Friday, July 9, 2010

A Second Opinion

Let me preface this post with the declaration that I have never made Chicken and Dumplings before in my life. I’ve only had the dish once, years ago. I had just gotten over a miserable GI illness that had me tolerating nothing but juice for over a week. There happened to be a can of Chicken and Dumpling soup in the cabinet and it seems like a logical transition back to real food. It was pretty good, for my first real ‘meal.’ This version (original recipe found here) is a bit more work than popping open a can and sticking it in the microwave, but I was willing to give it a shot.

I tossed the celery, onions (yes, I used frozen chopped onions - they’re super cheap AND I don’t have to deal with the hassle of cutting them!) and all the other goodies in a large pan with the chicken. It called for 4 quarts of water, but I could only fit 3 quarts in my pan. Anymore and adding the chicken would have been like doing a cannonball in a bathtub.

I used skinless, boneless chicken breasts because it’s less fat swimming in the broth and easier than dealing with bones. I also used the lower sodium version of the cream of chicken soup. You could try to find low sodium bullion cubes, but I already had regular bullion cubes in my cabinet. I also omitted the salt from the house seasoning recipe.

While that was stewing away, I got to work on the dumplings. Instead of using all white flour, I used a 50/50 mix of all-purpose and whole wheat to add a little bit more fiber. I got my hands dirty and worked the dough and then let it “relax,” just like the recipe advised.

I shredded the chicken once it had cooked and returned it to the pot, along with the cream of chicken soup. After that, the recipe said to pinch the dumplings in half and drop them in and swish the pot, letting them cook until they float, “about 3-4 minutes.”

After 5 minutes, still no floaters. I was wondering what the deal was. Could it be that all the nutritious-ness and fiber of the whole wheat was weighing the little guys down? Were they trying to swim to the top or were they just chillin’ at the bottom with the chicken? Maybe they “relaxed” too long before getting in and just were being lazy.

10 minutes later....

Still no floaters. I gave up and decided it wasn’t going to happen. So I ladled some of the soupy mixture into my bowl and decided to test it out. It didn’t really look like what I’d seen in pictures, but maybe it was just because of my lack of food styling skills.

The chicken soup part tasted pretty good, but the dumpling squares tasted a little gummy. It didn’t really taste like what I remembered, but I didn’t think it was fair to compare this recipe to a canned soup eaten over 6 years ago. I needed a second opinion.

As the only Chicken and Dumpling expert I know, Kat said it tasted OK, but agreed that the dumplings were a little bit dense. She suggested that the dumpling dough be rolled out a little bit thinner and not pounded so much during the kneading process. Also, replacing half of the flour with whole wheat flour (which is more dense and heavier) only increased the fiber by 1 gram. This is such a tiny difference, it may in the best interest of the recipe to leave the dumpling recipe as is.

Maybe one day, Foodies Not Fatties will revisit this recipe and make aforementioned adjustments, but until then, I’m going to leave Chicken and Dumplings to Paula Deen. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can test out our recipe, but I'd suggest using Kat’s recommendations when making the dumplings.

When was the last time you made a recipe that just didn't turn out like you hoped?

Here are the stats, nutritionally. Note that I adjusted the serving size. The original recipe serves 4-6, but I ended up with a huge pot of chicken and dumplings that would serve 8-10.

Nutritional Information (OLD) Nutritional Information (NEW)
Servings Per Recipe: 4-6 Servings Per Recipe: 8-10
Amount Per Serving Amount Per Serving
Calories: 346 Calories: 245
Fat: 5.5 g Fat: 2.5 g
Sodium: 2108 mg Sodium: 1130 mg
Fiber: 2.5 g Fiber: 3.5 g

And here’s the recipe, if you dare to try it!

Chicken and Dunkin' Dumplings

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about ~5 breasts)
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 low sodium chicken bullion cubes
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 (10 3/4 oz) can Campbell’s Healthy Choice cream of chicken soup

1 c whole wheat flour
1 c all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 c ice water

Put the chicken and the spices in a large pot and add 3 quarts of water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer the chicken about 20 to 25 minutes, until the center is no longer pink. Shred the chicken and return to the pot and keep warm over low heat.

Mix the flours and salt in a bowl and slowly add the water while mixing with your hands. Knead the dough and form it into a ball, careful not to overwork the dough. Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface to 1/8” thick. Let the dough relax for several minutes.

Add the cream of chicken to the soup and let simmer.

Cut the dough into 1” pieces. Pull the pieces in half and drop the halves into the soup. Do not mix the soup, instead carefully move the pot to submerge the dumplings. Cook until the dumplings begin to float.

Used a ladle to serve into bowls and enjoy!

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