Today’s resolution: Southern comfort — chicken & dumplings

17 Sep

Sometimes I almost cry thinking of all the delicious food we had growing up. We had garden-fresh tomatoes, pole beans, pintos, crowder and purple hull peas, okra, squash, turnips, kale, sweet potatoes, red-skinned potatoes, white potatoes, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, watermelon and more.

Grandpa raised cattle so we always had the quality of meat people pay premium prices for today. Grandmother bought fresh eggs and chicken from a farmer down the road. They picked poke sallet, muscadines and persimmons growing wild.

True comfort food

For Sunday dinner, we had one or two kinds of meat, vegetables and other side dishes. One of my favorite “side dishes” was chicken and dumplings  (a meal in itself). I rarely make dumplings anymore, for a variety of reasons, but yesterday’s cool temperatures inspired me.

Since I can’t share the actual chicken and dumplings with you, I thought I’d share how to make them. I took photos as I went along to illustrate the process. The photos aren’t great, but I hope they get the message across. (By the way, I have all kinds of respect for folks who make their living styling and photographing food. It’s an art.)

The two most important things about this dish are the broth and the dumplings. You can use any kind of broth. I’ve made dumplings to add to homemade potato soup, for example. While I’ve never done it, I know you could cook them in vegetable broth.

This is the version I made last night. The chicken broth is, ahem, souped up with three kinds of canned soup. The combination creates a rich-tasting, savory broth for the tender dumplings.

Chicken broth

Ingredients:  2 large skinless, bone-in chicken breasts (or whatever chicken parts you prefer), at least 2 quarts of water, approx. 2 1/4 cups self-rising flour, 1 egg, 1/3 cup Crisco, 1 can each of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken, Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Celery soups, salt and pepper to taste.

Use only the best canned soup

Add water to large pot or dutch oven, add chicken and boil until the chicken is fully cooked. Remove chicken and let cool. Keep heat under pot of broth on medium.

While the chicken is cooling, dip out 1 cup of the hot chicken broth and pour into a large mixing bowl. This is the liquid for your dumplings.

Loretta Lynn is right: Crisco makes the lightest dumplings.

Add 1/3 cup of Crisco. While it’s melting in the hot liquid, open and add the cans of soup to the broth left in the pot. Stir until smooth; lower heat and let simmer while you make the dumplings.

Don't overwork the dough.

Stir 1 egg into the broth and shortening in the mixing bowl. Then, using a fork, stir in 2 1/4 cups of flour until the mixture is soft and sticky. Don’t overmix or overwork the dough because your dumplings will be tough.

Back to the pot of broth — increase the heat so that it starts boiling.

Spread out wax paper and sprinkle liberally with flour, then dump the dough onto the paper and add more flour as pictured.

Ready to roll

Roll out until 1/4- to 1/8-inch thin.

Flour your rolling pin, then roll the dough until it’s between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch thin. If you make your dumplings any thicker, they’ll be tough. Not good.

Cut into squares.

Cut rolled dough into squares, then drop the squares one by one into the boiling broth. Stir gently with a wooden spoon. Your dumplings should not stick together.

They should look like this while cooking. See how they float to the top?

Cut or tear the chicken into small chunks. Add the meat to the dumplings. Lower heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

A word about salt: The soup and the self-rising flour both contain salt so you need to taste your broth as you season to make sure it doesn’t become too salty.

After the dumplings have simmered for 30 minutes, remove the pan from the heat; cover the pan and let sit for another 30 minutes. This is what makes the dumplings tender.

Dish dumplings into bowls and enjoy.

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2 Responses to “Today’s resolution: Southern comfort — chicken & dumplings”

  1. Sis September 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    Grandmother made the best food. No one could cook like she did.

  2. Donna McGowan September 20, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    I was lucky enough to have my cousin’s chicken & dumplings last night. Wonderful stuff!!

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