Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chicken and Dumplings

Do you ever get confused and wonder if you are eating dumplings or noodles? I do! What the heck is the difference? Well, really nothing and yet, for some people at least, everything. Still confused? Me too.

Homemade noodles and (most) dumplings are made from similar ingredients- flour, salt, eggs, milk or water and maybe a little oil. Oh, you can dress them up with spices, herbs and other add ins, but the base is usually the same. I say usually because I'm not an expert and I'm sure there are recipes out there that vary from this. To be as accurate as possible, I'll clarify that my experiences with dumplings/noodles is limited to what I can find in my cookbooks (mostly depression era, Amish or Mennonite in nature) or from searching for a few minutes on Google. In the end, I think you call noodles/dumplings what you call them because that is what your mom/grandma/aunt/etc called them. Other than shape, they are much the same. 

They are humble, simple, flavorful food and are one of those recipes that are better than ever warmed over the next day. I serve my Chicken and Dumplings over a little pile of creamy mashed potatoes to which I add a dollop of sour cream. Carb overload? Absolutely. Comfort food at it's core? Yes! This is one of those recipes that will stretch to feed as many people as you need to feed and still have leftovers. We had 7 for dinner last night and all 7 of us are having this for lunch today as well. 

Stretch your food dollars farther by having some of these recipes on hand. I used 2 chicken breasts in this and it was wonderful. Hearty chicken flavor was achieved by first poaching the chicken breasts in water, seasonings and vegetables and that was used as the base to the gravy in the final dish. So good and so easy- and completely family approved. Also, a fantastic way to use whole grain flours, I made my noodles with soft wheat that I milled. Yum-o. 

Did I mention it can be made in a crockpot? 'Cause it totally can. 

Chicken and Dumplings

2 chicken breasts (or more), bone in is best!
2 quarts water
1 (10 oz) bag frozen carrots
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley

2 1/2 cups flour (I used soft wheat that I ground)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon oil (any kind of liquid oil you choose, I used olive)

In a large stockpot, add the chicken, water, carrots, celery, onion and parsley. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is completely poached. Remove chicken from the poaching liquid, season the liquid with salt and pepper. Let it simmer for a few minutes and taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary. Add the chicken back to the pot and let it continue to simmer while you make the noodles. 

To make the noodles, put the flour, salt, water, eggs and oil into a bowl and work until it's a smooth dough adding a little flour if it is too sticky or a little water if it is too dry. Roll out to desired thickness (we like them rolled out thin, they do puff up) and cut into desired shapes. You can do long noodles, short, fat noodles, squares, rectangles, circles and so forth. Just cut them however you like and let them sit on the counter to dry a little. While the noodles are drying, look at the amount of liquid you have in your pot. Need to feed a few more? Add more water! Bring the pot of chicken and broth to a boil; add in the noodles and cover. Reduce to medium heat, you want them to be gently boiling, and let them cook for 20-30 minutes. 

I usually thicken it with some cornstarch dissolved in cool water because we like this to be thick like gravy. You can decide what is right for you :)

Serve over rice, mashed potatoes or alone. This is especially good with a salad and baked peaches for dessert. Yum!

To make in a crockpot, put all of the broth/vegetable fixin's into the crock and turn it on low for 4-6 hours or high for about 3. Add in the noodles and cover again for about 2 hours on low, 1 hour on high. If it isn't thick enough, you may need to thicken it with a little cornstarch dissolved in cool water. 

**A little note** A lot of the flavor that I got from the chicken breasts is because I used one that still had the bone in. If you choose not to use a bone in cut of chicken, you may need to add in some dry chicken granules or cubes. 

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