Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tex-Mex chicken and dumplings recipe

Is there a cuter word in the English language than dumpling? Nope, I didn’t think so. And when you pair it with chicken to make chicken and dumplings, you have one of my favorite belly-filling, spirit-warming, cold-weather dishes.

As befits a homesick Texan, I spend chunks of time thinking of places I’d like to visit when I’m at home. My latest obsession is taking road trips on many of the state’s two-lane highways, motoring through some of the smaller towns that you wouldn’t normally see if you stayed on the interstates.

One of the best things about these towns is that they usually have a café that specializes in classic Texan cooking. You know the kind of joint I’m talking about—it’s a place where you can get a cheese enchilada to go with your chicken-fried steak, the lima beans are dripping with a bacon-rich broth, the iced tea is served in a bottomless glass and the toughest decision you’ll make that day is whether to order the pie or the cobbler for dessert.

Oh, and of course, these cafés always serve chicken and dumplings.

The first time I had chicken and dumplings was at my friend Laura’s house when I was in second grade. I know that seems kind of a late age to be introduced to the dish, but sadly, I don’t come from chicken and dumplings people—certain members of my family think they’re too mushy. I, however, disagree.

As Laura’s mother dropped the balls of dough into the bubbling broth, she allowed us to throw a couple into the pot as well. That was fun, but the real magic occurred when we returned a few minutes later. The dough had expanded to nearly four times its size and the soup and the dumplings had become one. And when I tucked into the thick, creamy concoction, I realized what I had been missing for so long: chicken and dumplings are like a security blanket in a bowl.

I’ve had lots of people ask me for my recipe, but since we didn’t make them at home, I took some liberties when coming up with a version of this classic dish. First, I decided to spice it up with some jalapenos and cilantro. To keep with the Tex-Mex theme, I considered making it the easy way—with strips of flour tortillas standing in for proper dumplings. But instead I came up with an even better idea: cornmeal dumplings.

The Tex-Mex trinity of jalapeno, cilantro and lime paired with the light corn dumplings reminded me of a soupy chicken-tamale pie. (And did you know that tamales are considered dumplings? I didn’t!). These are definitely not your grandmother’s chicken and dumplings. But don't worry, these Tex-Mex chicken and dumplings still fulfill the original dish’s mandate, which is that after eating it you will feel cozy and satisfied. And sometimes, that's just what you need.

Tex-Mex chicken and dumplings
For the chicken:
1 four-pound chicken
16 cups of water (1 gallon)
1 onion
9 cloves of garlic, divided
2 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
4 celery stalks, cut into quarters
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried or 1 stalk fresh epazote (optional)
1 leafy stem of cilantro (optional) plus 1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
1 can of Ro-Tel
2 jalapenos, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro
Juice of one lime
1/2 cup of cream
Salt, black pepper, cayenne and cumin to taste

For the cornmeal dumplings:
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 jalapeno, finely diced
2 tablespoons of minced cilantro

Clean and rinse your chicken and place in a large stock pot. Add water, onion, 8 cloves of garlic, carrots, celery, bay leaves, epazote and whole cilantro stem. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour and a half, occasionally skimming the foamy scum off the surface.

Remove chicken from pot and turn off the heat. After it’s cooled, remove fat and pick the meat off the bones and either shred or cut into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

Take cooled broth and strain and throw out the vegetables as they’ve done their duty. Now you need to remove the fat from the broth. If you don’t have a preferred way of getting rid of the fat or lack a gravy separator, you can try the plastic bag method. Take a quart-sized plastic storage bag, pour some broth into it. You will see the fat rise to the top. Snip a bottom corner of the bag and drain the broth, stopping when you get to the fat layer. (You will probably have to do this in batches).

Place the broth back into the pot and add the shredded chicken and lime juice. In a blender, add the can of Ro-Tel, sliced jalapenos, chopped cilantro and garlic and blend. Add puree to the pot. Now add the cream. Add salt, black pepper, cayenne and cumin to taste. Bring to a boil. And while the soup is coming to a boil, make the cornmeal dumplings.

Sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Beat the eggs with the buttermilk and add to the dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter, jalapenos and cilantro.

When soup is boiling, turn heat down to low and gently drop the dumpling batter into the pot, one tablespoon or so at a time. Do not stir. Place lid on top and steam dumplings for 20 minutes.

Ladle the chicken and dumplings into bowls and sprinkle cilantro on top. Serves six to eight.

