Several weeks back, I heard about a friend’s husband who was very sick. I decided that they both needed some good ol’ fashion home-cooked love (also known as “luv”). What better way to give a little TLC than to channel Mimi’s healing abilities through cooking her famed chicken n’ dumplings.
After Mimi passed this December, Jenny and I split her recipe box down the middle so that we could each make our own efforts at transforming the recipes into digital format as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, it’s February and I haven’t started – oh, the joys of school!
At any rate, I went digging through my half of the box pictured above, and the second recipe card I found was for chicken n’ dumplings. I started to remember all of the times that Mimi and I made this when I was child – I remembered the way she always had me cut a brown paper grocery bag into a flat piece of paper on the counter. The bag was used as a drying surface for the rolled-out dough before cooking. I remembered that sometimes for fun, she would chop up parsley and mix that into to the dough, so that each dumpling had these green flecks of freshness. And lastly, I remember how if I cut a dumpling in a size or shape that I thought wasn’t acceptable, she would always say, “Your stomach doesn’t know the difference on the way down,” and I would think to myself, “Yeah – good point!”
As I read the actual recipe that Mimi and I used so many times, I realized that what seemed so magical was really quite simple. I also realized that the dough recipe was and is essentially the exact same recipe that Mike’s mom uses when she makes pierogies – a staple comfort food in his family. Isn’t it funny how two women, from two opposite ends of the world, could have so much in common through their love of and commitment to food and family.
At any rate, I decided that it would be nice to invite my mom (Mimi’s youngest daughter) to help prepare the big pot of goodness to honor Mimi. I cooked the chicken, and made the broth; mom made and rolled out the dumpling dough to be cut into small squares of deliciousness.
Mimi’s chicken n’ dumplings
1 whole roasting chicken
A couple of carrots
A couple of stalks of celery
1 yellow onion
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 small tbsp of Crisco shortening-softened…..I remember Mimi having a big tub of this, but I used Crisco canola oil and it worked just fine
1/2-3/4 cup of ice water
A dash of salt to taste
Bring a large soup pot of water to a boil, add chunks of carrot, celery, and onion to the pot. These don’t need to be sliced beautifully. Their purpose is flavor, and you will remove them before the end of this process. In the meantime, make sure to wash the whole chicken and remove any parts that come inside the chicken. If you want you could save the neck to flavor the broth – your choice. Throw the whole chicken into the boiling water, bring back up to a boil, and then reduce your heat to medium-high and cook for about 45 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the water and place in a container or on a plate and let cool in the fridge. Continue to cook your broth/water. You will want to cook the broth down until it tastes salty enough. You may want to add salt, or some boullion or chicken broth as a supplement until it tastes right. Once the broth is where you like it, discard all of the carrots, celery, onions, and chicken neck. Place the broth (in its existing pot) in the fridge and cool for several hours until the fat has solidified on top. Remove the fat with a spoon and re-heat the broth to a rolling boil. While the broth is heating up, take the chicken out of the fridge and remove all of the meat (discard the skin) both light and dark and tear into small pieces. As the broth comes to a boil, add the meat. The soup will probably lose some heat, so once you have been able to bring it back up to a boil, throw in each dumpling one at a time (see recipe below), and cook for 10-12 minutes. Throw a fair amount of fresh parsley on top. Serve and enjoy!!!
Mix all of these ingredients except water together. Then slowly add the water and only use enough to get the right doughy consistency. You don’t want the dough to be so moist that it sticks to your hands, and you don’t want it to be too dry either. Roll out the dough as thin as you can without making a hole in it – maybe as thin as a nickle or a little thicker. Place the dough on a cut brown paper bag for about an hour (or if you live in Colorado, about 1/2 hour) until it dries out a bit. Cut vertically into about 1-1 1/2 strips. Mimi (and Mike’s mom with her pierogies) always used a pizza cutter, and it really made it easier. Then cut horizontally to make square shapes. Drop the dumplings into the boiling chicken broth (see above for how to make this) one at a time, and cook for 10-12 minutes. Add fresh parsely. For fun, you can also roll the parsley into the dough so that you have parsley dumplings!