Chicken and Dumplings: Memories of Comfort
My mother passes down our family history through her stories and recipes.
My mother talks fondly of a time in 1947 when she was a young teen. Her uncles and their wives paid a rare visit to her Oregon home, traveling all the way from Indiana. The pinnacle of the visit for my mother, was the preparation and presentation of her uncles' hearty chicken and dumpling meal. My mother's father was quick to make the request for this special meal that he remembered eating as a young child.
A little history is in order here. My mother's paternal great uncles were Uncle Charlie and Uncle Wright. They were both corn and wheat farmers in Indiana and were of German descent. They were heavily influenced by their religious beliefs and ties to the Dunkard Brethern Church or "Old Order of Dunkards", a church started in Germany in the early 1900's. My mother remembers their "plainess of dress" especially their shirts with no buttons. Their sister, Julia, my grandfather's mother died in the Black flu epidemic of 1918. She was a young mother who left three small children behind. For a time they were split up to go live with various relatives. I would guess this Chicken and Dumpling recipe was comfort food for my grandfather. Dumplings can be found in one form or another across all cultures. Simple and economical, coupled with a thick meaty gravy they easily filled a hungry child's stomach.
Here is the recipe my mother passed down from her uncles: (Best served on a cold winter evening).
Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings
Place whole chicken in a pot of approximately 8 cups of water with salt, and desired herbs such as parsley.
Cook until meat drops off the bones, approx 1 1/2 hrs. Check for tenderness by tasting. Slightly cool, (reserve broth) remove chicken and debone, cut into pieces and set aside.
Take 3/4 cup of cooled chicken stock and mix with 1/4 cup canned whole milk. In another bowl mix flour(approx 2-3 cups), 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp baking powder. Combine dry ingredients and mix with chicken stock/milk mixture. (Add enough flour to make a stiff dough). Knead lightly on floured surface. Roll out to thickness of thick pie crust or 1/4". and cut with biscuit cutter. Place chicken pieces into remaining stock, bring to boil and place cut-out dumplings on top of boiling mixture, reduce heat to med-low. Cook slowly , 10 minutes uncovered, 10 minutes covered. If stock is not thick enough add some flour and water to thicken.
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