Southern Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken 'N Dumplins

I'm sure it goes without saying that several of you, like me, are fans of Top Chef. I've never missed an episode, and I get excited every Wednesday, awaiting the show's great challenges and chefs. This week's episode centered on Jimmy Fallon, his birthday, and his favorite foods. One of those foods was chicken and dumplings, or chicken-n-dumplins if you're from the South. But hello - what in the tarnation did Tiffany serve those poor folks?! As soon as I heard her say "Southwestern" style, and I saw that ridiculous thin broth I just knew she'd be on the bottom. I was so disappointed! She's a Southern girl - what was she thinking?

I told Brad that it's always interesting to me that when these top-rated chefs are let loose in the kitchen they come up with some amazing dishes. But when they're asked to simply cook good ol' comfort food, American-style, they stumble, crash and burn. I'd love to have a bit more talent in the kitchen - especially top-knotch knife skills - but I'd never want to lose my family-style cooking sensibilities. My dumplings are thick, puffy strips of seasoned dough that swim in creamy broth, along side chunks of poached chicken, and all liberally salted and peppered. Dumplings, much like biscuits, are an art - an art at which my grandmother excelled. My mom said just recently how much she misses Maw Maw's chicken-n-dumplins because no one can make them quite like her. That's true, but it shouldn't keep us from trying to recreate them, as long as we don't stray from tradition, Tiffany.

Chicken 'N Dumplins

Southern Chicken and Dumplings
By Confabulation in the Kitchen
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Serves about 4

Chicken and dumplings are served all over the South. In Western North Carolina, where I'm from, the dumplings are thick and pillowy soft and served with chunks of freshly poached chicken. In Eastern North Carolina, where my husband is from, you're more likely to find chicken-n-pastry, meaning the dumplings are thin and flat and served with shredded chicken in a thinner broth. This recipe is for the Western N.C. kind. While you'll rarely find this dish served with vegetables I think that sweet green peas or blanched green beans are great tossed in - and maybe even some chopped carrot, too, to up the nutritional ante.

Note: Remember to remove the chicken breasts from the poaching liquid, but don't pour it out! Keep it in the pot to cook your dumplings in.

2 chicken breasts
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup green peas or green beans (optional, and frozen are fine)
1/2 cup chopped carrot (optional)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put chicken breasts in large pot and cover with at least one inch of water. Stir in salt, bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat and let water simmer for about 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove chicken from broth and set aside to cool, but keep the broth in the pot. Once cool enough to touch, chop into chunks or shred breasts and set aside.
2. Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in 3/4 cup milk until ingredients just come together.
3. Dump dough onto a well-floured surface. Knead until you get a stiff dough, then roll out thinly and cut into strips.
4. Add to broth four tablespoons of butter and 1 cup of milk and bring to a boil. Drop in vegetables, if using, and cook to desired doneness.
5. Slowly drop dough strips into broth but do not stir or you'll break them. Add chopped chicken and let cook about 10 minutes. Serve hot, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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