Wednesday, August 21, 2013


What are your comfort foods? By that I mean the particular foods that carry more than taste; they carry happy memories. Yes, we eat not only with our eyes and mouth, but with our minds.

Bowl of Chicken and Dumplings

One of my comfort foods is Chicken and Dumplings, one of the dishes my maternal grandmother prepared. She raised chickens until she moved to town, so she used a hen she'd killed, plucked, and then cut into pieces. I remember the horrid smell of the plucking process. Terrible..Ugh. I'd never brave through it on my own. 

My mom made the same recipe, especially in winter. Mom bought a chicken at the supermarket then cut it up and stewed it. Much easier than my grandmother's method. 

Except once, when I was about six, she decided the grocer's hens were not fresh enough. She drove into the country and bought a hen from a farmer. We drove home with the chicken in the back seat, hopping around and clucking. At home, mother killed the chicken--after we caught it again. Smart hen did not want any part of us. Mom been away from the farm so long she'd forgotten how onerous the steps were. Next came the tub of scalding water to dip the chicken in to pluck the feathers. By the time that chicken was on the stove stewing, my mother sat on the back steps, exhausted. She said brushed a feather off her house dress. "I'll never go through that again, even if I have to do without chicken for the rest of my life." From then on, it was the grocer's meat market for her.

I love chicken and dumplings any time of year, but have never been able to make them taste like Grandmother’s. Fortunately, my husband has a knack for cooking and has duplicated them for me. He uses skinless chicken breasts instead of the whole chicken. Times change, so do our outlooks on fat and calories.

Here’s the recipe, which also appears in my book THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE, prepared by the heroine, Pearl Parker, the day she meets the hero, Drake Kincaid:

                                                          Chicken and Dumplings
1 large stewing hen
2 cups flour                                                                 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup shortening                                                      1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk                                                                   Optional: sliced carrot and celery

Choose and prepare a nice fat hen.  Cut it up, with the meat on the bone.  Stew the chicken in a large pot with plenty of water.  After the chicken has cooked, you may want to remove the bones so people do not have to deal with them when they eat. 
Cook the chicken until it is tender (about an hour).  You can put slices of carrot and celery in the broth as the chicken cooks.  Season broth with salt and pepper.  When the chicken is tender, cook on very low simmer while you make the dumpling dough.

To make the dough:  

Mix the flour, shortening, baking powder, salt and milk.  Roll dough out thin and add more flour if it is not stiff enough.  Cut it into strips about 1" to 2" wide.  Keep heat low under chicken.  Drop half of dumplings into broth, pulling strips of dough into pieces as you drop them.  After about five minutes, push those dumplings to the side of the pan and drop in the rest of the dough in the same way.  Cook another five minutes or so.  Stir. Take a little fresh milk or buttermilk and drizzle it around the edges of the pan.  Stir.  Cook another ten minutes.  Test to make sure dumplings are cooked through and serve.   Enjoy.  

Thanks for stopping by!


Unknown said...

Chicken and dumplings -- so delicious on a winter day! My mother ad grandmothers always made their dumplings from scratch, and I could eat my weight in them.

I've gotten lazy in my old age. These days I cheat by using canned biscuits, cutting or tearing them into rough thirds or quarters before dropping them in with the stewed chicken. (Don't tell anyone! ;-) )

Carra Copelin said...

Our family loves 'em, too. Kathleen, we've taken to making Bisquick drop dumplings. My DH loves them. I've been hungry for scratch dumplings. Thank you for sharing your grandmother's recipe, Caroline. Can I just say, YUMMM?!

DP Denman said...

That sounds REALLY good, Caroline. That wouldn't be too difficult to turn into a vegan recipe either using faux chicken in place of real chicken. I'm going to have to try it. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Now I want chicken and dumplings! But, I'll settle for a TV dinner after the big lunch I had today.

Ruby said...

I had a housekeeper from Michigan many years ago and she made homemade pasta and dumplings. Your recipe reminds me of hers. I have never been able to duplicate what she did. Thanks for sharing. This sounds so delicious.