Home Town Chicken and Dumplings, the Ultimate Comfort Food
Every Southern family has its favorite recipe for chicken and dumplings. This recipe is typical of those on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where I grew up. The dumplings are a bit lighter, but every bit as delicious!
Most Southerners love chicken and dumplings. It’s one of those dishes that makes you feel better when you’re sick or warm on a cool, rainy day.
It happens to be rainy and cool in Johannesburg today. So, it seemed to me like the perfect day to share this old fashioned family favorite.
In my mother’s family, which hails from Virginia and Kentucky, the dumplings tend to lean more towards the biscuit side. However, in my home town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the tradition runs towards a more “slippery”, noodle-style dumpling, which is what I share here.
Either way, you’ll find chicken and dumplings to be the ultimate comfort food. It’s a simple one pot meal that is guaranteed to nourish body and soul.
Early Americans relied heavily on their smokehouses for flavourful meat that was safe to eat. So, like many Southern classics, the sauce in this dish is enriched with smoked bacon.
It is also flavored with plenty of fresh herbs. The tradition of using bouquets of herbs to flavor our food harks back to colonial kitchen gardens.
However, if you visit the Eastern Shore today, you’ll find this tradition is still alive and well. Most families take pride in having a small herb garden out back to provide for their kitchens. Many still grow some of their own vegetables, as well. I know my family always did.
I like to think of this dish, which builds on a rich heritage dating back over 200 years, as love in a bowl. Hopefully, you will have the same warm, fuzzy feelings about chicken and dumplings! Bon appétit!
100 grams (3.5 oz) streaky bacon (preferably smoked), sliced into .5 cm (1/4 inch) wide strips
4 tablespoons dry sherry
6 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup thyme, leaves and green stalks only
5-7 sage leaves, roughly torn
1 bay leaf
For the dumplings
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
2 cups (500 ml) pouring cream
Heat the canola oil in a large heavy-bottomed stock pot set over medium-high heat. Be careful not to let oil smoke.
Meanwhile, mix the flour and Chesepeake bay seasoning in a medium sized bowl. Dredge chicken pieces in the flour and place, skin side down, in a single layer in hot stock pot. You will need to do this in two batches. Cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the chicken pieces are a deep golden brown. Remove them to a medium sized bowl and repeat with the second batch.
Once the chicken pieces are out of the oil. Add the sliced bacon to the pot. Cook, stirring continuously, until the fat is rendered and the bacon pieces are crispy.
Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and add to bowl containing chicken pieces.
Add remaining seasoned flour (you should still have 2-3 tablespoons) to the hot oil and stir continuously for 1-2 minutes or until the flour is cooked and a light golden brown.
Add diced onions to the pot and continue stirring until they are softened (3-4 minutes). Add carrots and celery and stir for another 3-4 minutes, or until they are soft.
Quickly deglaze the pan with the sherry, while stirring continuously to scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
Add the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot, along with the stock, thyme, sage, and bay leaf.
Bring to the boil. Then, reduce heat to medium and continue simmering for 30 minutes, or until chicken is falling off the bone and sauce is slightly thickened. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt, as needed.
Mix all dumpling ingredients, except cream in a medium bowl until well combined. Add cream, stirring just until combined.
Drop dumpling mixture into boiling sauce by heaped spoonfuls, until all dough is used.
Be careful not to over beat the dumpling dough. Too much mixing will yield a tough dumpling.
The dumplings will be floating and fluffy when they are fully cooked.
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