Simple recipes are usually the best, not because they don't require fancy ingredients or complicated steps. No, it's because they are almost always packed with history and memories. In my case, for the Create TV Family Recipe competition I could have chosen from a bevy of recipes, each one filled with flavor, memories and love.
I was recently asked if gift giving was my love language, the truth is I’ve never thought about it but when I saw this competition that question reminded me of my mother. I realized that maybe gift giving is a love language of mine, because I remember my mother making multiple batches of her mom’s chicken and dumplings, transferring them to crockpots and plastic ware and transporting them to her work. The first visitor to her office would then spread the word to the rest of the factory, and on each break her office would be filled with people warming their stomachs with homemade chicken and dumplings.
So today, I'm inviting you all to come and warm your stomachs and more importantly, your homes, with my grandmother’s simple Chicken and Dumplings.
It's one of the easiest recipes you'll ever find. In fact the whole of our handwritten recipe fits on a single side of a sticky note that my mom grabbed, while at work, to transcribe the recipe from her mom on the phone. You need four ingredients, not including your seasonings and fat.
Chicken; amount is up to you.
We use either one whole chicken or a mix of breasts and thighs (approx. 4 each)
Water; to cover the chicken – approximately 4 quart jars
Fat, butter or oil
Seasonings of your choice
2 cups (to start) Flour
1/2 cup (to start) Shortening
Cold Water, enough to pull the flour and shortening into a workable dough
Season chicken and put in Dutch oven or large pot with your choice of fat, I use a tablespoon of butter and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover chicken with enough water to cover about an inch above the breasts and thighs and bring to a boil. Once the chicken is cooked, debone and take off the skin, if you didn't already do that before it was cooked and shred or chop the chicken. This is up to how your family likes their chicken, we do a good mix so there is something for everyone.
Turn the water, now chicken broth, to a low boil while you are making the dumplings. Mix flour and shortening with just enough cold water to bring the dough together, then roll out to around 1/4" thick and cut into your desired shape. We use a pizza cutter and just cut into small strips or squares. Once all your dumplings are made, put the chicken back in the broth, turn it up to a boil and drop the dumplings in for about 5 - 7 minutes.
After the dumplings are cooked, you may need or want to thicken the soup. Do this with by making a slurry of corn starch and water and letting it cook in the soup until you have reached the desired thickness.
Now if you are in a time crunch and don't feel like making this from scratch you can still enjoy a quick chicken and dumplings with some store-bought rotisserie chicken and canned chicken broth. If you don't want to make your own dumplings you can also use canned biscuits.
Not a lot of time but don’t want to go the rotisserie chicken route? Pop your chicken in the slow cooker with the water, when you get home whip up the dumplings!
If you have a lot more time and want to up the ante on flavor, chop up some carrots, celery and onions with more seasonings than salt & pepper, think Italian herbs, garlic, turmeric and paprika. Soften these in some butter and then add about 2 or 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Now you can keep that veg in and add the chicken and more water starting back up at the beginning or you can strain out the vegetables. My grandmother’s recipe doesn't call for vegetables and my mom has never used any, so when I decide to 'up the ante', I always strain out the vegetables and just add the vegetable broth to the water with the chicken.
I truly hope that you make this recipe not only for your family, but with your family. Let your kids make a mess making those dumplings, trust me making them and then eating them will be their favorite part of the meal. Make more memories with your families, write down your recipes and pass them down.
If you've ever craved your momma's homecooked meals, they will too, so leave them something to satisfy that craving.
Once they find that handwritten recipe, they'll remember watching you debone chicken, rolling out dough and then finally getting their own hands messy and squishing into shortening and water when you allow them to help you.
Family is the one thing we are guaranteed in this life; even if it's not biological, we make our own families. So, I hope you gather your friends, your families, those that you love and hate just a little bit sometimes and cook with them, feed them. Feed them food, feed them memories and feed them love.