When I think of chicken and dumplings, I think of everything that used to feel like home when my grandmother was still alive. She was an expert at this dish and she made it regularly on chilly Sundays, which always made me feel safe and cozy.
As it turns out, I’ve never tried to make them since she passed away nearly 14 years ago. Suddenly inspired this Sunday morning, I decided that I would give it a try because, it couldn’t be that hard, right?
Well, it was. It’s a rare occasion when I get my ass kicked by something in the kitchen (poached eggs, I’m looking at you), especially by something that I grew up with as a staple. If my grandma were alive today, she would laugh at me for lots of reasons, but mostly because I got owned by dumplings. Now I have lonely chicken soup, which I didn’t put any noodles in since there were supposed to be dumplings.
I followed my grandmother’s recipe which is tried and true (debatable):
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk
First, mix all the dry ingredients together. I didn’t sift the flour, which other recipes have indicated was probably a mistake. Then cut the butter into the mixture until it’s in small, crumbly pieces. Add the milk in and stir it until it’s a “soft” dough. I think of all dough as soft, so I’m not certain when the ideal level of softness has been reached. Since you can also stir the dough too much (a better side to err on, apparently), I stopped too early and didn’t know it.
Once you have the dough prepared, spoon them into six tablespoon-size balls and drop them in your softly boiling soup, or stock and reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and DO NOT peek for 15 minutes. It’s very important for the dumplings to stay covered the whole time, which makes peeking even more tempting, right? I suspected there was trouble when the pot started boiling over, which made me swear and run, which sent my cat into the position she assumes to show the world that she’s completely unfazed by the crisis that’s developing around her.
Here’s what I think happened: I dropped dough that was too soft into boiling stock, covered the pan too quickly, and left the heat too high for too long, which effectively dissolved them, reducing them to a gravy-like chicken sauce. Four of the six dissolved right there in the pot and the remaining two dissolved in my slow cooker with my sad chicken soup, which only added insult to injury; there were no survivors.
What are your experiences with making dumplings? Do you have any horror stories or insider tips to share?
Update: While having sad soup for lunch, a tiny miracle was found. All was not lost!