There are many foods that bring to mind my mama. Crispy fried chicken and biscuits, fried Gulf shrimp and hushpuppies, tuna casserole, beef stew and many more. Not fancy food, by any means, but good. Really good.
Another food that reminds me of mom, and that is distinctly Southern in origin, is chicken and dumplings. With tender bites of chicken floating in a creamy broth full of strip dumplings, they are a satisfying feast on a cool day that even the poorest Southerner can afford to make, which was the point of many Southern recipes, originally. All one needs is a few pieces of chicken (dark or light), maybe an onion or celery if available, some flour, shortening and salt. That’s just about it, and putting all of that together in just the right way creates a meal that brings warm thoughts of home…at least to me.
There are many similar chicken and dumplings recipes in old cookbooks and online. There isn’t much difference among them; it’s a good basic to have in your file for a rainy day. Alternatively, you can buy Mary B’s strip dumplings in the freezer section of many grocery stores. They’re not as tender as homemade, but still very good, faster, and easier, admittedly. I personally don’t like “biscuit-style” or drop dumplings for this. I like my mom’s strip dumplings, but your opinion may differ. That’s ok!
Chicken and dumplings is also my middle son Jacob’s favorite food. When he was little he called it “chicken and ducklins.” I have always loved to watch him enjoy them, as he did today when I served them after church.
Here’s the recipe:
Southern chicken and dumplings:
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 – 1/2 cups of whole milk
2 boneless chicken breasts or 4-6 thighs (dark meat yields a more flavorful broth, especially bone-in)
one medium onion
1 stalk celery
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 bay leaf
Place chicken in a large stock pot. Cover with water, and add celery stalk (whole or cut in half), bay leaf and onion, cut in half, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Add garlic. Cook until meat is done, adding water as needed to keep chicken covered just a bit. Remove any foam from pot by skimming with large spoon as it cooks. ( I let mine simmer for at least 30 minutes.)
Remove the chicken from broth when done, as well as onion and celery. Discard veggies and bay leaf. Set chicken aside.
To make dumplings, in a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the shortening to the flour mixture, and use a pastry blender or a fork to chop the shortening up into small pieces until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add 1 cup of milk, and gently stir in. Using your clean, floured hands, gently knead a few times; if dough is crumbly, add more milk, a little at a time. You want the dough to be moist and soft, but not wet and sticky.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour on clean countertop, and roll out half of dough to pie crust thickness with a floured rolling pin. Cut into strips with a sharp knife, and use a thin spatula to gently lift dumplings, one at a time, and add them to the simmering chicken broth. Stir each one in gently.
Repeat process with second half of dough.
Simmer the dumplings gently for ten to fifteen minutes. Taste the broth; add salt, if needed, a bit at a time until you have it just right!
If you like a thick broth, place 3/4 cup of cold milk in a soup bowl and add three heaping tablespoons of flour to it. Mix it together well with small spatula or spoon until there are no lumps whatsoever. Pour this into your broth, and allow to simmer for a few more minutes to thicken.
Add chicken (bones removed) back into your pot, and stir in. Allow chicken to get hot for a few moments before serving.
Serves 4-5 people.
You might also like: Mama’s green beans and new potatoes
Copyright 2012 Stephanie Hill Frazier. All rights reserved.