Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

Homemade Chicken and Dumplings
Dorcas Annette Walker

The mountain style of dumplings is quite different from what my Grandmother used to make. Her dumplings were spoonfuls of batter dropped in boiling broth that puffed up like biscuits. What I grew up making known as pot pie is actually the Southern style of dumplings used with chicken. You will always find a big pot or two of Homemade Chicken and Dumplings at any gatherings. Interesting enough I’ve noticed in older recipe books that you don’t find any recipes for Homemade Chicken and Dumplings. Any girl worth her salt grew up making them.

My husband has always wanted to raise chickens. It was an idea I always vetoed as the kids were growing up, we were constantly traveling, and knowing my husband a couple chickens would soon multiply into a family operation. Our family cats, two dogs, my goldfish outside, and the bird feeders I maintain keep me busy enough. Now that our kids were grown and we were more homebound due to my health, Dana, once again began to talk about raising chickens. He’d get only three or four and enclose them in wire fence that would be easy to move around. So I wasn’t too surprised one day when he came home with two brown hens and some wire. After thinking it over my husband decided that the fence needed a top on it, which necessitated a small door in the side. Then he had to strengthen the sides and bottom with boards. It was quite a lovely pen. The only problem was it was quite heavy to move. My husband decided a small shed would be just the thing. Of course the wire pen ended up being enlarged to almost four times its size to fit to the side of the shed that turned into an 8 x 8 foot building. By now the two brown hens I had named, Henny and Penny had company. Dana bought four other smaller hens- he couldn’t resist a bargain- and one rooster of a mixed breed. A couple of months passed when I noticed something strange. Instead of one rooster crowing there was four! So Dana traded three roosters for three Dominique hens to add variety to his flock. Somewhere along the line Chicken Little disappeared. Don’t tell anyone, but Dana is beginning to suspect that one of the Dominique hens is also a rooster. Keeping that in mind I’ve named two gray speckled hens, Emma and Agnus. Winter weather arrived up here in the mountains and our dear hens quit laying eggs. I told my husband I wouldn’t think of laying eggs in freezing weather either if I was a hen. So Dana rigged up a light via extension cords to the hen house and installed a heat lamp along with layers of straw for comfort. In gratitude our dear hens began laying again. To be perfectly honest they should as much as we pamper them with daily scraps. I had just relaxed my guard when Dana began talking about incubators. I told him that I thought that’s what we had hens for. Well it turns out that it isn’t that simple. Three of our hens are laying eggs in one nest and the rate of eggs hatching with hens is not near as good as if you incubate them yourself. He already had the stuff out in his workshop that he could use to put together an incubator and it wouldn’t be any trouble at all. Of course once it was built instead of waiting until spring Dana had to try it out. Right now four eggs are resting in the incubator in my sunroom. Not only do the dear eggs have to be turned at least twice a day, but depending on how the weather fluctuates we have to switch from two forty light bulbs to sixty watt too keep an even temperature. Oh yes, did I mention that my husband has just left for couple of days to go to a prayer retreat? Guess who gets to baby-sit the hens and eggs? I always thought it was rabbits that multiplied not chickens. My husband’s rabbits though are another story.

Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

Cover 4-5 pounds of chicken with water in a large pan with one tablespoon of salt. Boil until soft (about 1 hour).
Remove chicken and cool. Then de-bone the chicken, cut into small chunks, and add to broth. Bring broth back to a rolling boil and add:
1 pkg chicken gravy
2 tb cornstarch
Stir until slightly thickened.

1 c self rising flour
1 egg
¼ c milk
Mix together until you have stiff dough. Roll out very thin on a floured surface. Cut into strips with a pizza cutter. Drop dumplings into the boiling broth one layer at a time making sure that the dumplings are covered with broth to prevent sticking together. Sprinkle salt and pepper and simmer for fifteen minutes. Serve hot with mashed potatoes or cornbread. May garnish with fresh parsley!

No comments: