The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Chicken and Dumplings

Real Chicken and Dumplings have got to be one of the best examples of good, Southern country cooking.  It is creamy and comforting and one of those dishes that makes something from nothing with amazing results.  There are undoubtedly as many ways to make Chicken and Dumplings as there are cooks who make it.  The biggest debate is probably strips-of-dough dumplings or fluffy drop dumplings.  I am a strip dumplings gal, so that’s what you will find here. I also prefer my Chicken and Dumplings a little creamy, not all broth, but still eaten with a spoon.

Let me be clear. Chicken and Dumplings are not difficult to make from scratch.  Maybe a little involved, but not hard.  And it can be done over a drawn-out period of time, or made in bulk so you have the ingredients on hand.  I do not generally frown on shortcut recipes and time-saving tips, but it has to be said: Bought chicken broth, a rotisserie chicken and canned biscuits do not Chicken and Dumplings make.  You really should try doing this from scratch.  Making the stock is just 3 minutes of dropping the ingredients in a pot and 3 hours of unattended bubbling.  You can make it days ahead and refrigerate, or freeze huge quantities.  The dumplings whip up so quickly, and can be refrigerated for up to a day or frozen for months.  You might consider making a double batch and freezing some to have on hand.  And the last minute cooking and assembly is a cinch.

These dumplings are made with a bit of bacon grease, and that’s what really sets them apart and gives them real flavor.  I keep a container of bacon grease in the kitchen at all times, not in an old coffee can like generations before me, but a nice little red airtight container.  If you don’t keep bacon grease around regularly, then I just don’t know if I can help you.  But you can cook up a few strips of bacon and let the grease cool and solidify.  I keep my grease by the stove, but some people prefer to keep it in the fridge, which is fine, and will speed things up if you are cooking the bacon just for the grease.  Now, you can just substitute more shortening for the grease, but you will really be missing out on taste.

Chicken and Dumplings

You are likely to have some stock and meat leftover, which I consider a bonus.

For the stock:

3 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts

3 carrots

3 stalks celery

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 onion, peeled and quartered

For the dumplings:

1 ½ cups self-rising flour

2 Tablespoons shortening

1 Tablespoon bacon grease, solidified

½ teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper to taste

½ cup milk

To Finish:

Chicken fat from the stock

¼ cup flour

½ cup half-and-half

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

6 cups chicken stock

2 cups shredded chicken meat

Dumplings

Place the chicken breasts, carrots, celery, garlic and onion in a large (5-quart) Dutch oven.  Cover with water, filling the pot almost to the top.  Bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat to low, skim off any scum that rises and cover the pot.  Simmer for 3 hours, removing the lid from the pot for the last 45 minutes of cooking.  Remove the chicken breasts to a bowl, then strain the stock into another large bowl, discarding the vegetables. Wipe out the pot. Pour any accumulated broth that has accumulated in the bowl with the chicken back into the stock. Let the strained stock sit for at least 30 minutes, skim off the fat from the top and place back in the Dutch oven.  When cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the chicken breasts and shred to bite sized pieces. You can make the stock up to two days ahead and refrigerate covered with plastic wrap.  It is then easier to skim off the solidified fat as well.  Store the chicken meat in a zip-top bag until ready to use.

For the dumplings:

Measure the flour into a bowl and whisk in the salt and pepper.  Cut the shortening and bacon grease into the flour with a fork or pastry cutter until crumbly.  Add the milk and blend until a soft dough forms.  Okay, that’s the traditional way to do it.  I have found that pulsing the flour and fat in the food processor, then adding the milk to form a soft dough works just as well.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead 8 to 10 times to bring the dough together.  Pat the dough into a rectangle, then roll out with a floured rolling pin to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut the dough into strips about 1 inch long and ½ inch wide.  These are dumplings, not wedding cake, so don’t worry about perfection.  Place the cut dumplings on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet and refrigerate until ready to use. If refrigerating for more than a few hours, cover with waxed paper.  The dumplings can also be frozen on the cookie sheet until firm and stored in freezer bags.