Notes: If you want a thicker broth, feel free to add some flour. I'd add it slowly, a quarter cup at a time.

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HomegrownTexan said...

Cornmeal dumplings?!?!?!?! I think I'm in love. I make a traditional, from-scratch recipe of my own that I merged from several other recipes. But this spicy Tex-Mex version sounds divine. My family wouldn't care for it...but that's one of the advantages to being the cook in the family, isn't it? ;)

Melissa @BakingfortheBoys said...

There is nothing in this world like my grandma's chicken and dumplin's (yes, I said dumplin').

This sounds delicious though!

Memória said...

Ummmm, jalapeÑos...what an interesting addition along with the cilantro and everything else. I already bookmarked this one.

penandfork said...

My mom made chicken and dumplings but they were different than most Texas dishes. She poached a whole chicken, and then used the poaching liquid to cook long strips of rolled dough. They were chewy, about 1/4-inch thick. The broth thickened just from the extra flour on the strips. Thanks for making me remember them. I have to say, your Tex Mex version sounds equally delicious.

Christine said...

I don't come from dumpling people either, but this sounds like something completely delicious. I know what's being served Sunday, especially appealling in light of this cold I'm nursing.


Grace said...

this is utter perfection. bliss in a bowl. i love everything about it, from the spicy, creamy innards to the corny, crumbly topping. bless your heart for sharing your chicken and dumplins with us. :)
oh, and if the toughest decision you have to make is whether to order the pie or the cobbler for dessert? order both. :)

bluejeangourmet said...

okay, you're a genius. amazing how many ways there are to make chicken & dumplings, from my mother-in-law's very thick, vegetable-free version to the more soup-like, veggie-filled kind I make myself. but TEX-MEX chicken & dumplings? rest assured I will be making these! thanks for doing the leg work, Lisa.

there's truly nothing better than taking a lazy road trip, employing the luxury of stopping whenever something looks (or smells) good! my partner always drives with me back home to Tennessee (Memphis) in the summer, and we stop at her parents' house (Shreveport, LA) on the way, so there is a LOT of good eating in between...we have favorite dives, barbecue places, & sandwich stands. makes me want to jump in the car right now!

Kalyn said...

This is making me realize that I don't think I've ever eaten chicken and dumplings! I bet yours are great though.

deceiverofmen said...

This sounds delicious, but now its given me a killer craving for traditional chicken and dumplings. I also discovered this at a friend's house some where around 2nd grade as I had a health nut mother and amateur gourmet father.

Jumper said...

YOU ARE A GENIUS! I will make Tex-Mex dumplings soon!

My only suggestion is, some of that regular cornmeal can be replaced with masa harina. Lately all my cornbreads, hush puppies, etc. are about 40% masa.

Also, those spent veggies are nutritious if incorporated in your doggie's dinner. If you have dogs.

Kelly @ EvilShenanigans said...

Cornmeal dumplings ... well how yummy is that? AND, you added cilantro, lime, and jalapeno? Very nice! I love that you started with a whole chicken. That is fab!

Gabriela said...

Great's the best of Tortilla Soup and Chicken n' Dumplin's!

lisa said...

I love this direction for chicken and dumplings! The added spice and cornmeal dumplings sound great.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Homegrown Texan--These dumplings are indeed lovable!

Melissa--I think dumplin' is the correct pronunciation!

Memória--Thanks for the bookmark. Jalapenos make everything better, in my opinion.

Penandfork--Why thank you! And the strip style of dumpling is what the cheater flour tortilla method closely approximates. It's all good!

Christine--This will definitely make you feel better. Get well soon!

Grace--You know, that's usually what I end up doing--ordering both!

Bluejeangourmet--You're very welcome. It was my (and my belly's) pleasure! And I adore road trips, especially in the South where there's no shortage of excellent food to be discovered.

Kalyn--You've never had chicken and dumplings? Woman, you have been deprived!

Jumper--I don't see why you couldn't replace some of the regular cornmeal with masa harina. Is the ratio the same? And sadly, I don't have dogs but that's an excellent tip!

Kelly--We're speaking the same language!

Gabriela--Yes! That's exactly what I was going for!

Lisa--Thank you! Not to say that old-school chicken and dumplings aren't grand, but this does indeed jazz them up a bit.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Deceiver of Men--Same situation here: granola mom, gourmet dad. Thank goodness for our more traditional friends, right?

Erin G. said...

