Chicken and Dumplings
Large hen (the fatter, the better)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Remove giblets from large hen. Place hen and neckbone in a large pot, cover completely with water, add: 1 quart more water, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper. Cook covered over medium heat for 2-3 hours, until chicken is falling from bone. If needed, add more water. OR: cook hen in crockpot overnight.
With slottted spoon, remove chicken from the (industrial-strength, 120-proof) stock with a slotted spoon (if the meat's not falling off the bone, it's not done, so keep cooking).
De-bone chicken and set aside, covered. (In a metal bowl, set on an unlit eye near the stockpot, the chicken will stay warm.)
If you cooked your hen on the stove, turn the heat to high; dumplings will be added when the stock is at a full, rolling boil. (If you used the crockpot, pour stock into a pot and continue on.)
Taste stock, add salt and pepper as needed.
3 C. flour, plain
6 egg-shells of milk
Into a large bowl (or a bread tray if you have one), sift flour and make a "well" with the back of your hand. Crack eggs into flour--but keep one (half) shell to use as a measuring cup for the milk. Beat egg and milk together with fork, slowly folding in flour until a ball is formed. Knead, but do not overwork, the dough.
Pinch into three balls.
Sprinkle flour on your countertop. Dust your rolling pin and pat each ball of dough with a dusting of flour before you start rolling (dough tends to stick). Roll ball about three or four times, flip and sprinkle with flour again. (Sprinkle the countertop again, while you're at it.) Flip again, about half-way through rolling.
Dough should end up about 1/8" thick. (Not see-through like for noodles, but close.) Cut with knife into 1-1/2 inch strips.
When chicken stock comes to a rolling boil: flour your arm, lift dumpling strips from counter, and drape them over your arm. Carry strips to pot, pinch off 1-1/2 to 2 inch pieces, drop into boiling stock. Stir after every strip or two--and when all three (dough) balls have been rolled, pinched and dropped--stir another five minutes.
Cover and reduce heat to low, cook for another five minutes and dumplings should be tender. (If not, stir and continue cooking on low until done).
Add chicken and serve immediately.
(I usually serve them in bowl, with home-made biscuits and spiced apples on the side. Not an Atkins-friendly meal, for sure, but a fine one.)
Remember that girl in your high school class who was gorgeous without make-up? She had perfectly clear skin without Cover Girl, rosy cheeks without Pink Perfection blush, long dark lashes with no need for Maybelline...
In the "school" of 'Berry cooking, chicken and dumplings is that girl.
Plain, not self-rising.
Satisfying, not flashy.
A good-ole' girl home-body, not at all high-maintenance.
Yep, in an eggshell, that's 'Berry chicken and dumplings.
Some recipes found in other cookbooks call for baking powder or parsley in the dumplings, for celery and carrots in the chicken stock. But here in the Old Dutch Fork, we believe in KISSing: Keep It Simple, Sweetie, It's Not-fancy Go-ood.
When I was maybe 12, one Saturday morning I was playing in the kitchen of my sweet--but eminently practical--grandmother. She studied me for a while, as if making assessments in her head, and then ever-so lovingly (ever-so wisely), she said, "Susan, you're nobody's pretty thing, I'm afraid. You'll have to learn to cook to catch a man."
It was that very morning that she taught me how to make chickens and dumplings.
One note of caution: do not think less of my beloved, sainted grandmother for her honesty. Indeed, I shall go my grave in awe of her courage, in praise of her wisdom, and in gratitude for the good man her dumplings caught me.
Henry may have been first attracted to my eyes (so he swears), but he didn't hang around much until after his first pot of dumplings. One taste was all it took, and after that we could hardly sweep him off the porch. (Thanks, Ma-ma.)
Another note of caution...
Dumplings are so down-home and home-ly, they may make folks more old-socks comfortable than they should be--and you may find out things you don't really want to know.
Only weeks after Henry and I were married in May, he asked if I would fix his Gramps a pot of chicken and dumplings for Father's Day. Gramps often talked about his mother's dumplings, and he hadn't had any like hers for a long, long while.
