Most cultures have a dumpling of some type as part of their traditional cuisine. Germans float fluffy dumplings on top of a flavorful soup or stew. In Asia, thin dough is filled with meat and vegetables, then steamed or fried. The Italians stuff pasta and call it ravioli, and in Turkey, dumplings are called manti.
Ask an American how to make chicken and dumplings, and you'll get a recipe for chicken and vegetables in a thick gravy or broth, topped with billowy mounds of dough.
Canned Biscuit Dumplings
The simplest way to make dumplings at home is to use a tube of biscuit dough. Look in the refrigerated section of your supermarket – they're usually near the eggs. Choose a thick dinner biscuit, not a croissant or a sweet variation.
Prepare soup or stew according to your favorite recipe. Just before it's done, open the tube of biscuits, separate them, and cut each into quarters. While your soup or broth is still at full boil, dip the biscuit quarters in a beaten egg to coat, and drop them one by one into the bubbling liquid.
Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Cover the pot and cook for another 10 minutes. Don't lift the lid while the dumplings are cooking – this lowers the temperature of the cooking liquid and affects the cooking time. The dumplings should look fluffy and shiny.
Basic dumpling dough is a mixture of flour, salt and another leavening agent, such as baking powder mixed with milk or buttermilk, oil and melted butter or schmaltz (chicken fat). Combine the ingredients just until the dough comes together. Some recipes call for adding chopped parsley or seasonings like salt and pepper.
Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons into boiling soup or stew, cover the pot, reduce the heat and let the dumplings simmer for about 15 minutes. If you're not making soup or broth, cook the dumplings in boiling stock or plain water; then fry them in butter.
Boiled, mashed potatoes are added to krumpli gomboc, a Hungarian dumpling variation. German potato klub, or klubb, contain potatoes, and they are served with bacon grease brushed across the top.
If your dumplings are tough or gummy, the dough was probably overmixed.
Chicken and Dumplings
Simmer whole or cut-up chicken in water seasoned with an onion or leek, a carrot, a stalk of celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and pepper until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken; let it cool and remove the meat from the bones.
In a separate pot, cook cubed potatoes and carrots until they're almost tender. Drain and set aside.
Strain the cooking liquid, discard the vegetables and seasonings used to make the stock, and set it aside.
Melt butter, margarine or schmaltz in a pan over low heat. When the fat has melted, whisk an equal amount of flour into it. Cook and stir for a few minutes before slowly pouring the stock into the roux as you continue to whisk. As the stock and roux warm up, the resulting gravy should thicken.
Add the chicken, potatoes and carrots to the thickened gravy and heat until bubbling. Drop quartered, canned biscuits coated in egg or homemade dumpling dough on top of the bubbling stew; reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 15 minutes.
- For a shortcut, use a baking mix like Bisquick, Jiffy
or Pioneer to make the dumplings. Follow the package directions.
- Use prepared chicken stock and cooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket to make quick chicken and dumplings.
- Make the chicken and dumplings in an enameled casserole that's stovetop safe for stove-to-table serving.