Sounds delicious, but I have to admit that you lost me a little bit at the pureed chicken bit. The chicken & dumplings I'm used to has shredded chicken or chicken pieces under a layer of bisquick dumplings. This is like dumplings on top of a soup puree? I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but I still love 99% of your other recipes! :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Erin--No pureed chicken here! You put the shredded chicken back in the pot with the broth. In the blender puree the tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro and garlic and then stir that into the pot for a little flavor boost. Sorry for any confusion!

Nini said...

I was reading a romance novel set in Texas and the main girl learned how to make chicken and dumplings as a little girl and then as an adult, made the guy who she later ended up with the same dish when he was sick. I thought this sounds like amazing home food but I don't know why I didn't think about making it until I saw your recipe. Thanks!

kickpleat said...

AGH, I wish I had this recipe last Sunday when I had chicken and needed something comforting. This sounds perfect and I'll file it away for another much needed day.

Jewlz said...

I'd love to give this a go here in merry old England, but so many Texan recipes end up becoming the long method when you have to order Rotel and even fresh jalapenos online. It gets frustrating. However, I did make some chicken and dumplings the way my mama makes it and surprisingly, my English hubby really liked it, even though here a dumpling is a whole 'nother thing - more like a biscuit(American biscuit, not a cookie!) that floats on top of soup - crunchy on top and a bit soggy on the bottom, and equally delicious. Thanks for sharing this, I love your blog! It always makes me feel a little less far away.

Texan In Tulsa said...

I've been wanting to try a homemade dumpling recipe and the midwest fall has me homesick for the South Texas 10 month summer... This sounds like the perfect recipe to tide me over until my holiday visit to my home state!

Fresh Local and Best said...

This is such a savory and hearty dish! I've never had chicken dumpling soup, but I have all the ingredients in my house to make it! So I'll be trying it soon! :)

tripletmom said...

This sounds perfect! I have become bored with my tortilla soup recipe. This sounds exactly like what I need to get over my cold!

Sara from Texas said...

out of curiosity, once the stock is done and the fat and veggies are drained, approximately how much stock do you have? would it still be about 1 gallon?

Michelle Stiles said...

I think I am in love! This is my go to comfort room recipe. I can't wait to try this recipe. Thanks a million!!!!

Tasty Eats At Home said...

What a really cool idea! I love to make chicken and dumplings. I don't make them often, but after Thanksgiving, there is a lot of super-spicy turkey broth left over from my husband's Turkey Gumbo (Emeril's recipe) - it's laced with a good amount of cayenne. It kicks my otherwise plain chicken and dumplings up a notch or two! I love your version, so delicious.

QuesoBabe said...

I love your blog! I'm also a homesick Texan, stuck in the Rockies. Although beautiful, the Mexican food here (with a few exceptions) is just awful. Like you, I plan my trips back to Texas around food....the last trip we ate Mexican three times! Can't wait to try your chicken and dumplins'. Sounds wonderful!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Nini--Oh! Do you remember the name of the romance novel?

Kickpleat--Drats! There is, of course, always next time.

Jewlz--That dumpling sounds very, very good! And some entrepreneurial European farmer needs to figure out how to grow jalapenos and Serranos and keep them in the markets. I can understand Ro-Tel being difficult to find, but it seems silly that it's hard to get peppers.

Texan in Tulsa--Yep, it gets so cold in other places!

Fresh Local and Best--Enjoy!

TripletMom--Hope you feel better soon!

Sara--I measured it to be about 14 cups.

Michelle Stiles--You're very welcome, enjoy!

Tasty Eats at Home--Turkey gumbo? You've given me an idea! And I bet that turkey broth would definitely jazz up your chicken and dumplings.

QuesoBabe--I would think that the Mexican food in Colorado wouldn't be that bad. That's a shame!

Paige said...

Chicken and dumplins really are a security blanket in a bowl. As a kid watching my mom make the dumplins, it really did seem like magic. I like them best when they are just a tad undercooked so that they are still a bit doughy on the inside. Yum!

Now, all of that said, I am almost beside myself after reading your variation because it sounds so incredible!! I'm thinking a batch this weekend might be just the ticket for a cold, wet Boston weekend! Thanks!!

Frank said...

I love Tex-Mex...I love dumplings! A match made in Texas!

Kristin said...

