Chicken and dumplings is one of my all-time favorite meals. It was the single biggest obstacle to my becoming a vegetarian. Life without chicken and dumplings just didn’t seem worth living.
My mother is a wonderful, albeit reluctant, cook. On very rare occasions she’d make us chicken and dumplings. My heart would soar with excitement as I watched her drop doughy little squares into a pot of bubbling broth. I can’t even remember the last time she made them for my sister and me, but I’m sure we were little. It’s not exactly the kind of thing you slave away over for two teenage daughters who would rather hang with friends than make it home in time for dinner. And I’m sure I never requested it much past the age of ten. But when I moved away from home, I started to crave the comforts of my youth, namely those pillow soft dumplings my mother used to make. Since college dorms and tiny studio apartments aren’t conducive to cooking, I would get my fix at slow-cooking, southern food restaurants. I’d order up a loaded veggie plate with a side of dumplings. And with every bite, I’d find myself right back in the kitchen with my mother, peering over that bubbling pot of broth.
And then I became vegetarian and dishes made with chicken stock were suddenly off limits. I thought I might never have chicken and dumplings again. But that didn’t sound right to me, so I started dreaming of creating a vegetarian version. After all, it’s not the chicken that’s so enticing, but those plump, savory dumplings. This recipe is my first attempt, which I am pleased with. Though, I’m sure I’ll keep at it, trying various seasonings and methods to make it even better, so good that you don’t miss the chicken even a little bit. For this version, I created the flavors you’d find in a chicken noodle soup (carrot, onion, and celery) to provide that nostalgic, comforting element that dishes like this tend to evoke.
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk
6 cups vegetable broth (or 6 cups water and 1 vegetable bouillon cube)
Directions: First, make the dough. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, milk, and 1 teaspoon salt. Combine until the dough forms a ball. Transfer to a floured work surface. Use a floured rolling pin to roll out the dough. Cut into 2 inch squares using a knife, pastry cutter or pizza cutter.
Next, get started on the broth. In a stock pot, heat the butter, onions, carrots and celery. Cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent and the veggies slightly tender.
Next, add the remaining salt and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Then, drop in the dough squares one at a time. Add in any remaining excess flour and dough bits as well.
Allow to boil for about 20 minutes, until the dough begins to form plump, soft dumplings and the broth gets thick and creamy. Test with a fork to be sure the dough is cooked through before serving.
Serve with a bit of fresh cracked pepper.
Mmmm…just like mama used to make!
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