Not So Humble Chicken & Dumplings

Date: October 3, 2015

As the cold, rainy season sets in, we find ourselves wanting comfort foods; those dishes that warm us from the inside out. In the South, chicken and dumplings is one of those iconic dishes. A humble meal of sautéed vegetables, elevated by homemade chicken broth and completed with doughy dumplings that fills stomachs and hearts with gladness.


While chicken and dumplings may be “humble,” they are not just a poor man’s meal as many have come to believe. In fact, before chicken was transformed into one of the cheapest meats on the market with mass chicken production in the 1960s, chicken was actually more expensive than beef or even veal. Chickens were raised for their eggs, not their meat. Killing one to serve for a meal was reserved for special occasions, not weeknight dining. Thus, stewing a chicken was not something associated with poverty, but instead with prosperity.

mittAn 1883 advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution publicized that Bramlett’s Famous English Kitchen and Ladies Café proudly served “Stewed Chicken with Dumplings” right alongside big ticket meals like roast beef, leg of lamb, and roasted turkey with cranberry sauce.

Last weekend, I was asked to work with Chef Zeb Stevenson of Watershed Restaurant in The Kitchen Workshop at Taste of Atlanta. While Chef Zeb taught festival-goers how to cook chicken and dumplings from scratch, I was assigned to help demonstrate how to take pictures of their dishes. The best part is that I got to see how Chef Zeb makes this classic dish, which is a popular mainstay of Watershed’s Southern-inspired menu.

Zeb's Chicken & Dumplings

Yield: 8 servings


    For the soup base:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrot, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1½ lbs. chicken breast, 1-inch dice
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • Fresh herbs, chopped (for serving)
  • For the dumpling batter:
  • 4 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 cups buttermilk


  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pot. Add the diced onion, carrot and celery and sweat until the onions become transparent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the bouquet garni (a mixture of fresh herbs that might include thyme, parsley, rosemary, or oregano that have been tied together for easy removal) with bay leaf , salt, pepper and paprika and mix until well combined.
  3. Next place the diced chicken in the center of the pot and add the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  4. While the chicken soup base in simmering, mix together the flour and buttermilk to form a loose dough. When the chicken is fully cooked, drop 1-ounce scoops of batter into the broth using a spoon (or two). Boil the dumplings in the broth for 5 minutes and taste before adjusting seasoning.
  5. Ladle the chicken and dumplings in bowls and garnish with freshly chopped herbs like parsley, dill, or chives. Serve with large spoons and watch the happy faces as they indulge in this luxurious meal!





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