Magical, yes! I thought C&D was such a fabulous dish when I was a kid--amazing how those dumplings expand as they cook. But no one in my family--husband or kids--likes them! Very sad. Very, very sad. (But I just might try this one day anyway!) ~K

tbsamsel said...

@Queso babe.. you need to go on Federal in Denver to get decent Mexican.. like at Taqueria Patzcuaro.

& Lisa, back when I lived in Texas (over 24 years ago) I usually had the book of county maps in the the car from the Texas Highway Dept. You'll never have to go home the same way again...

Shannon said...

I hate to be all one-uppity (hah, see what I did there?), but I will see your jalapenos (brilliant!) and raise you a handful of grated cheddar, the sharper the better. They're also REALLY good on beef stew.

trace said...

poblanos are the best for this. they add an incredible smokiness

Nini said...

The book is called Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas. I don't know if I would suggest buying it...maybe borrowing it from the library, preferably borrowing it from a friend like I did. It is an entertaining book, not too much substance, but I don't often read romance novels so I don't know if it is considered good for its genre. However, I googled her and she has a lot of books so she must be popular.

Kimberly said...

Not stirring the dumplings until after they've cooked is *such* an important thing to remember, especially with traditional versions. I learned the hard way when I was a kid "helping" my mom cook. The dumplings went from being dumplings to, well, nothing. Needless to say, my mother was not pleased. I don't know if the cornmeal dumplings would hold up any better, but people, resist your urge to stir!

evy said...

Always love reading your blog!
I made your Texas chili recipe and it came out so great- everyone loved it! Thanks!
Evy from Tejas!

PS: I think it was the cafeteria ladies at the public schools across Texas who had lots to do with the development of Tex Mex food. I note that in West Texas/San Angelo area- enchiladas are served with cole slaw on the side- in the Rio Grande Valley where I'm from--you have to have a simple berg and tomato salad and crackers.
The school cafeteria ladies worked with what they had. That's my theory! Those ladies deserve lots of credit!

Lisa said...

This sounds lovely, a nice variation on straight up Chicken and Dumplings like my aunt used to make, the kind with the flat noodle-like dumplings. Honestly, I think I like any variety of Chicken and Dumplings. There's nothing like it when the weather turns cool.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Paige--They'll definitely help curb the cold! Enjoy!

Frank--A match made in Texas, indeed!

Kristin--How can no one in your family like them? That IS sad!

TBSamsel--I need to get that book and take it with me when I go home!

Shannon--Ah, grated cheddar sounds fanstastic!

Trace--Poblanos are also a great choice.

Nini--I will keep my eyes out for a copy to borrow. I don't read much romance either, but it being set in Texas with some food references sounds fun.

Kimberly--Yes! Thank you for reminding us this important tip.

Evy--Cafeteria ladies are under appreciated--thank you for reminding us of their hard work and creativity!

LIsa--I'm with you--I like any variety!

Jeff--I hope you enjoy it!

Jewlz said...

Lisa, peppers are available in some places in the UK - there is a chile farm in the south of England that grows all sorts of peppers, but I'm near the border of Scotland in the countryside, so there aren't any around here, unfortunately, other than small red chile peppers. You need a greenhouse to grow them in England because of the cold, wet weather! I think Tex-Mex (or Old El Paso kits, anyway) is drawing some interest here, so at least some things are much easier to find than they used to be, though they tend to get things wrong here. (They sell guacamole in a jar here and the first ingredient on the jar is peas... gross!)

lindsAy said...

On the topic of Rotel... I don't think I can get it in Canada either. Tomatoes seem like a strange ingredient for this dish. Would it be drastic to omit them, yet keep the cilantro and jalepeno? Or should I create a make-shift version of Rotel with a can of diced tomatoes? Add red pepper flakes? This sounds great and I'd love to try it...

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Jewlz--Peas in guacamole? No comment!

Lindsay--You don't have to add the tomatoes.

Vincent said...

Quick question (well, two actually) - one cilantro stem? Does that mean literally one stem or stems from one bunch of cilantro? One, lonely stem doesn't sound like it'll give off much flavor.

Also, I'm fine with the tomatoes but if I can't find Ro-Tel can I create a version with disced tomatoes and green chiles? Mild or hot chiles?

Jumper said...

The only time I ran into trouble substituting regular cornmeal for masa is when I made a cornmeal pancake which I do once in a blue moon. I used all masa, no regular cornmeal. The texture was rubbery. But 40% masa, 60% regular cornmeal I use in all sorts of recipes that normally call for regular cornmeal: cornbread, hushpuppies, chili pies or hot tamale pies, etc. Lots of extra corn taste in the masa, which I love.

