers. Add grinds of pepper when you have added about half of the dough and then another bit when you finish adding dough. You may or may not use all of the dough rectangles. You want your pot to be pretty full, as shown, but you need a little “simmering room” to prevent boil-over. Give the dumplings one or two stirs (not too rough) before covering the pot tightly with the lid. Turn the heat to low and set the timer for 15 minutes. At the end, stir again to see if the dumplings seem to be cooked in the center of a piece of dough (not wet-looking). Your dumplings will have largely lost their individual character, however, 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!

 

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

  1. 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.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cut the shortening into the flour until it is in small pieces.
  3. Stir in the buttermilk and water to form a sticky dough.
  4. Turn the heat under the broth to medium-high while you roll out the dumplings. It should moderately boil.
  5. 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”.
  6. Taste the broth and add salt if needed to make it a little saltier than you would prefer to drink.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Posted February 2, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    “Misnamed noodles” – I’m still laughing. :)

    These look amazing, but I think I might be too lazy to make them. When’s dinner? ;)
    Carrie@Busy Nothings recently posted..Thankful For :: Week 5My Profile

  2. Alyssa
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Eating these for “breakfast” right now — yummmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!!!! Thanks Mom!!

  3. Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    yum this made my mouth water, wish i was eating them now. . . .
    melaine recently posted..Finally Earning Their KeepMy Profile

  4. t.e. yardsley
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I’ve been looking for dumpling recipes all week – this one looks good. I might have to make this for Ryan and I sometime.

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