Sunday, September 15, 2013

Thrifty dinner: Chicken and Dumplings

Sometimes, there just aren't enough hours in the day.   Busy days at work  + After school activities + Volunteer work = No time to cook dinner.   On days like that, I sometimes resort to rotisserie chicken for dinner.   The good news is that they are a relatively tasty and healthy option.  The bad news is that no one in our house really likes dark meat, and I have a teenage boy that could probably eat an entire chicken by himself, if left to his own devices. So we usually have to get 2 chickens and we have lots of leftover dark meat.  That can get a little spendy....

Part of my collection of chicken salt and pepper shakers

So usually, my rotisserie birds (or roast chicken carcasses) end up making an encore performance later in the week as chicken and dumplings.   My crew will eat dark meat served in soup or stews, so none of it goes to waste.  Plus, I keep a stock bag in my freezer of onion skins, carrot ends, limp celery stalks, pretty much any kind of vegetable trimming will work except  potato peels.   Made out of stuff I would have normally thrown away, chicken and dumplings are the most thrifty recipe I make - in my view, it's virtually free.

Here's how I make it....first, right after dinner, I dump the chicken carcasses and the contents of my stock bag into my crock pot, along with a couple bay leaves.   I cover the chicken bones with water and set the pot on low and cook it overnight.   The next morning before work, I strain the stock and put it in a container in the fridge.   In a separate container, I save what was in the strainer - bones, chicken meat, veggie scraps.  The next day, or whenever I have time,  I pick all the meat off the bones - this takes a little time, but it's well worth it.  

Chicken and Dumplings

Reserved chicken stock (see above)
Reserved chicken meat  (see above)
2 carrots or parsnips or a combination, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper, to taste

Put all ingredients in a crock pot, cook on 4 hours high or 8 hours low, and then transfer it into a Dutch oven.  Or, you can cook it on the stove top in a Dutch oven for about 40 minutes until the carrots are soft.    Taste the broth at this point - add salt and pepper as needed. Don't be afraid to add enough salt! When you've got it right,  turn the flame up to medium high until the broth is boiling. 

Meanwhile, make the dumplings.   I like to make my dumplings out of self rising flour;; I buy it to make biscuits, so I am always looking for other uses for it.  It makes for a nice light dumpling. 


1 1/2 c self rising flour
1/4 c shortening, cut into small cubes
1/2 c hot chicken stock

In a medium bowl, cut shortening into the flour until it resembles small peas.   With a soup ladle, add about a 1/2 cup of hot stock from the simmering pot and stir with a fork until combined.  On a floured countertop right next to the stove, spread the dough out into a rectangle until it's about a 1/2 inch thick.   With a knife, cut the rectangle into 1 inch squares.   Drop squares individually into the boiling broth, taking care not to crowd them or they will stick together,  stir them gently to separate.   Put the lid on the pot and turn down the heat a little and cook until the dumplings are done, about 15 minutes.   The flour will naturally thicken the broth and the dumplings will float on top when it is done.  

That's it, super easy and super thrifty! This also works for turkey carcasses....Thanksgiving is right around the corner.   I always have a crockpot of turkey remains going every Thanksgiving evening.  


BethKane said...

This sounds great, Cindy! Will try.

Tricia said...

My husband is a big fan of chicken & dumplings, but my family never ate that dish growing up. And my first experience of dumplings was gooey ones - ick. Needless to say, I never think to make it - but my husband would if I suggested it. (We usually turn out stock into chicken tortilla soup.)

Question: we got back & forth on whether the meat that comes off the bones after simmering is worth eating. One line of thinking: doesn't all the flavor cook out into the stock? Other line: the meat absorbs some of the flavor. Apparently you are in the second camp. Maybe the first camp is just an excuse to avoid the work of picking it off the bones...

Cynthia said...

It definitely tastes chickeny to's a moderate pain to pick it off of the bones, however.

Kim said...

A two-fer! Crockpot stock AND the chicken & dumplings recipe. Thanks for sharing! Love the crockpot idea. I've never done it and will give it a try.