The ideal chicken and dumplings recipe features flavorful chicken, silky broth, and billowy dumplings. Not to mention dumplings from scratch, of course. See the following slides for Chef Scott Peacock's treasured recipe and step-by-step instructions for getting it right.
Purchase a 4-pound broiler-fryer chicken, either quartered or sectioned into pieces at home. Be sure to season the chicken with salt, including the back and the neck. In a 6-quart Dutch oven, combine 5 cups chicken stock, 2 cups water, 2 stalks of celery, 1 medium onion (peeled and sliced in half), and another pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and add the chicken pieces, placing leg quarters and backbone in first. Place the breast, skin side down, on top. Reduce heat to just below simmer and cover, leaving a half-inch opening.
Poaching the chicken in broth makes for a richer, more intensely flavored final dish than chicken recipes poached in water. "Onion and a bit of celery enhance and contribute to the flavor of the chicken without covering up and diluting the taste," says Scott.
If “how do you make dumplings?” is a question you’ve been asking yourself, look no further for answers. Start by whisking together 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of cold water, 2 tablespoons of peanut oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir in 1 cup all-purpose flour, and mix until well-blended and elastic. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 2 hours.
"The dough looks unpromising at first—sticky and elastic—and should be allowed to rest at least a half hour before rolling," says Scott. Use regular all-purpose flour to make the dumplings. Unbleached flour yields a batter that's too sturdy, resulting in a less-tender dumpling.
Cook the chicken for 30 to 45 minutes or until breasts are just done, then remove them from the pot. Continue cooking the leg quarters for 30 to 40 minutes more until tender, then remove the chicken and vegetables. Set the pot with the remaining broth aside. Discard the veggies and set the chicken aside to cool. Once it’s cooled down, remove the skin and pull the meat from the bones, tearing into large pieces. Reserve the chicken and discard the bones.
Removing the chicken breasts from the poaching pot early prevents them from becoming stringy and tough. "It's important to allow all the chicken to cool before picking it into large pieces," says Scott. You don’t want your chicken and dumplings meal to have tough chicken!
For the dumplings, turn the dough onto a well-floured surface. Roll very thin, to about 1/16 inch thickness.
"Roll the dough with a quick, light touch, flouring as needed, until very thin, less than 1/16 of an inch," says Scott.
Cut the dumplings into 1 ½-inch by 2 ½-inch pieces. A pastry wheel or pizza cutter makes quick and orderly work of cutting the dumplings into equal sizes. For this recipe, you don’t need to know how to fold dumplings—once the dough is rolled out and cut, the dumplings are ready to cook.
"When you roll the dough thin enough, you should be able to almost see through the dumplings," says Scott. "Don't shake off excess flour—it thickens the broth and gives the dish body."
"To avoid sticking, shake the pot side to side from time to time," says Scott. "Stirring can break the dumplings."
Once the dumplings are rolled and cut, return the broth to boiling. Season well with additional kosher salt. Add dumplings to broth, shaking the pot occasionally. Do not stir. Cook 3 to 5 minutes. Add reserved chicken and reduce to simmer. Add 2 tablespoons of cold butter (cut into 1/4-inch cubes), ¼ cup whipping cream, and a few grindings of black pepper. Gently lay slices of 3 hard-cooked eggs on top of other ingredients. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover; let stand for 10 minutes before serving.