I spent all day in the kitchen: dumplings are not a one-night stand, they're a committed relationship. It was a hot June day, the steam from the boiling chicken stock was withering, and when the pot was ready, I refused to leave the apartment until I'd had a bath.
Henry called Gramps to say we were bringing his supper, and when we arrived, Henry proudly announced that I had made Gramp's gift for Father's Day: chicken and dumplings
When Gramps ate the first bite, he eyed me suspiciously, "These taste like my mother's."
"Yes, sir. My grandmother taught me how to make 'em," I answered.
"Who made these dumplings?" he asked me, smiling.
"I did. My grandmother taught me," I answered again, a bit confused but indulgent. His hearing was not good.
Gramps' smile faded, "You're not old enough to have made these chicken and dumplings." Shaking his head, he turned from me to Henry, "Who made these, really? Her grandmother?"
Who made these, really?!
Henry puffed up with pride. "Honest, Sue made them herself."
Slowly, Gramps nodded. "Hmm, now I see."
Slowly, it dawned on me: for the first time ever, Gramps had seen some good reason...for Henry to have married me.
A TMI (too much information) violation for sure, but looking back, all I can say is, "Thanks, Ma-ma!"
On a chilly spring night, chicken and dumplings will make a hearty meal that sticks to the ribs. Give 'em a try, but please--don't fix 'em for anybody you don't want stuck to you.
Just another word of wisdom from Ma-ma's kitchen.
Winter Weather Advisory: Soup days in the 'Berry
Those who believe that the Berry is pure perfection in every regard may be startled at what I am about to say, but 'tis true. From time to time, we experience wintry weather here.
Yes, dear hearts. Even in "Camelot South," an occasional wind may blow cold, a fleeting ice storm may crackle in the pine boughs, or a flitting, powdery snow may flurry.
That said, I do not recommend that you rush out to buy snow tires. Barring a cataclysmic polar shift (in which case you'll have more pressing problems), a pretty new coat and a good soup pot are all you need need to survive the chilliest days of January and February in the Berry.
No, Jackie Frost doesn't stand a snowball's chance of nippin at your nose when a soup pot is steaming on your stove.
Hmmm, soup brings a lovely, Zen moment of warmth to even the most chilly winter's day.
Consider, if you will, the delicious Zen moment of soup first-contact. (Envisioning posture, please.) Be one with the soup (yum). Inhale the steam of the soup (yum). Cradle the soup bowl in your chilled-to-the-bone fingers (yum). Sip the savory soup through wind-chapped lips (yum)...
Are you there yet? Good, then you have learned the Sublime Secret of Soup. Whatever icy precipitation may fall, soup will prevail and triumph, warming you head to toe from the first tongue-scalding sip to the last lip-smacking dribble.
Rumor has it that in the great UN (Up North), soup may be served most any ol' winter day. It's always cold and nasty there (brrr), and soup is always welcome. Here in "Camelot South," however, we need guidance in determining which days are nasty enough for soup.
Fortunate souls that we are, we have help in that regard.
When the temperature drops to below the mid-30s and there is some dampness in the air, "The Voice of Newberry" at AM-1240 on your radio dial will declare an Official WKDK Soup Day with these words, "Ladies, pull out your soup pots!"
It goes without saying, "Ladies, pull out your iron skillets." All soup in the Berry must be served with a slab of cornbread on the side. (Promise, dear hearts! Before you reach for a blue box, check out the last issue of Lifestyles for a most mouth-watering cornbread recipe from Marquerite Palmer's grandmother.)
Official Soup Days are declared during the Coffee Hour, 9-10 a.m. Do tune in, if you have any doubt.
For many years it has been my great privilege to co-host the Thursday morning show with the golden-throated "Li'l Jimmie" Coggins. It was his father, the golden James F. Coggins, who began the tradition of Soup Day Declarations.
One Thursday morning maybe 10 years ago, a cold rain was pouring and a cold wind was blowing. From the chattering of my teeth, I suspected that a soup day would be declared. When I reported to the station that morning, I carried with me a huge metal mixing bowl, filled with cabbage and carrots, celery and green beans, okra and potatoes--all the "usual suspects" required for veggie soup.
