Here is the Neely version of Chicken and Dumplings.
Down Home With The Neelys with Pat and Gina Neely
Pat and Gina remember the old school version of Chicken and Dumplings. Pat tells us this is one of the first dishes of any kind that he remembers.
Today, they are preparing Aunt Faye's Chicken and Dumplings in a way that won't take all day. I'm not sure what Pat means when he says his Aunt Faye "used to put her FOOT in some chicken and dumplings". Does that perhaps flavor the stock?
Right off the bat, something looks weird. They're using chicken PIECES and Gina is pouring boxed chicken stock over. Won't all that chicken make a lovely stock of its own? PLUS they’re only cooking it for TWENTY minutes? How is that enough time...even with pieces?
’s goes for an hour. Tyler
Gina says she's adding the stock to give it more flavor. Well, if she used a whole chicken she wouldn't need that. Oh it seems as if they actually BOUGHT a whole chicken and then cut it up. Who wants to do that? And who wants to buy all that stock if you don't need to?
They do admit Aunt Faye didn't do it this way. Way to go Aunt Faye! Pat adds fresh thyme and a bay leaf. They simmer it on low for about 20 minutes. Gina says not to rush it and let it take its time. Well! 20 minutes is not letting it take its time. Even if you're using pieces, it could simmer slowly for at least 40 minutes. I personally don't like bloody thigh meat in MY chicken and dumplings.
Pat chops garlic and an onion, while Gina tackles the carrots and celery. We've now heard about Aunt Faye so much that if they don't bring her out at the end, I'll be really po'ed. I don't care if she's on a stretcher.
Gina starts the dumplings by pouring one cup of heavy cream into a pot. Why does she say heavy WHIPPING cream? Is there a heavy cream that's NOT capable of being whipped?
Then she actually says something sweet about how certain recipes can take you back in time. I really like Gina's spiel to the camera about hoping her girls will want to carry on good things from HER kitchen as they go on in life. That was not unmoving.
(Let's see...what does MY daughter make? Oh yeah, chocolate cake in a mug from hot cocoa mix. What does my son make? Not much of anything... Actually he can sauté a steak and boil green beans and make a salad...as long as I've made the dressing in advance.)
Back to wet ingredients for the dumplings, Gina adds 2 tablespoons of butter to the cream with Pat adding a teaspoon of thyme and a tablespoon of parsley. He says this is going to wake them up! Gina heats up the butter and cream while Pat sautés the chopped vegetables in a large Dutch oven. He adds salt and pepper.
Gina says something ELSE I agree with. She says once you have your vegetables sautéing nicely you can take it anywhere...you can build the whole world on top of that. I so concur. Sorry, I was just thinking of Frank Abagnale.
For the dry ingredients, Gina adds 2 cups of flour into a bowl with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of baking powder.
Pat interrupts Gina to ask if he can be her chicken while she could be his dumpling?
How does one answer something like that? She gives him a look, like Get Back To Cooking! I am liking Gina today! She whisks the dry ingredients together.
Pat pulls the skin off the chicken and shreds it. Gina pours the cream mixture over the dry ingredients. She mixes the dumplings by hand, forming one big dough bowl. Pat adds the chicken to the sautéing vegetables. He takes the herbs out of the chicken stock and pours it over the chicken and vegetables in the big pot.
Gina rolls little dough balls from her big dough ball and drops them into the pot. She handles the dough quite a lot, which I thought was big no-no. She covers the pot and doesn't peek.
As an aside, the Neelys fry up some dill pickles with Pat's brother Tony. That's funny, I just saw a chef contender do that on Chopped, as a little garnish.
Pat and Gina serve up the fried pickles on a platter and the chicken and dumplings in bowls.
I guess the real difference between theirs and Tyler's dish is that the Neelys serve the dumplings as basically a garnish to chicken soup. The dumplings take the place of noodles. Tyler's base is thickened and stew-like and the dish becomes much more entrée-like. Plus, the fried pickles are weird. Really weird. As a tiny addition..that's fine, to a rich meat dish, perhaps. But on their own and served with Chicken and Dumplings? I'm not convinced.
No sign of Aunt Faye anywhere. Maybe she saw their recipe and thought better of coming. Actually, this recipe is okay. There are just some odd things in it. Why bother to cut up the chicken first? The cooking time should be longer anyway and why use stock instead of good old plain water?
The other big difference in the two dumplings recipes is that Tyler uses eggs, the Neelys don't. I admit I am a bit confused about the place of eggs in dumplings. It seems intuitive to me that an egg would help bind everything together and make them lighter and fluffier, but plenty of recipes don’t include an egg in the dumpling batter.
Joy of Cooking's dumpling recipe has eggs, so does James Beard’s in his American Cooking, so I guess mine will too.
Note: I found 2 great pieces of advice from Joy of Cooking and James, unfortunately, only AFTER I had made mine:
From J of C – To get the dumpling batter off the spoon easily, dip your spoon first in the stock or stew and then in the dumpling mixture. Do this with each dumpling and your spoon won’t get all gunked up.
From JB – separate the eggs for a lighter dumpling. Beat the yolks into whatever liquid you’re using and mix the batter as usual. Then fold in the beaten whites. Cook as usual.
Just for fun I took a look at the FN website to see what other versions of Chicken and Dumplings they had.
This one was a blast, unless you think of it as a REAL recipe. I guess I should have known that Aunt Sandy's version would feature a store-bought cooked chicken, PRE-CUT carrot and celery sticks, a roll of buttermilk biscuit dough AND a can of gravy.
Seriously, really and truly...no joke, her show should be banned by the food police. Even scarier are the mostly very positive reviews that were given to this recipe.
Listen, it's a free country, but we don't legalize heroin, so why should we allow canned gravy and biscuit dough to be a substitute for dinner?!!
AND if you look at Sandra Lee, YOU KNOW she's not eating her own food...well, the cocktails, maybe, but not the food. Even the Neelys look like health food aficionados next to her.