Thursday, July 18, 2013

Adventures in Cooking: The Clueless Cooks Guide to Chicken n' Dumplings

Once upon a time, I was married to a country boy who had a sister who could blow the roof off some chicken and dumplings. I had never had dumplings before. My mother sees them as "globs of snot". (That's a direct quote) I knew nothing about them until I was in my twenties and visiting my sister-in-law in Kentucky for Thanksgiving. During our stay there, she whipped up some chicken and dumplings for dinner. I am a major lover of bread and carbs, so as she was explaining them to me I was already foaming at the mouth waiting to try. OH! Heaven. Heaven on earth that melts in your mouth. Nom nom nom. I couldn't take a bite without closing my eyes and savoring the effect it was having on my mouth. A while later I asked her for the recipe, but she had made them so many times that her response was a little "Oh a pinch of this and a dash of that and I eyeball this..." I was immediately intimidated. Having been told most of my life to "get out of the kitchen" while the cooking was happening, I didn't (who are we kidding? I still don't) have a clue on how to just eyeball something I had never made before and just be expected to know the science of how the ingredients would react with each other.

Fast forward to present day. Now that I live in the south, I love to find occasion to make it to a little establishment called Cracker Barrel. This place is like an extension of your grandmothers southern kitchen. The most fattening and delicious food you've ever tasted. Most of it deep fried and covered with gravy. Well much to my delight, they serve dumplings! But I don't make it to this restaurant enough to satisfy my cravings. Able to deny my taste buds no more, I finally did the only sensible thing I could. I turned to Pinterest to help me find a recipe. Due to the recent foot issues I've been having, it is difficult for me to make it to the store for ingredients. So I just used what I had on hand. You will have to excuse (or just go ahead and laugh at) my lack of knowledge in the kitchen. It really is slim to none.

Here is the recipe I used...

Cracker Barrel Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

I began by boiling some water with chicken bouillon cubes in it. The recipe calls for 2 quarts of chicken broth. So I used 2 quarts of water (8 cups) and 5 cubes of chicken bouillon, even though 4 would have been sufficient. Te extra cube added MUCHO saltiness to the final dish...which was satisfactory to everyone who tried it. I'm sure there is some sort of sodium free version, but that would have been no fun.

So while that was boiling, I gathered my ingredients and threw them in a bowl.


I used a fork and slowly stirred all the ingredients until it formed a ball of dough, just like it said it would in the recipe. Yay!! This whole thing was very easy. I was shocked. I was certain that I would completely destroy it.

Ignore the corn in the background.

The tricky part was getting the dough separated and into the pot. By the end I just gave up with trying to make them look pretty and just chucked them as best as I could.

In a separate pot I had been boiling some chicken still on the bone and with skin. Once it was all cooked I just skinned it, peeled it apart, chopped it up a little and threw it in with the dumplings. Next time I would much rather start out with some boneless, skinless chicken breast. It would go so much quicker.

The dumplings cooking in the chicken broth

Added the chicken. It's still a little soupy here.
 Everything turned out great. I wanted the end results to be really thick, like a gravy. Following the instructions will yield more of a soupy consistency. So I added a little cornstarch. I just followed the instructions on that box and it worked out great.

All thick like gravy. 

Once it thickened up, I served it out. It blew my mind. It was SO GOOD!!! I had two servings, and then went back later for some left overs a few hours later. I am SO happy I finally tried this recipe. If I can do it, I know ANYONE can. So don't be afraid to try.

My mother still hates dumplings...

...but I couldn't get enough.