This old time country dish is at its best only if the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender and the broth is thick and rich and almost creamy! Yet at the same time the one thing you don't want are dumplings that are heavy and gummy! With that in mind, this recipe gives you exactly what you want!
2 qts. Chicken stock to cover the whole chickens
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
2 bay leaves
8 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp. Frank Davis Poultry Seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 whole chicken or 4-6 chicken breasts
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
?lb. Shitake mushrooms (optional)
2 Pillsbury Pie Crusts
1 cup all purpose flour
4 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
?cup green onions, thinly sliced
?cup parsley, minced
First, in order to do this recipe right you're going to need a 4 or 5 quart stockpot. When you've selected one with a good tight-fitting lid, set it on the stove and pour in the chicken broth, bring the fire up to medium high, and drop in the onion, celery, carrot, bay leaves, garlic, and poultry seasoning, along with a touch of salt and pepper to taste. Then bring the broth and all of the ingredients you've just put into it to a gentle boil and cook everything together until the vegetables fully soften and release their individual flavors into the stock.
Meanwhile, as the broth is mellowing, thoroughly wash the chicken inside and out, being careful to discard any large clumps of fat and all the internal debris. Then when the chicken is clean, ease it down into the bubbling broth (you want to make sure it is completely submerged) and cook it at a "slow boil" for about an hour or until the meat begins to fall off the bone.
At this point, two things need to happen" (1) You need to remove the chicken from the broth and set it on a platter to cool; and (2) You need to chill down the broth so that the excess fat congeals. Granted this dish has been made countless times without the broth being de-fatted, but the end quality you get with the fat removed is so much more superb it is worth the extra effort.
When the pot of broth has been de-fatted, place it back on the fire, stir in the can of Cream of Chicken Soup, drop in the chopped mushrooms, and bring the mixture back to a slow boil. While this is taking place, pick the chicken meat from the bones and set it aside momentarily. Then take the two pie crusts, unroll them from the packaging onto a floured surface, dust them liberally with the all-purpose flour, and then cut them into "dumplings" about 2" x 4" squares.
But here's the critical part-first, make certain you have at least a full quart or so of the broth remaining in the pot (a lot of it seems to evaporate during cooking); then drop the dumplings, a few at a time, into the boiling broth and cook them all together for about 10 minutes until they are done.
Finally, when the dumplings are plump and tender, turn up the fire slightly, add the chunked chicken to the pot, along with the chopped eggs, the green onions, and the parsley, and reheat to piping hot (which should take about 10 minutes or so). Then just before you serve the dish, which incidentally should be ladled out into deep bowls and accompanied by a crisp cold salad, quickly stir into the broth the quarter stick of margarine (or butter, if you prefer!).
It's the crowning touch that gives you the best "Chicken-N-Dumplings" you ever had!
Chef's Notes: ?
?The chicken can be poached in either canned broth, commercial chicken base, or broth made from bouillon cubes or granules. It is essential to get a good rich base, which means that simply poaching the chicken in water just won't do.
The Pillsbury Pie Crust used in this recipe is the one found in the refrigerator section of the supermarket. It comes out tender yet flaky.
If you don't like mushrooms, it is okay to leave them out of the dish. But if you are a mushroom connoisseur, the intense flavor of Shitake is impossible to beat in chicken and dumplings.
The best way to de-fat the stock is to place the entire pot into the refrigerator or cooler once the stock has reached room temperature. Then several hours later, when the fat congeals and cakes on the surface, you can simply lift it off and toss it out. But let's say you're in a hurry to fix the dish and don't have time to place the stock into the cooler. All you do then is place the stockpot into the sink in a cold water bath. This will bring down the temperature of the stock enough to thicken the fats (notice, I didn't say they would congeal-just thicken) so that they could be skimmed off.
If you're short a little broth when its time to do the dumplings, just pour in another can of Campbell's or Swanson's Chicken Broth to make up for evaporation. It is also very important that the broth be seasoned to perfection before you add the dumplings or they will come out tasting bland!
To make the dish suitable for those of you on "Sugar Busters," just leave out the pie-crust dumplings and substitute brown rice dumplings instead. To make them, just mix about two cups of brown rice with one beaten egg, wad up the rice in plastic wrap, shape it into little balls, and ease them down into the hot broth to cook.