I went to Trader Joe's for the first time ever, today. My sister took me there. I have to say, I love that store! I had always thought it was a real specialty, very expensive store, but I discovered that the prices are really not bad at all! They have some great-looking stuff there. I haven't had a chance to try most of what I bought yet, but my sister vouches for all of it. This story doesn't have too much to do with this recipe, other than I bought the broth there and the chicken, as well. While this recipe is a little putzy to make, it is delicious and well worth the trouble! I think the key is in using organic chicken and organic chicken broth. For ease, use canned biscuits for the dumplings. In my opinion, Chicken and Dumplings is the very definition of good, old-fashioned comfort food!
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (as I said, I think using organic is better)
small amount of canola oil
4 cups chicken broth (this is the brand I used - normally, I'd use Swanson's low-sodium brand, but I like the Pacific brand, better)
2 cups water
1 carrot, peeled and cut in thirds
1 rib celery, washed and cut in thirds
a small chunk of onion
5 tbsp butter
5 tbsp flour
1/2 to 1 full can Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup, optional
rubbed sage, to taste
poultry seasoning, to taste
1 can Pillsbury buttermilk Grand's biscuits (you won't need the entire can)
In a non-stick skillet, lightly sear the chicken breasts in the oil. In a pot, bring the chicken broth and water to a boil. Add the chicken, carrot, celery, and onion. Bring back to a boil and the cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken and place in a bowl and cover. After they have briefly cooled, cut into chunks and set aside. Discard the vegetables. Bring the broth back to a boil and allow to reduce to 4 -5 cups.
Meanwhile, make a roux of the butter and flour. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and stir to mix thoroughly. Continue to stir over low to medium heat, for about 5 minutes or until it is a deep golden brown color. You want the flour to thoroughly cook through. It may not be easy to tell by the photo, but it should be about this color:
It will take a while to begin to brown, but once it starts, it will brown very quickly, so stir constantly and keep a close eye on it. When it has sufficiently browned, gradually stir in the broth. The roux may seize up as you add the broth, but it will smooth out as you bring it back to a boil. Season with sage and poultry seasoning. Add salt and pepper, if desired. If you want a thicker gravy, add a couple of heaping tbsp of the Cream of Chicken soup - up to an entire can. You do not need to add milk or water to the soup, just add the soup to the gravy. Season again, if needed.
Open the can of biscuits and cut into quarters, eighths, or even smaller is you want. The key is in not overcrowding the pan. You might only need a little more than half the can. The biscuits will puff up a lot as the cook and if you overcrowd the pan, they will not cook all the way through. If that does happen though, you may pop the pan in the oven at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes or so, to help cook them through and lightly brown them. Otherwise, simmer dumplings in the gravy, uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover pan and simmer for another 10 minutes. Then, if needed, pop in the oven for about 5 minutes, if desired, to finish cooking them or to brown them.
To serve, place some of the chicken in a bowl and cover with the dumplings and gravy. You could also add the chicken to the gravy just before adding the biscuits, but you don't want to dry out the chicken while the biscuits (dumplings) cook.
Frankly, I have never had much success in cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts, without drying them out. That's why I think the organic chicken helps. If any of you have any advice on how to cook them so that they are tender and juicy, please let me know!