Riverbrat said...

Oh boy, I can't wait to try this! I'm a Homesick Texan too now living in Boise, Idaho. I love your Blog and recipes. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Vincent--I find that one stem has a ton of leaves on it. Perhaps I'll edit it to say that. And sure, if you can't fin Ro-Tel, make your own!

Jumper--I like that ratio--will try it soon!

Riverbrat--You're very welcome. Enjoy!

thesteps said...

Just finished eating.. this is the bomb!

Cynthia said...

I made the Tex/Mex chicken and dumplings last night and it was absolutely scrumptious. (and I know scrumptious, I'm a personal chef as well). I must also admit that I had 2 bowls for breakfast this morning! I followed your recipe exactly and resisted the urge to stir, but found that the dumpling fell apart slightly, just a little. There were still little pillows of deliciousness but some had broken up. Would it help to add an extra tablespoon of flour or cornmeal? How can I tell when I have the right consistency? Again, this was so good I can't wait to make it again for clients.

class-factotum said...

We smoked two chickens (and a pork loin and some beef) for Thanksgiving. I picked the meat from the chickens and used the carcasses to make the broth for this soup, then threw the meat back in and omigosh was it fabulous! All the flava plus smokiness that you cannot buy. We each had seconds even though we were full and are looking forward to lunch today.

Judy said...

Being of German heritage, my grandmother made dumplings that I still dream about and OF COURSE failed to get the recipe before she passed on. She made HUGE dumplings that she called "belly-sinkers". They were as big as a softball ! These sound delicious, I will surely try them. I have yet to find epazote for sale. Fresh, dried or even to grow! And I live in central Calif. with a huge Mexican population. Where do you find it?

Kyle said...

will this store well in the fridge or freezer and then reheated? or do the dumplings need to be fresh?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kyle--It will store well in either place but the dumplings will get mushy and fall apart a bit.

Ric said...

Lisa -

I just made this and it is AWESOME!

The recipe maintains the 'softness' of traditional chicken & dumplings....but adds a nice tex-mex kick to it.

I couldn't find buttermilk at my local HEB (??) so I substituted cream.


Ric in Bastrop, TX

LASTX70 said...

Meandered to this recipe from your carne guisada recipe (which, by the way, is delicious!) I'm not a native Texan, but I love good Tex-Mex food (which is actually hard to find in my South San Antonio neighborhood these days). My native Texan boyfriend was peering over my shoulder and said yum, let's try this! So we will be shopping for the ingredients sometime this week. I'll be doing it in a crockpot, but I've done turkey and herb dumplings this way, so I know the cook times.

kokobeesweet said...

I've only just started going through your blog and recipes.. I'm new here, and not at all Texan! I really wanted to leave a comment about this recipe! I made this for my family and friends yesterday, and it was soooooo good! The cornmeal dumplings were super, and the soup is so tasty....even better the second day! I think that next time I'll double the dumplings.. we loved them so much.. it's like cornbread in my soup. mmmm! thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am from New Mexico. On the ranch my mom made drop biscuit dough and it was the only version I knew. I married a Floridian whose Mom was from Pensylvania. I made my version and he was quite irate saying "this is not the way my Mom made it. These are not dumplings!". He could not tell me how she had done it. So I did the research and tried several methods some were long ribbons of awful chewy stuff. Last week I did BBC -Uk's Chicken and dumplings. Notably they put a huge amount of cayenne into the biscuit dough. I halved it and it was just right. I sort of got the feeling that somewhere in London a lady from India is dropping 2 spoons of curry in the pot.
I was very impressed by this blogs command of ingredients . I have dropped cornmeal into stock but find it floats away in bits.
I'd say the best offering to this dish is Lamb's stone ground cornmeal. It is superlative in flavor. I'd like to see the bread component cut into 1 inch squares like the BBC recipie . That worked nicely in the bowl. The cayenne was excellent it's just the right offset for that flour-ey pastey blandness that sometimes happens. The pork stew idea was also great. Let's face it Texans are the masters of corn cookery.

monica said...

I'm a 3rd generation Texan born an raised in Houston. I have never heard of Chicken and cornmeal dumplings, just the rolled flour kind, like at Blackeyed Pea. I think I have led a deprived life, well not any more, I am going to make these this weekend.

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