As Mr. C and I talked on the air that morning, diced carrots pinged on the metal bowl, chopped celery popped onto the control board, and green beans snapped into the mike. By the end of the show, I was ready to start browning my hamburger (the meat my mother always used to flavor soup), and I stopped by the Winn-Dixie to pick some up.
At the meat case I was congratulated by a friend, "What a soup-er show this morning!"
I smiled and said thanks.
Then came the question, "It was the sound effects that made it. What on earth did you use for the snap of the green beans?"
Oh dear hearts, it was tempting to make myself appear more clever than I am and make something up, but I confessed the truth of it.
"For the sound of snapping green beans," I smiled brightly. "I snapped green beans."
Oh, I could tell he didn't believe me. He assumed I was holding tight to some sound-effects secret known only unto radio professionals and Foley experts. Same thing happened a couple of years later when I made an Easter basket on the air, and someone asked about the sound effects for the crumple of cellophane.
No, dear hearts, on WKDK we do things live and for real.
Oh yes, when AM-1240 declares an official soup day, we are most sincerely expecting you ladies to pull out your soup pots.
The three soup recipes presented here should hold you through the winter. The first is a hearty sausage-corn chowder made with (surprise, surprise!) Counts onion sausage and not heavy cream, but sour cream. Some soups don't stick to the ribs, and you may find yourself grazing in the pantry less than an hour after supper. This one will hold you 'til bedtime, even if you have it for lunch.
JezeBelles downtown serves a soup with lunch every day, and the variety is endless: Jambalaya, chicken pot-pie, broccoli. Why, if you call early enough in the morning, they will make chicken-noodle soup for you to take someone who's feeling under the weather. (Downtown 'Berry is a full-service, extended-family shopping area.)
This recipe for JezeBelles Pizza Pasta Soup is delicious but rarely served because the pasta falls apart when kept on the stove for hours. Even children enjoy it, though, because it tastes like pizza in a bowl. As a public service to community children, the Belles have generously agreed to share their recipe with us.
The last our our featured recipes has nothing to do with soup, but it is served in a bowl.
In the event that here in "Camelot South," a flitting, powdery snow may flurry--
Eat it, OK?
Yes, dear hearts, snow cream is the perfect dessert after a steaming bowl of hearty soup.
A bit of advice for the wintry months ahead? Button up, layer, use Chapstick, listen to AM-1240--and oh, and however cold it may be, manners are still important in Camelot South (as important as clean snow in your snowcream).
Please, don't slurp your soup.
2 lb. Counts onion sausage
1 12-oz bag, frozen super-sweet Niblet corn
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 pint cartons, sour cream
2 C. chicken stock
2 C. water
4 Tbsp. corn starch/1 pkg. frozen cream corn
salt and pepper to taste
Brown sausage, remove meat. In drippings, sautee celery and onion until translucent. Add corn, cook 5-7 minutes. Add thickener (corn starch/frozen cream corn) for roue. Put meat back in pot. Add sour cream, stir in chicken stock. Salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8.
JezeBelles Pizza Pasta Soup
1 lb sausage or ground beef
1 med red onion
Large can diced Italian tomatoes
One box tri-color spiral noodles
Salt & pepper
Cook sausage or ground beef and onion together, then drain. Add salt, pepper, basil & oregano to taste and transfer to large soup pot. Add large can diced Italian tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes.
Add one package (box) tri-color spiral noodles. Add water for desired thickness. Simmer until noodles are tender. Dish into bowls and sprinkle with shredded cheese just before serving.
Snow (clean snow)
1 C. milk
1/2 C. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Put on your pretty new coat, grab a big bowl, and head for the great outdoors. Being careful not to slip, wander around until you find snow: clean snow, fluffy snow, snow that no critter has found before you. (That's important.)
Fill the big bowl with snow. (Did I mention wearing gloves? Well, perhaps you should.) Back in the house, mix milk, sugar, and vanilla. Pour over clean snow (again, that's important!). Stir quickly, and serve super-fast.
