If you’ve had the good fortune to spend any time in the South or with people of Southern extraction, eventually you will be introduced to the magic that is chicken ’n dumplings. In old school chicken ’n dumplings, pieces of chicken are suspended in a richly flavored gravy, maybe with some onion and carrot in the mix, and heavily embellished with thick handmade swaths of dumplings or “slicks.” They are not quite noodles, not quite biscuits. They live in their own perfect realm of carby goodness, and once you’ve had them, you want more of them in your life.
But chicken ’n dumplings aren’t usually a party food. They’re dinner at home, Sunday supper, family food. They are messy and require bowls and forks and spoons, and preferably some crusty bread to sop up the extra gravy. You cannot navigate chicken ’n dumplings with one hand while juggling a wine glass.
But what if you didn’t make chicken ’n dumplings? What if you made chicken in dumplings?
I don’t mean dumplings in the Asian style. I mean more of a pierogi or a varenyky. I mean taking the dumpling dough from the original recipe and stuffing it with the chicken and gravy so you get all the flavor of the original in a handy, easy-to-eat package. Even better, you can make them with a store-bought rotisserie chicken and jarred gravy, so the only thing you have to do from scratch is the dumpling dough. Once that’s made, you boil the dumplings to cook them through, then panfry them for a little bit of crispiness. You can serve them with a dip or cranberry sauce, or just leave them as is for a weird and wonderful twist on an old favorite.
In a bowl, mix:
- 1 rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed, and meat shredded
- 1 can or jar of chicken gravy, or 1 1/2 cups of homemade chicken gravy
Cover and store in the fridge until you are ready to stuff the dumplings.
Adapted from Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking: A Cookbook by Toni Tipton-Martin
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 Tbsp. shortening, cubed and chilled
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
Mix the salt into the flour in a large bowl. Toss the cubes of shortening in and cut them into the flour with a pastry cutter or a pair of butter knives. With a large fork, mix the eggs into the milk and then stir into the flour mixture. Once you have a blended dough, cover and let sit for 10 minutes to let the flour hydrate.
Remove the dough after resting to a floured surface and knead for 4-5 minutes until the dough is about the texture of a soft pie crust. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes to an hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough 1/4" thick. Cut with a 3" biscuit cutter into rounds. Top each round with about a tablespoon of the chicken filling and pinch the edges closed, being careful that they are fully sealed. Re-roll the scraps of dough as needed.
You can freeze the dumplings at this stage in a single layer on a parchment lined sheet pan, and store in a zip-top bag for up to two months.
To cook, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the dumplings, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through. (Add five minutes if you’re cooking the dumplings from frozen.) Strain, then pan-fry the dumplings in batches in butter or neutral oil in a nonstick skillet until golden brown and crispy on both sides. You can hold the pan-fried dumplings in a 200-degree oven on a rack over a sheet pan to keep warm while you finish the rest of the dumplings.
Serve hot with the dipping sauce of your choice.