For me, Chicken and Dumplings is the quintessential comfort food. My childhood was characterized by frequent transition and lots of relocating, yet any time my mom made a pot of this warming soup, I knew I was home. Even now, when I taste the chewy dumplings and the peppered broth lingers on my tongue, gratitude fills my heart for the love that was poured into every batch.
These days, as a wife and soon-to-be mom of two, I have the privilege of sharing this dish with my own family. This isn’t the type of dinner made for scarfing before engaging in the evening’s activities. It’s meant to be slow and savored and enjoyed. The preparation is surprisingly simple, but it does take a bit of time. It’s perfect for a lazy fall Saturday. No rush, no hurry, just the scent of simmering stock filling your home.
In addition to warming both heart and soul, what makes this dish irresistable is the layering of flavors. It begins with the chicken. Traditional recipes often call for boiling the meat, but baking it with the skin on, as we do here, imparts depth. Next, prepared chicken stock is enhanced by simmering it with aromatic vegetables and the chicken bones for added richness. Then comes the dumplings. Over the years, I’ve tried several different dough recipes and have found little variation in the results. To keep things simple, I opt to use canned biscuit dough. It saves me a bit of work, and the taste and texture are not compromised. Finally, a sprinkling of salt and
a copious amount a bit of pepper round out the flavors of the soup.
- 4 pounds chicken thighs, skin on
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2-3 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 3 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 1/2 quarts prepared chicken stock
- 2 12-ounce cans buttermilk biscuits (not jumbo size)
- Unbleached all purpose flour
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Rinse the chicken thighs under cold water and then pat them dry with a paper towel. Place in a 9×13 baking dish, coat generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the chicken is a lovely golden brown.
- Once the chicken is cooked, let it cool for about an hour on the counter. This will ensure that it’s cool enough near the bone to handle so you don’t burn your fingers during disassembly. Remove the skins and discard them. Shred the meat into bite size pieces and place to the side until needed.
- In a large stock pot, add the chicken bones, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Bring the stock to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling steadily, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest for a few minutes so it’s no longer boiling, then pour it through a metal colander or mesh strainer into a large bowl (for safety, I recommend placing the bowl in your kitchen sink and wearing an apron during this step). Discard the strained vegetables, and pour the stock back into the pot.
- Add the shredded chicken to the stock and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. While the chicken and stock mixture is coming up to temperature, coat the biscuits generously with flour and cut into fourths. After the stock is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and add the biscuit quarters to the broth. Spoon some of the stock over the top of the dough so that there are no dry spots.
- At this point, do not stir. Place the lid on the pot and allow the chicken and dumplings to simmer for 20 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through and are no longer gummy.
- Remove from heat. If the dumplings clumped together during cooking, use a knife and fork to separate them into individual pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir the soup before serving so that the chicken and dumplings are evenly distributed throughout.
Tips and Tidbits:
- The above preparation calls for chicken thighs, but bone-in breast halves or drumsticks would also work. You could even use a whole chicken, whatever is easiest for you. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time as necessary for larger or smaller cuts.
- It may be tempting, but I recommend avoiding the use of chicken bouillon as a stock substitute. Though it will work in a pinch, you will have a more healthful and better tasting result using prepared (i.e., canned) stock.
- If using canned biscuits for the dumplings doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to substitute in your favorite biscuit or dumpling recipe.
- What’s the deal with coating the biscuit dough in flour? It’s an easy way to thicken the broth and helps keep the dumplings from sticking together.
- No matter how many times I’ve made this recipe, there’s always a moment of self doubt after I add the dumplings. They start to puff up considerably, and I ask myself, “Did I add too many to the pot? Am I doing this right?” If this happens to you, fear not. Stay the course, and you’ll see, they’ll turn out just fine.
- This recipe yields a large quantity of soup, but it can easily be halved. Better yet, if you find it makes more than you need, use it as an opportunity to invite friends and neighbors to share in the meal.