Pot Likker Corn Dumplings:
Smacking good to say out loud!
1 C. corn meal, self rising
1/3 C. flour
1 onion (Vidalia, of course), chopped fine
1 Tbsp. shortening, melted (lard or Crisco is good, fatback grease is great)
Chop onion, beat egg (knock yourself out). Mix top ingredients, then stir in enough pot likker to make a thick paste. Drop by spoonfuls into boiling pot likker. Cover pot, cut off burner. Will cook enough to serve. (*To make pot likker, boil turnip greens with salt and the pork fat of your choice. I generally use the fat trimmed from country ham. My grandmother more often used fat-back or bacon grease, but that's for those in the professional class. Word to the wise: wash your greens within an inch of their lives or you'll have gritty greens. Your teeth will thank you for every minute of the washing.)
In the interest of preserving idiosyncracies of historic language usage here in the 'Berry, I'd like to instruct you in the use of the term "fallen off."
Not as in the sentence, "My brother has fallen off his bicycle on Main Street when the siren cranked up at the Parr Building."
No, the usage here is, "She looks like she has fallen off some."
(Actually, the more traditional Berry usage is "she has fell off some," but I cleaned things up in the interest of improved grammar. In the clean-up, I fear it has lost a certain "je ne sais quoi," don't you think?)
I most often heard the term used when I was a plump teen-ager. If my beloved grandmother perceived ever a slight reduction in my always generous size, she would smile and offer sweet words of congratulations and encouragement, "Susan, you look like you have fallen off some."
More often than not, her sweet words had more to do with a new girdle than the stubborn big numbers on our bathroom scale, but I never failed to glow in gratitude.
Please forgive me for bringing this up, children.. I rarely mention anything as unpleasant as weight when approaching the delicious subject of food--oh dear, I wouldn't want to spoil your appetite--but I did feel the need to issue a warning call here.
If you are trying to "fall off some" and you are not willing to use pork fat in your kitchen, do not bother to make pot likker corn dumplings. Trust me, I have tried to make these delicious nibbles with bouillon and Pam, but what I ended up with...well, it just wasn't right.
Other recipes may accommodate low-fat mayo or no-fat sour cream or reduced-fat mushroom soup (which is, actually, surprisingly good in asparagus casserole, although with the cheese and the Durkees fried onions, I can't say it makes all that much difference.)
Sorry to say, pot likker corn dumplings survive no substitutions. They must be made with fat.
Real fat, pork fat. Ham hock, fat back, country ham fat.
The bad-for-you fat.
That said, every now and again?
"Comfort food is where you're at,
And comfort food must be made with fat."
Comfort food is all about going home again in your heart. It's about feeling safe and warm and welcome at your mother or your grandmother's table. Yes, comfort food is good for your "soul heart."
It can, however, be wicked-bad to your "muscle heart."
Consider yourself forewarned, and consult with your internist if there is any doubt as to your cholesterol levels and stroke risk. Dr. John Thompson--an official WKDK judge for ice cream, barbecue and liver knepps contests--is standing ready to give you guidance.
If he says no, please: go buy yourself a lo-fat yogurt or a lean-turkey sandwich on lite whole-wheat.
Forget you ever heard of pot likker corn dumplings.
You'll live a little longer.
OK, still with me?
Wonderful! Those of you who are not "falling off" and not stroke-risks are about to enjoy a 'Berry "heritage dish" that nourishes the "soul heart" and fills the tummy with warm, savory goodness
Yes, pot likker corn dumplings are ever-more tasty--and oh-so rich.
That is not a comforting thought to those who are trying to "fall off" or to those who have cholesterol "issues"--and I may be counted in both categories--but sometimes in the interest of "quality of life," I must throw caution to the wind and "self-medicate" the angsts of life away with a fine comfort food.
OK, it shows. I'm an FOB (Fluffy Old Broad), but consider if you will: most days I'm smiling.
Yes, I may live a little longer without the warmth of pot likker corn dumplings.
