Mrs. Powell rented rooms from my Grandmother in Chicago when I was a little kid. Grandma Bess lived in what had previously been the home of the Mayor of Morgan Park, before the city of Chicago absorbed the once posh suburb. It was a big house with front and back parlors, a huge dining room and several floors of enormous bedrooms with sitting rooms. It had to be big; it was the house in which my dad and his four brothers, in ages spanning over twenty years, grew up. It was also the house in which she lived until she died. After my grandfather died and all of the boys left home, Grandma Bess took in boarders and Mrs. Powell, who I think was in her nineties then, was there as far back as I can remember.
I remember times when my dad would pick up Mrs. Powell early in the day and bring her to our house to sit with us kids when our folks needed a break. I really don’t know where they went or what they did and as a child of four or five years old I didn’t care, as long as Mrs. Powell was going to make Chicken & Dumplings. (For me, the operative word here was and is Dumplings!) When Mrs. Powell was no longer around, we were happy to know that mom had learned how to make her signature dish.
Here’s my updated version – this isn’t a quickie, in fact you’ll need to devote the better part of an afternoon to it, just like Mrs. Powell would have. I do provide some shortcuts in the Tips and Trending following the recipe but please, don’t rush right there. Cooking good food isn’t just about the end product. Building a dish like this means that you have committed yourself to producing something really special for your family or friends or even the kids who are in your care for the night.
Mrs. Powell’s Dumplings & Chicken
Serves: 4-6 Total Time: 4 Hours
For Roasting the Chicken:
• 1 Whole Chicken, 5 to 6 pounds
• Kosher Salt
• Freshly Ground Black Pepper
• 1 Onion, quartered
• Olive Oil
• 2 Teaspoons Herbes de Provence
• 2 Ribs of Celery, each cut into 3 pieces
For making the Stock:
• 8 Cups Cold Water
• 1 Teaspoon Poultry Seasoning
• 1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
• 1 Sprig Rosemary
• 1 Bay Leaf
For the Dumplings:
• 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
• 1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
• 1 Teaspoon Table Salt
• 2 Teaspoons Granulated Sugar
• ¼ Cup Shortening
• ⅔ Cup Milk
For the finished dish:
• 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
• 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
• 2 Small Onions, chopped in large chunks
• 2 Large Carrots, cut in coins
• 1 Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
• 10 Ounce Package of Frozen Peas, thawed and drained
Step 1. Preheat oven to 350ºF
Step 2. Remove neck and giblets from Chicken and reserve for later use. Rinse and pat the Chicken dry inside and out. Liberally Salt and Pepper the body cavity; put the quartered Onion in the cavity along with 1 teaspoon of Herbes de Provence. Drizzle the Olive Oil over the Chicken and massage into the skin. Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of Herbes de Provence and more Kosher Salt and Fresh Pepper all over the Chicken. Lay the Celery as a rack in the bottom of a small roasting pan or dutch oven and place the Chicken, breast side up on top. There’s no need to tie or truss the Chicken.
Step 3. Roast Chicken uncovered for 1½ to 2 hours or until the temperature in the thickest part of the breast reaches 155º. Remove from the oven and cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil to rest for 15 minutes.
Step 4. Bone the Chicken and cut the meat into larger bite sized pieces. Cover and immediately refrigerate the Chicken pieces.
Step 5. Into a 6-8 quart stock pot, put all of the skin, the carcass, reserved neck and giblets, the onion from the cavity, the celery and any juices from the roasting pan. Add Poultry Seasoning, Dried Parsley, Rosemary and Bay Leaf. Cover the contents of the stock pot with 8 cups of cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours.
Step 6. While the stock is simmering, put 2 cups All-Purpose Flour, Baking Powder, Salt and Sugar into a food processor and pulse to combine. Add Shortening to mixed dry ingredients and pulse again until the mix resembles coarse meal. Remove the mix to a covered bowl and set aside.
Step 7. When the stock is finished, remove all of the large bits of carcass and strain the stock thought a mesh colander into a large bowl.
Step 8. Place a dutch oven, or similar wide covered pot, on the stove over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon each of Olive Oil and Butter. Add the chopped Onions and Carrots and sauté for 2 minutes. Sprinkle the sautéed vegetables with 1 tablespoon of flour, a pinch of Kosher Salt and Ground Pepper and stir for another 2 minutes. Add the cut up chicken to the pot and stir to mix with the vegetables.
Step 9. Add 6 cups of the strained stock and the thawed Peas to the dutch oven; turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Put any remaining stock in a covered container and refrigerate for another use.
Step 10. While the pot is coming to a boil, add ⅔ Cup Milk to the dry Dumpling mix. Stir together with a fork until a soft, sticky dough forms.
Step 11. Use two soup spoons to scoop and drop the Dumpling dough, one spoonful at a time, into the boiling stew. You should get about 12 Dumplings. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 12 minutes, then put the cover on and simmer for another 12 minutes. The simmering Dumplings will provide the needed thickening for the stew as they cook.
I like to serve this with the Dumplings taking center stage, surrounded by the chucks of Chicken and vegetables swimming in the thickened stock.
Tips and Trending
~ Understandably you won’t always have the time needed to prepare this recipe, so here are the promised shortcuts. They will get you pretty close, but never spot on.
~ Use a Rotisserie Chicken from your local market instead of roasting your own chicken and skip over the first three steps.
~ Use 6 Cups of packaged Low Sodium Chicken Stock instead of making your own stock and skip all of that.
~ Use 2 Cups commercially prepared baking mix like Bisquick® instead of making your own dumplings.
~ If you use a Rotisserie Chicken, you will still have to bone it and put the meat aside. Do yourself a flavor and put the carcass in a stock pot with a rough chopped small onion, a carrot and a celery rib and enough water to cover it. Bring to a boil, cover the pot and the reduce heat to a simmer for 2 hours. Strain out the solids and you’ll have a homemade stock to use in your next dish. Refrigerate the strained stock overnight and you can easily remove the solidified fat that floated to the top to make this stock reduced-fat.
~ In a dutch oven, sauté the vegetables as in the original recipe but do not add the boned chicken meat. Add the packaged stock and bring to a boil.
~ Mix the baking mix with the milk as in the recipe and then add the chicken meat and the peas to the boiling stock. When the pot is boiling again drop the dumplings as directed in the recipe.
~ If you have a colander insert for your stock pot, by all means use it! Just put the insert into the empty pot and put the carcass and vegetables into the colander. Just as before, add the water just to cover the contents. This makes straining the stock much easier. You’ll probably end up with about ⅓ more stock, which you can refrigerate for use at another time.
~ For a nice presentation, mix 2 tablespoons of sour cream and ½ teaspoon of Herbes de Provence together in a small bowl. Place a dollop of this sour cream mixture on top of each serving and garnish with a few chives.