In last year's special food issue of Oxford American magazine, my father Donald Harington wrote an ode to chicken and dumplings in which he debated round versus flat dumplings and presumed that my sisters and I only made flat ones these days, unlike the fluffy ones he made when we were little.
Although the real thing is pretty much just chicken and flour and nothing else, this is how I do it and it is truly delicious. The dumplings, which are not so fluffy but reminiscent of a German bread dumpling, are killer and lifted directly from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham (13th Edition, Knopf 1990).
The rest of it is my recipe and I'm sticking to it.
Chicken and Dumplings
1 (one) 2 and 1/2 to 3 pound quality, naturally-raised chicken (I get mine from Gippert's Farm in Saugerties, NY)
Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
1 large onion, chopped--mince 1/4 cup of it and reserve for the dumplings
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
For "feather dumplings":
1 cup flour
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten well
2 tablespoons butter, melted
The 1/4 cup minced onion you saved from the stew part
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon finely minced parsley
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Rinse and dry chicken and cut into 8 serving pieces. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne and brown on both sides in some of its own fat over moderate heat in a Dutch oven.
Remove chicken pieces and reserve. Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic to Dutch oven and cook and stir until soft.
Put chicken back in pot and cover with water, approximately a quart, depending on size of the pot. Add the Kitchen Bouquet, if using, and some additional salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer about a half hour.
Meanwhile, (here's Ms. Cunningham talking) "Combine the flour, bread crumbs, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl, and stir to mix. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg, melted butter, onion and milk together. Stir into the dry ingredients to m make a stiff batter. Stir in the parsley and pepper. Once the chicken has cooked about 30-35 minutes [actually M.C. says 20 but I like my chicken well-done], drop spoonfuls of dough on top of the bubbling broth. Cover and steam for 20 minutes without lifting the cover."