I love Chicken and Dumplings. Not everyone does. I understand that the idea of boiled dough is just gross to some people. But, not me. A good chicken stew with dumplings dropped in and cooked until they're firm...there's nothing like it.
Chicken and Dumplings was something that my Grandmother made. She made them like a side dish, not a main course. She'd serve them with her Turkey dinner at Tgiving and Cmas. She'd serve them with a roast. She'd serve them just because she knew I was coming.
And, so many times I got to stand in her kitchen and watch her make up those dumplings, using flour she scooped out of a large can that would have held a 25 pound bag easily and was painted light robin's egg blue and lived in the cabinet under her sink (in most houses this is a gross dark damp place, but not at her house). It wasn't just a canister. It was practically a barrel.
She'd measure out the ingredients into her sifter and sift everything into a bowl and add the milk and stir it up. Then, she'd drop them out onto the counter on one of those old Tupperware rolling mats...you Americans know the one; with red circles on it that marked the dimensions of an 8" and a 9" pie plate. She didn't use a rolling pin. She'd use a thin glass drinking glass and she'd keep her fingers inside the glass so that she didn't press too hard and crack it. She'd roll those dumplings out paper thin and then use a knife to slice them into little squares. Then, she'd drop each one into the center of that boiling chicken stew, where they'd sink until they were done and then float to the top. And, she was always careful to make sure the new ones dropped under the ones that were already cooked so that we didn't end up with a chewy dumpling.
At Cmas, all the family would gather at my grandparent's house. They raised 8 children and all but one of them came home every year with all their offspring, making a house full of warmth and comraderie. There would be a feast and the good silver and good dishes and the leaves for the old dining table would come out. And, there would be so much laughter and joy and food.
One year at Cmas, I ate so many dumplings and ran around so much playing with my cousins that I threw up in the back yard. Not a nice story to tell, but probably one that every kid went through at some point of overindulgence.
I can remember when I was a teen that my Mom made chicken and dumplings. But, she made it for the main course, and I thought that was just so wrong that if I'm not mistaken, I refused to eat dinner that night. What a little prig I was.
Anyway, I tried many times to make them before I finally learned the secret of dropping them into the center and making sure they sink. And, I can remember once, when I was taking care of a friend that was ill and dying and his family had come to visit one Sunday, I had made a huge pot of dumplings in a delicious stew and they all stayed for supper. They were hispanic and had never had anything like chicken and dumplings before and they dug in and ate all I had. There were so many people that we used all the bowls I owned and people were sat all around, on the floor, in the living room. Everywhere. I don't know how that pot of dumplings fed so many. It's like the story of the loaves and fishes. It just kept stretching and going further and further. And, everyone laughed and ate and visited. It was one of Joel's last good evenings with his family.
And, that's how something as simple as boiled dough, otherwise known as Chicken and Dumplings, became part of my history. And, now you know. I still make them when I can, but I'm the only one at my house that will eat them, so I make a pot and eat from them all week for lunch. Mmmm. Dumplings and a big pot of butterbeans and some chili sauce to spice it up.
Hope you're having a great Way Back Wednesday!