To finish:

Heat the chicken fat from the stock in the Dutch oven.  It should be at least ¼ cup.  If not, add some oil to make up that amount.  It will sizzle as any liquid stock left in cooks away. When the chicken fat is hot, sprinkle over the flour and whisk until smooth.  Pour in the half-and half, whisking until smooth.  Slowly pour in the chicken stock, whisking constantly until slightly thickened.  Whisk in the poultry seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Drop in about 2 cups of shredded chicken. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and drop in the dumplings a few at a time, giving them a good stir to prevent sticking together.  When all the dumplings have been added, cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so the dumplings don’t stick together.

Serve in bowls immediately.

Serves 6, or a really hungry family of 4

11 comments to Chicken and Dumplings

  • Love chicken and dumplings!! But have only made them once. My husband was over the moon excited!!! It was quite involved, but they were from scratch and so tasty. It was a recipe involving chicken legs (I am much more of a fan of breast/white meat). I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner….making again w/ white meat. So you are an inspiration and I will have to make this for him soon.

    Question about bacon grease – growing up in the south I frequently saw this done. Now as an adult I have never known how to store bacon grease properly. How long does it keep on the stovetop w/out going bad? Does it keep longer in the fridge? Please give me all bacon grease protocol 😉 Thanks!!

    I’m not sure how to subscribe to this comment, so I don’t know if I’ll see your reply. 😉

  • Love C and D. Also a dough strip girl. Tried with puffy dumplings. UGH!! I usually put some broth in the dumplings. Adds just a little more flavor.

    Nice pic on something hard to photograph.

  • admin

    I keep bacon grease in a small airtight container on the counter in my kitchen. Many generations of Southern cooks, including ones in my own family, have done the same, and like I mentioned, an old coffee can was the favorite container. I read now that it is better and safer to keep the grease in the fridge, so if you are more comfortable with that, no problem. All I can say is I am not dead from using room temp bacon grease. As for how long it keeps, I keep it for a long time, constantly adding to it and occassionally starting over fresh.

  • Reliable

    Good stuff – bacon grease and all – and not hard to make. Kids loved it. Thanks.

  • Mrs.M.

    In a particularly generous mood I made these for my husband and he was thrilled. It wasn’t so hard since I made the dumplings one day and the rest the next.

  • Why I love my Runaway Spoon: Cause she says things like:
    “Chicken and Dumplings are not difficult to make from scratch. Maybe a little involved, but not hard. And it can be done over a drawn-out period of time, or made in bulk so you have the ingredients on hand.”
    AND
    ” If you don’t keep bacon grease around regularly, then I just don’t know if I can help you.”
    AND
    “You are likely to have some stock and meat leftover, which I consider a bonus.”
    There is the spoon right here with me, keeping the pot bubbling and the spirits rising. I have a big ol’ farm-raised chicken in the bottom of the freezer, and now I know just what to do with it. Thank you, Spoon!

  • If it is from the south I will make it, I make scatch dumplings myself, and you are right they are not hard to make but I sure make a mess when I make there those wonderful dumplings from the south.

  • MJ

    Hi,

    Thanks for the recipe. I need a bit of help, if you don’t mind. Do I thaw the dumplings before dropping them in the boiling broth? I made some over the holidays and now that our temperatures have dropped, I thought a nice pot of chicken and dumplings will warm us up. I’ve never made the dumplings ahead of time, though, so I’m not sure about thawing or dropping them in frozen.

    Thanks for sharing a recipe (I remember from my childhood)
    MJ

  • You can drop them in frozen, but they will need longer to cook, so check at 20 minutes, then continue. You can also thaw them in the fridge overnight. Enjoy!

  • Sean mcclellan

    Love the recipe, and thanx, but, why not just use a whole chicken for the stock? A whole chicken would actually be cheaper and give you more flavor

  • I prefer it this way, but if you want to use a whole chicken, feel free.

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