Chicken and dumplings, like so many of the southern classics, was more than likely born out of the need to stretch a meal to feed a lot of people. Killing a chicken for dinner was not something you did every day years ago on the farm when those chickens laid eggs, eggs that could be sold or traded for other staples you needed, but didn’t produce yourself…like coffee and flour or sugar. So if you sacrificed a chicken it was a big deal and you probably only gave up one. One chicken was more than likely not enough to feed a housefull of kids, mama and daddy, and maybe grandma, grandpa and at times the farm hands. This is where using flour to stretch that chicken out and fill a big ole pot full of goodness came in. Nothing fills you up like all that doughy goodness and broth of a steaming bowl of dumplings. The chicken becomes the less important part of the meal when homemade dumplings take center stage. Weren’t our southern ancestors smart people?
Chicken and dumplings are also one of those classics that there must be thousands of recipes and techniques for making. Nobody does it just the same. Some cooks put shortening in the dough, some put butter, some use eggs, some just the chicken broth, some people even make them with canned biscuits…you know what I think of that method, if you have read many of my posts…lol. I won’t elaborate on it further, but please don’t do it. Learn to make them the right way. It’s not hard, I promise and even if they aren’t perfect, they will be better than made with canned biscuits. I get queasy even typing that canned biscuit thing.
OK, I admit it, I am a bit of a dumpling snob and my mother is to blame for this (just joking..sort of ). Mama would say, of course, “I am to blame, the mother always gets blamed for everything”..in her best Jewish mother’s voice (no we are not Jewish, but maybe should have been). She’s right by the way. We (mothers) do get blamed for everything, but that is a post for another day. However, in this case, it’s a good thing, because my mother can flat make some chicken and dumplings.
My mother credits her dumpling recipe to one of her lifelong best friend’s grandmother. When Mama first married, she moved to Louisville, Ky from a town at the time that was much, much smaller. Her best friend’s grandmother, Goldie, also lived there and according to my mother, she was the best cook in the world. She made the most wonderful dishes with the simplest ingredients and her chicken and dumplings were to die for. My mother, being a new bride, wanted to learn, so Goldie taught her some of what she knew and chicken and dumplings was one of those things. I think this lady gave my mother something much more than her recipes at a time she really needed it and that was comfort. Mama was a young girl from the country, newly married and moved to a big, unfamiliar city with none of her own family anywhere near her and Goldie looked after her to some extent. I would say that out of all of the probably hundreds of recipes my mother cooks and knows by heart, this one might be the most special to her.
I have been blessed to have my mother around to teach me all of her recipes and she taught me to make dumplings a long time ago and I follow her method exactly, but my chicken and dumplings are never as good to me as my mother’s, which is why I went to her to make these for you all. Here is what you will need:
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