During my "Earth Mother incarnation," I made yogurt for my toddlers and fed my babies brewer's yeast in pureed liver and mixed steamed green beans into lime sherbert for popsicles (It was a tough few years, OK?) I also refused to cook red meat. No hamburger, no pork chops, no steaks.
After a year, I asked Henry, "Don't you feel better?"
He answered with a wistful sigh, "I know I'll live longer if I never eat another steak, but I can't think of what for."
Words from the wise.
Life is filled with rich experiences for those who are daring (now and again), and pot likker corn dumplings is one experience that should not be missed by those who are not too faint of heart.
Besides, it's fun to say "pot likker corn dumplings" out loud.
Some words tickle the tongue and delight the ear, and we should look for opportunities to use them in our daily lives. I have often wished that I could tell Henry's Yankee friends at HDVest conferences that we live "a piece down the road from Mudlick Creek, on Dog Waller Road."
Both are place names in the county, both conjure rich images--and both are fun to say aloud.
Some foods delight the tongue in the speaking as much as they delight the palate in the tasting. Say a few with me: creme brulee, ribbets (ribbons of noodles), mud-bottom pie, pumpkin dump cake.
Delamater's restaurant sometimes offers "schnook" as a special, and I never fail to order this delicious fish when it's available. The fine chef there, Brandon Draeger, persists in saying "snook" (as spelled), but I know a fun-to-say word when I can pretend I heard one.
And yes, the "schnook" is delicious again when I speak the word on the radio.
"Pot likker corn dumplings" are delicious to say--and to savor.
A word of caution when you prepare them: wash your greens, and when you think all the grit is gone, wash them again and again. Grit loves greens, that's all I can say, and we already have an internist involved. Let's not bother your dentist, too.
Besides, eating a comfort food should be as easy as falling off your bicycle on Main Street when the siren goes off at the Parr Building.
Not as hard as it is to "fall off some."
I do hope you enjoy saying and savoring pot likker corn dumplings, perhaps on a chilly spring evening soon.
Ma-ma's Cream Potatoes: THE Comfort Food
About 5 lb. potatoes, chunked, boiled, and drained
2 sticks butter
About a cup of flour (enough to make a roue/butter & flour paste)
About 2-3 cans condensed milk (lo-fat/no-fat works fine)
Salt and pepper (heavy on the pepper) to taste
In the large pot in which you boiled the potatoes, while it's still hot, melt two sticks butter on medium heat. Sift in flour a bit at the time, stirring with a wire whisk until a thick paste forms. When it pretty much all sticks to the whisk, start adding in the milk, about half a can at the time--stirring vigorously with the wisk until lumps disappear. Add a can of water for each can of milk used. Voila--a gravy is born. Add some salt and pepper. Pour in a little extra milk (the gravy will thicken even more when the potatoes are added, and that's what happens next). Dump in potatoes and stir. Add salt and pepper.
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Butter baking dish. Peel sweet potatoes. Slice thin and stack until dish is full. Dot with butter. Mix 3/4 C. water and 3/4 C. sugar. Pour on top. Cover with foil. Bake 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. (You may need to add more sugar/water, depending on the size of the dish.)
Country Not-Fried Steak
2 lb. cubed steak
1 pkg. Italian dressing mix
1 1/2 C. milk
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 C. flour
salt and pepper (oh yeah, heavy on the pepper)
Mix flour, milk, Worcestershire sauce, and Italian dressing mix. Pour over steaks. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or so. Steak and gravy!
Cook three pounds of hamburger meat in the bottom of a soup pot. Chop: okra, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery, large onion (REALLY large, Texas sweet). Cut corn from about six ears (or use 2 cans of corn). Snap about 1/2 lb. fresh green beans. Add to fresh vegetables: small packages of frozen green peas and baby lima beans.
I use large cans of tomatoes, diced in own juice. Pour juice into hamburger with some water. Pour in vegetables and cook until tender. Add diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, SUGAR. (Ah, the secret vegetable ingredient makes yet another appearance.) Serve with cornbread. Second day: add more cooked hamburger, another can of tomatoes. This soup can be stretched for days and days...