This is my recipe for chicken and dumplings. It is a little unorthodox, as chicken and dumpling recipes go, but every time I’ve served it I’ve been told it’s the best chicken and dumplings ever. Even The Young One gets enthusiastic about the dish, and he rarely gets enthusiastic about any food (oh, that I should have such an ability).
My chicken and dumplings has a secret ingredient: canned biscuits. Cheap canned biscuits. The kind that are not “flaky” or “grand” and come 10 in a can. You know, the kind you used to be able to buy 10 for $1 but now are 50 cents each. The kind that resemble little hockey pucks when baked.
I believe I’ve mentioned a time or twelve that Mom wasn’t big on cooking when we were kids – she was all about cheap, fast and easy. The biscuit thing was something I think she read in one of her beloved cookbooks that contained recipes from the backs of packages, boxes and cans – she had a total of three. At any rate, her version of chicken and dumplings was cheap pieces of chicken – thighs, legs and wings – boiled with a few vegetables like celery, onion and carrots and a minimum of seasoning. She’d strain the broth, shred the chicken, put it all back on the stove and when it was boiling, drop in those cheap biscuits, torn in half, and let it all cook for about a minute. Voila – it was done.
The dish was uninspired, perhaps, but cooked properly the dumplings made out of these cheap biscuits were feather light, fluffy and delicious. When I moved away from home and had a family of my own, I made chicken and dumplings frequently because it was a cheap dish to make and I began to experiment, especially with the dumplings. I tried a ton of different recipes, ranging from old cookbooks to the one on the back of the Biquick box, and while I liked the flavor and texture of these dishes overall better, the dumplings were always a disappointment. Usually heavy and chewy, they just weren’t like Mom’s.
The recipe I’m giving you here is the result of years of trial and error and is one the kids all beg me for, either to cook it or for the recipe itself. It includes the cheap biscuit dumplings, cooked separately and added at the end, and is the epitome of comfort food. Assembled with leftover roast chicken and stock made from the carcass, it is not only delicious but economical as well.
Chicken and Dumplings
6 – 8 generous servings
3 – 4 cups cooked chicken, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 – 3 large stalks celery, sliced
1 cup frozen petit sweet peas, thawed
1 stick butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 – 2 cans cheap biscuits, depending on how many dumplings you want (I usually use 2)
In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium heat; add the carrots, onion and celery. Lower the heat a bit and cook the vegetables until the onions become soft and transparent, but not brown.
Stir in the flour, mixing well, and cook until it becomes a smooth paste and is beginning to brown just slightly, about 5 minutes. Gradually stir in the chicken stock, whisking constantly to prevents lumps, then gradually stir in the milk. Add the chicken, lower the heat a little more, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to thicken a little.
Lower the heat to simmer and gently stir in the peas. Taste; add salt and pepper as needed.
On another burner, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil in a large sauce pan. Working in batches, tear two of the biscuits into three equal pieces each, and carefully drop them into the boiling water. Cook them for about 30 – 45 seconds, stirring and flipping them, then remove them with a large slotted spoon. Place them in the chicken mixture.
Repeat with the remaining biscuits until they are all cooked and have been added to the chicken and vegetables. Gently stir together, and serve.