Sunday, January 13, 2013

Neurotic Homestyle - Chicken and Dumpling Soup

Had it not come out so tasty, this recipe for Chicken and Dumpling Soup might never have made it to Neurotic Kitchen. 

Chicken and Dumpling Soup, Photo: NK

It's great to use a large Dutch Oven for this dish Photo: NK
Before setting out to adapt a really wonderful version of Chicken and Dumpling Soup from Taste of Home Magazine, I conveniently forgot that when I made it last year it took quite a while and made a colossal mess in my kitchen because it requires so many pots and bowls. See, the trouble is, there are several steps to this thoughtful recipe - which is probably why it comes out so good. The original author ingeniously suggests using a pre-cooked Rotisserie Chicken to cut down on prep time. I followed that very clever directive, but still found the process of creating the stock, browning the Vegetables, simmering the Broth and Chicken, preparing the Dumpling Batter, and finally, cooking the Dumplings, a bit too time consuming and messy for a weeknight meal. What I'm getting at is, I just can't say with certainty that this is a fast, no muss no fuss meal - what I can say is that it's delicious. 

Before setting out to cook, I planned out a few changes to the recipe meant to make it slightly lighter. The main change was to use Evaporated Milk instead of Heavy Cream. Doing so shaves 120 calories and 18 grams of fat off the original. Even still, this is definitely not a diet meal by any means, but lightening it up never hurts when no flavor is sacrificed. We also used mostly Fat Free Chicken Broth, less Oil, and less Butter. What makes this recipe special in the first place is that it has an element of spice (which I admittedly increased) and also results in particularly tasty dumplings thanks to a healthy dose of Cayenne Pepper and Salt in the batter. Some Chicken and Dumpling recipes can be a bit bland for my taste, but this version has a ton of flavor and loses none of the homey comfort qualities that make this classic Southern dish so well loved.

I realize I am sending mixed messages but this dish is worth making. Do it when you have an hour and a half, and start it at least that long before you'd like to serve it. A hungry partner staring at me never helps me stay calm in the kitchen.  

Before we begin, some tips on how to make the preparation just a little smoother:

Purchase and chop up a ready-cooked Chicken such as a Rotisserie Roaster, perhaps even do so the day before if you can. It's no fun to have Chicken shrapnel all over your hands when you are trying to stir broth and simultaneously brown Vegetables at the same time. The recipe below asks you to use the whole Chicken (a roaster big enough to serve 2) but the Soup would be just as good if you only have half the chicken. It'll just be a bit less chunky. This means that perhaps you can make sandwiches with half the roaster the first day, and chop up the rest for the soup. You could also use a couple of cans of ready-cooked Chicken. That's not really my thing because such a product is hard to find in organic form, but if you choose to do so, it would certainly eliminate a lot of the mess and chopping. I should also mention that any type of cooked Chicken will do! Light meat, dark meat, tenders, breasts, thigh meat shredded off the bone. Chicken and Dumpling Soup is a great thing to make with leftover cooked Chicken from any other recipe. 

Stir up all your Dry Dumpling Ingredients (Baking Powder, Flour, Cayenne and Salt) in a large bowl before you start cooking. Whenever I am messing with Flour and cracking eggs mid-recipe, I inevitably make an unholy mess. 

Same story with the Wet Dumpling Ingredients (slightly beaten eggs and Buttermilk). Crack and beat the eggs and combine them with the Buttermilk in a measuring cup or small bowl in advance. When it's time to create the quick Dumpling batter, having everything ready and at your fingertips is most definitely a good thing.

Ready Chopped Celery and Carrots can be a huge timesaver. Unfortunately, they can also add to the expense of the produce. At the very least, you can certainly buy pre-peeled small carrot sticks so you don't have to peel the carrots. I like to do this because Carrot Sticks make a handy snack to have around for later and you'll definitely have some leftover. It's also important to chop all your Garlic in advance so it is at the ready. 

