So I am not from North Louisiana. I have made that pretty well known. I am from “central Louisiana” (and dang proud of it) with strong roots in Avoyelles Parish…Marksville to be exact. I love that about me. I love that I had never eaten biscuits and gravy before I came to Shreveport. Or real chicken and dumplings. Now…let me back it up. I lived in Natchitoches for 6 years and I loved every single minute of it. Shreveport is my home now. I love it. I love living here and truly cannot imagine living anywhere else. I have blossomed where I have been planted. There are some wonderful things about living here. Real, proper chicken dumplings are at the top of the list. Now…I am NOT saying that people in central LA or in Avoyelles don’t make chicken and dumplings. I am sure there are some. I did not know any of them growing up. But when you have the wonderfulness that is chicken fricassee…why would you even care? Exactly. But now that I live here, I kind of felt like I should learn. So I tried a few recipes here and there. I started out doing what my mama did the one time I can recall her making chicken and dumplings. I used Bisquick. And they were alright. They sufficed. But when one of my friends from “up here” made them, I knew I had not hit the mark. And all respect due to my mama, neither had she. (But I don’t know anyone “up here” who can smother chicken like my mama, my Momee, or my cousin Robin)…so tit for a tat, so to speak. Anyway, I found a recipe here and there for chicken and dumplings. I tried different recipes for dumplings. I tried the frozen dumplings. They all just left me wanting another recipe. I used biscuits…and that was a good one. But still…my search continued. Call it being a Cajun mama married to a country boy and the drive to assimilate. Call it being a chicken and dumpling addict and trying to feed my habit (excuse the pun)…I don’t know. I do know that the day this very chicken and dumplings recipe came across my Facebook feed, my days of searching for the perfect recipe ended. Angels sang. The seas parted. My kids were perfectly behaved. Ok ok…I am being overly dramatic…but I do have a good recipe now. AND I learned to make my own dumplings!! Yes…me!!! Baking impaired Cajun mama can make her own dumplings! And guess what my friends? I am going to tell you how to do it too!! Friends share, friends care. Friends don’t let friends make bad dumplings. 🙂 You can do this. My oh so country hubby aka Big Daddy, LOVES this dish. His yummy noises are all the validation I need. So, I really hope you will give this recipe a try. It is really so good and very easy.
Cracker Barrel chicken and dumplings
1 lb. chicken breasts or 3 cups cooked chicken
2 quarts chicken broth * (have a 14.5 ounce can on hand and some chicken bouillon base is what I recommend)
OR 2 quarts of canned chicken broth
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
a pinch of Kosher salt
a little less than 1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of butter
Now…boil your chicken breasts in about 2 quarts of water. Add a little salt and pepper to the water. Boil them until they are cooked through and really just falling apart. Remove them from the water and set aside. Keep the broth. Once the chicken is cooled, shred it and then set aside. Ok…now what I do is keep the broth I have and add some chicken bouillon base. *I bring the broth to a boil and then whisk in chicken base (found in most supermarkets on the soup aisle. It is in a jar and usually on the top shelf near the cans of broth. It is a must have product and really adds authenticity to your soups, stews and gravy.) I usually whisk in about 2 Tablespoons for about 1 1/2 quarts of stock. Then I add a can of chicken broth. You can also just use straight canned chicken broth if you want. That’s cool too. If you do that, you will need quite a few cans or at least 2 of the boxes of broth. Either way is fine. Ok once you kind of have your broth simmering, start making your dumplings.
In a large bowl, mix your flour, baking powder, and salt. Then using a fork or a pastry cutter, blend in your butter. I cut it into pats into the flour and then blend. Now you want to cut the butter into the flour until it is well mixed in. Now add in your milk (today I used evaporated milk and it worked out great but whole or 2 % works well too). Stir until a nice ball of dough forms. Then you want to turn the ball of dough onto a floured surface. I have one of those old school Tupperware rolling mats like mu mama has and that is what I use. Now take your well floured rolling pin and just roll it until the dough until it is uniform in thickness. Really it is a preference thing, but if I had to eyeball it I would say about 1/4 ” thickness is about right. And then I use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 2 x 2 squares. You are not really looking for perfection here. Now I use a floured brownie spatula to remove them from the work mat and then place them on a heavily floured plate in layers, with plenty of flour between layers.
Now at this point your broth should be simmering, so add the dumplings one by one into the simmering broth, stirring frequently. Cook on low for about 15-20 minutes. Add your shredded chicken. You are ready to ladle it into some bowls and dive in. So. dang. delicious. Now usually I make some cornbread and some purple hull peas to go with this. As Big Daddy says, “watch out!!!”