(picture note- Taken in 1991, Lizzie’s the beautiful lady on the right, and that’s my mama with my brother and me. I’m the one in the pink shorts, pink headband, purple shoes and pink scrunch socks. Thanks, mom.)
I was born and raised in North Carolina. I say I’m from the South East when I want to claim a beach, (Wrightsville Beach is my one and only), and I say I’m from the South when I want to claim a food. I was raised on Chicken-Fried Steak, Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings, Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Chicken Pot Pie, Pot Roast, Buttermilk Biscuits, Country Ham and Red-Eye Gravy… need I continue?
My mother has always been a really, really good cook so it’s no wonder why I turned to this hobby when I became old enough to appreciate it. My mom and her two older brothers were raised with a single, working mother who wasn’t often at home so she was taught to cook by her Nanny/Housekeeper/Second Mother, Lizzy. Lizzy taught her many valuable things that I now use in my kitchen, like how to make the best Pimento Cheese, (Dukes Mayo and Extra Sharp Cheddar), Egg Salad (Dukes mayo with a squirt of mustard) and Homemade Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings. Lizzy would get my mother to help a lot in the kitchen, and I imagine it was mainly to keep her still and from running away. (My mom was known to disappear for hours at a time to the neighbor’s barn to ride the horses. I should also note that my mother passed the love of all things equestrian on to me as well). The little girl version of my mom would help Lizzy roll out and cut the dumpling dough and then 25 years later the little girl me would help her mother do the same. I’ve had many different versions of Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings at restaurants or in other peoples homes, and also ventured out to make other kinds as well*, but I can always turn to this crumpled, old recipe when I want to remember Lizzy.
(note-I’ve updated and changed a couple of things throughout the years, hope you don’t mind Lizzie!)
-Place one 4-5 lb raw chicken in a large stock pot and cover with about 2 quarts of water. Throw in a good handful or 2 of salt, 3 cloves, 2 bay leaves, 1 small onion (cut in half), 2 stalks of celery (halved) and 2 carrots (peeled and halved). Bring to a boil and then cover, reduce heat and simmer for an hour. Carefully remove the chicken to cool on a plate, try to find those cloves and bay leaves and discard them with along with the vegetables. If there’s a large amount of fat at the top of the stock, strain as much as you’d like without going crazy and bring the liquid back up to a roiling boil while you make the Dumplings…
-Combine 2 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add 3 TB of shortening (If you can find butter-flavored Crisco it’s the best for this) and pulse until it’s the consistency of corn meal. Slowly add 1 cup of buttermilk as you pulse and stop when the dry ingredients are just moistened (you may not need all the buttermilk). Do not over pulse. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead only 4 or 5 times. Roll it out to about 1/4 in thick and using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into strips about 1-2 inches wide and set aside.
-Make a slurry in a small bowl by mixing 3 TB of flour and 2-3 TB of cold water or stock and then pour this into the boiling stock. Stir well and allow the liquid to thicken slightly.
-Drop your dumplings one by one into the boiling stock and stir to they don’t stick together. Boil the dumplings in the stock for about 15 minutes while you remove all the meat from the chicken bones and skin.
-When the dumplings are cooked through, add the chicken back into the liquid and stir.
-To serve, fish out as many dumplings and chicken pieces you’d like and put them in a bowl. Pour a ladle or so of the stock over the dumplings and chicken along with a few handfuls of fresh or frozen green peas.
(note-You will most likely have some liquid left over, but definitely hold onto it and use it for something else throughout the week.)
(*My mom’s super short cut way to make dumplings when you’re in a hurry is to use white flour tortillas cut into long strips. It’s really delicious and you could easily fake a few people out.)