This past Monday aired a new epsiode of Alton Brown's "Good Eats" entitled "Don't Be Chicken Of Dumplings". It was the 7th episode in series on American Classics. Alton told the store of two dumpling recipes, one from his mother, and one from his mother in-law. The making of the dumplings is very different.
She makes what is known as swimmers, which are big, fluffy dumplings. The steps include:
Boil butter with water
Beating til it's cool
Working in the eggs
This recipe is much like the process of making pate shoux. This is the quicker of the two and I think I have seen dumplings like these one more often.
Alton's mother in-law
She makes slickers which are hard, flat dumplings. The process involves these steps:
Mix in flour
Cut in fat
That is the same method you would use for making biscuits or crackers. For the liquid Alton uses skim milk. I was disappointed that he never explains why skim milk, as typically whole milk is used in most recipes. Making these dumplings also involves an 8 hour wait period for them to dry out, so you have to plan ahead.
As for the chicken, he uses the same chicken in both recipes. He cooks the chicken in a pressure cooker and then removes it and uses the broth in the final dish. He uses a stewing hen for the chicken. This is a hen that has passed her days of being useful laying eggs. It's an older bird, so it has more flavor, but also has more connective tissue and more gelatin to be had. So it can make a flavorful broth, but it takes time, hence using the pressure cooker.
Overall I thought it was a good show. I enjoyed how he prepared two different types of dumplings and gave the geographical history behind them. My wife felt the recipes lacked depth of flavor, and there really isn't seasoning used besides salt and freshly ground pepper. I have never cooked a stewing hen, normally we roast young fryer chickens. So it would be interesting to taste the difference in flavor between the fryer and the hen. You could just as easily use any chicken, prepared whatever way you want and use homemade or store bought chicken stock or broth. I will definately be giving both these dumplings recipes a try.