This old-fashioned recipe has been passed down to me by the matriarchs of my family. It's thick "chicken" gravy and soft lumpy dumplings are the epitome of comfort.
Growing up, it wasn't a holiday if my mom or nanny didn't serve up a piping hot bowl of Chicken n' Dumplin's. Often served alongside all the traditional fixins', this dish was an absolute staple in my home. As the adults were in the kitchen, they'd do their best to keep us out of it by giving us coloring books or putting on a classic Christmas movie. However, we were less interested in watching the Heat Miser hash out his family grievances through song and more interested in stealing bits of undercooked dumplings out of the pot. We'd casually walk in the kitchen and watch my mother as she'd pinch off another piece of dough, drop it in the pot, and push the dumplings down into the pot of piping hot stew to make room for more. It was at this point that we'd ask, "Can I test to see if the dumplings are ready?" To which my mother would answer by simply spooning out one for us or telling us "it'll be ready when it's ready." Sometimes the chicken and dumplings would be ready before dinner and we'd all get a small tasting - but just enough to wet our whistle and not ruin our appetite.
At its heart, Chicken n' Dumplings is pure comfort food and some version of it can be found all over the world. Here in the south, you'll find two main variations of this dish and it mostly comes down to the shape of the dumplings. When I think of a traditional southern dumpling, one shape comes to mind - little round balls of pinched dough. However, other families (and Cracker Barrel) present their Chicken and Dumplings in what's also often called Chicken and Pastry, or simply Chicken Pastry. This style uses the same biscuit dough, but instead of being pinched off and thrown in, it's rolled out and cut into flat strips. Both are delicious and neither is more proper. Our method here requires no rolling and less mess. That's always something I can get down with. It's worth noting that my nanny's recipe is largely based on taste. She didnt use any measurments and just seasoned with her heart each time. Though I've provided measurements, I reccomend you do the same by adding more at the end if need be. Listen to your heart.
Another thing you'll notice about this recipe is that it's really a "barebones" one. Other than the vegetable stock, there isn't a single actual veggie to be found here. We compensate for this by using our garlic and onion powders, but nanny kept it simple. Besides, there's nothing you could add to this dish to make it "healthy" other than just loving it for what it is and allowing yourself to enjoy it without guilt. We got no time for food shame here, babes. Sometimes that, too, is "healthy" eating.
When veganizing this recipe, I wanted to find a substitute for chicken that stood out and stood up against the real thing. That's where soy curls come in. If you're anything like me, I didn't know what the F%^& soy curls were before I did some digging on the interwebs for non-frozen chicken alternatives. This product is very similar to TVP except it takes form as long strips. Soy curls are naturally gluten-free, which makes turning this recipe into a vegan/gf dish easy as pie! Another thing I love about this ingredient is that with proper marination/hydration, they can literally be whatever you want to be, and they're totally shelf-stable. As y'all know - I love soy. It's highly sustainable and can be safely eaten multiples times a week. While soy curls are a processed food - it's not gonna hurt ya. Again, this isn't a health food in the first place. Enjoy it for what it is and all the comfort it brings.
Old-Fashioned "Chicken" & Dumplings
Author: Megan Thompson Aston
Time: 1 hr
For the Broth
1/4 cup avocado oil
2 tbsp all-purpose flour ( or GF all-purpose)
1 cup plant-based milk (soy or oat are best)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
3 cups water +
1 1/4 tsp poultry seasoning (my nanny was always heavy on the poultry seasoning. You can reduce for personal preference - but don't tell Jeanette)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp black salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
For the "Buttermilk" Dumplings
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour ( or GF all-purpose)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup refined coconut oil
1 cup soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
For the "Chicken"
1 1/2 cup soy curls
For the Broth
In a large pot, add your avocado oil and flour over medium heat. Stirring constantly until the flour turns a blonde color and you begin to smell it. We're mainly using this super thin roux for flavor. The biscuits are what really thicken up this recipe.
Next, carefully pour and whisk your vegetable broth and water into the thin roux. Do the same with your soy milk.
Now, add all your seasonings and apple cider vinegar. Whisk until completely combined.
Bring it to a simmer.
In a small bowl reserve 1 cup of broth for the chicken.
Reduce the temperature of the broth to low.
For the "Chicken"
Add your 1 1/2 cup of soy curls to the hot broth and allow them to soak it up until they're soft.
Once they're soft, pour any access broth back into the pot
On your best nonstick skillet, brown your hydrated "chicken" strips with a little oil over medium heat. Once done, set aside.
For the Dumplings
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, thoroughly combine all your dry ingredients. Set aside.
In a glass measuring cup, add the apple cider vinegar to the soy milk. Mix and allow to thicken.
While the buttermilk is thickening, cut in your coconut oil until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add your buttermilk.
Mix your buttermilk into your oil/flour until just combined. Set aside.
Bring your broth back up to a gentle boil over medium heat.
Using your hands, grab a large bit of dough, and roll it in your hands. Then, pinch off dime-sized dumplings and add to your broth. They will expand slightly while cooking.
Continue to do this. pushing down the dumplings into the thickening broth and always using a spoon to lift and incorporate anything that begins to stick to the bottom of the pot.
Once the broth starts to thicken, reduce the heat to low, and continue cooking on that temperature.
Watch the broth and add extra water to it as it thickens to adjust it's viscosity if needed. This is a personal preference type of thing. You may add all the dumpling mix and you may not. As you continue to add dumplings, the soup will continue to thicken. Keep this in mind. These are nannys rules - not mine.
Once you're happy with the dumpling ratio and thickness of your dish, cover with a lid and allow to cook until all the dumplings are cooked throughout. Salt and pepper to taste. I typically use at least 1 1/2 tsp of salt. At this point, tweak the recipe to taste. Don't be scared.
Right before serving, add the "Chicken" to the pot with your dumplings. Stir until evenly distributed.
Serve as is or over white rice if you want a little extra something something.