Chicken and Dumplings
- Place the chicken in a Dutch oven or other large pot, and add the water, broth, carrot, onion, celery, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat. Simmer for 60 to 70 minutes, or until tender and chicken is done. Remove chicken and allow it to cool enough to handle. Remove the carrot, onion and celery pieces from the broth and discard. Reserve the broth.
- Bone the chicken, discarding all skin, bones and cartilage, and tear meat into bite-size pieces. Set aside. (You can do this part the day before, if you like. Just refrigerate the boned chicken -- well covered so the meat doesn't dry out -- and broth.)
- For the dumplings, combine the flour, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture is consistency of coarse meal. Add the buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead 4 or 5 times -- no more.
- For drop dumplings, pat the dough down to a 1/4-inch thickness, and pinch off 1-1/2-inch pieces.
- For rolled dumplings, roll the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness, and cut into strips, no larger than about 2 x 2 inches. (The dumplings will plump up when they are cooked.)
- If you have prepared the chicken in advance and refrigerated it, return it and the broth to your big pot and bring it to a boil. Then, with a very large slotted spoon or ladle, dip the boned chicken out of the broth, cover it and keep it warm. With the chicken broth at a low rolling boil, drop in the dumplings, one or two at a time, and reduce the heat to medium. Stir from time to time to make sure dumplings do not stick together. Cook dumplings 10 minutes. The flour in the dumplings will thicken the broth, and it is absolutely not necessary to thicken it further.
- Return the boned chicken to the mixture and simmer until heated through. Add the freshly ground black pepper and remove from heat.
Note: If you are cooking a whole chicken, it is fairly easy to remove as much of the skin as possible to avoid a lot of fat. Also, unless you use a really deep, narrow pot, the chicken isn't likely to be covered by the cooking liquid. So turn your chicken upsidedown; that is, cook it with the breast side down, to prevent drying.
Dumpling dough is very similar to biscuit dough and, like biscuit dough, the less it is handled, the lighter and more tender the result. Read all about dumplings in John Raven's article about dumplings from scratch, The Universal Dumpling.
Total time: 2 Hr 40 Min