Set aside a sieve with a handle if you have one. I use this to scoop out the aromatics that must simmer in the broth as you are creating the Chicken Stock. A slotted spoon works well too. I do this so I don't have to mess up yet another bowl when the recipe calls you to strain out the Thyme Sprigs, Garlic, Bay Leaves, and much of the Crushed Red Pepper. If you have cheesecloth and twine, you can also wrap up the aromatics in a little bouquet so they are even easier to fish out.

Have all additional ingredients out on the counter and ready to go. 

Finally, feel free to have a plan for your Buttermilk. You will have a bunch left over. Use it as an overnight marinade for Chicken or Pork Chops, or maybe you are craving Buttermilk Pancakes this weekend? 

Now, Are we ready to cook? I think so!

Chicken and Dumpling Soup
Adapted from Taste of Home/Jessica Rehs
Serves 4 to 5 
4 Cups Reduced Sodium and Fat Free Chicken Broth 
2 Cups Prepared Chicken Stock
1 Cup Water
3 Bay Leaves 
1.5 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes 
6 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
5 large Garlic Cloves, peeled
3 Garlic Cloves, minced and set aside 
1 Cup chopped Carrots
1 Cup chopped Celery
2 Tablepoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Frozen Peas
1 Rotisserie Chicken, meat chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/4 Cup Evaporated Milk
1/2 Cup chopped Chives (optional) for garnish 
Dumpling Ingredients: 
2 Cups All Purpose Flour 
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
Removing the aromatics, Photo: NK
1.25 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
1.25 teaspoons Salt 
1 Cup Buttermilk 
2 Eggs, lightly beaten

Create the Stock:
In a large saucepan, add the first 7 ingredients and combine. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and allow to simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes. Once done, scoop out most of the Crushed Red Pepper, all of the Garlic, Thyme, and Bay leaves. Discard. 
Note: You can also leave a few Cloves of whole Garlic in for the entire cooking process if you like extra Garlic flavor. I did of course. Just be sure to remember to scoop them out later! 

Cook Vegetables and Create the Soup Base:
In a large dutch oven or very large pot add oil and melt butter. Add Carrots and Celery and sauté until they are tender, stirring occasionally and taking care not to burn. This should take about 6-8 minutes

Dumpling batter, Photo: NK 
Bring it all together:
Next, add the Minced Garlic and cook about 1 minute longer, stirring. Stir in the 2 Tablespoons of Flour until incorporated. Now, slowly add the prepared Stock. Bring it to a boil and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes to allow it to thicken. Add the Peas and return the mixture to a boil. Cook for another 3 or so minutes until Peas are tender. Stir in Chicken and Evaporated Milk and lower the heat a bit. Allow the mixture to heat thoroughly for another 3 or so minutes.

Make, add, and cook the Dumplings:
In a large bowl, combine Flour, Cayenne, Salt and Baking Powder. In a separate smaller bowl combine slightly beaten Eggs and Buttermilk. Pour the Wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and stir until incorporated and just moistened.

Photo: NK
By the teaspoonful, drop batter into the already simmering broth. Add as many dollops of batter as you'd like keeping in mind that you may have some batter left over. When done, cover the pot and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when poked into a Dumpling. 

When the Dumpling are finished cooking they will inevitably have stuck together. You can easily remedy this by running a sharp knife around each to separate. 
Photo: NK 

To Serve, portion out the Soup and Dumplings into individual bowls and garnish with ample amounts of Chives.

Cooks note - this "soup" has the potential to come out more stewlike - much of liquid gets sucked up by all the Dumplings, especially after you've stored this and served it as a leftover. You can certainly store the Dumplings apart from the broth, or feel free to add more Chicken Broth or Even a bit of water before reheating to 
increase the amount of liquid. 
Ready to serve Chicken and Dumpling Soup, comfort food at its finest, Photo: NK 


  1. this is one of my favorite childhood dishes - may have to try my hand at it soon!

  2. Thanks for reading :) Would love to hear about the results if you do!