11.20.2013

Keeping the Great Past Alive w/ Mother Hen | Chicken & Dumplings




Now that the weather has changed and we are enjoying the fall breezes along with all the colorful leaves (yes those nuisance things swirling on the porch) it is time to give the grill a break. ummmmm what to eat now that we can stand to have some heat in the kitchen. 
I am certain the hot kitchens of the past were horrible in the summer without air conditioning but just like today the favorite place to gather when the weather turned cooler.  You not only have the gift of family/friends for company, the toasty warmth from cooking and the end result of wonderful food. 
I was fortunate to learn some real basics, and I am sure in the past, ‘necessity to survive’ recipes, from my own Mother Hen.  She not only shared the recipes but took the time to teach me how to make them.  If anyone knows one thing about raising chicks it is almost 100% of the time easier to just do the task yourself rather than try to teach them.  Thanks Mother Hen for taking the time and sharing your love as well as how to keep my past alive. 
Recently, Spicy arrived at a new place in her life which involves serious nesting and clucking over her chicken coop.  She asked me to teach her to make an old but always requested dish. Homemade chicken and dumplings. Why bother you ask when you can buy it in a can at the store.  Well, sit down to a plate of homemade and a plate of canned and I need say no more. 
While I must admit I do not like the smell of cooking chicken, the broth and tender cooked meat adds so much extra flavor it is worth it.  So on my last visit we got to work and did some serious cooking.  While the recipe itself is pretty basic, it is all about knowing what to do with the ingredients and the ‘feel’ which can only be realized when you get right in there. 
Along with the recipe and the pleasure of teaching Spicy, I was able to gift her with her Grandmother Hen’s own flour sifter.  I know she would be proud to know it is still being used and loved.  The flour sifter in itself isn’t valuable except for the love that it represents.  Grandmother Hen used it for her homemade baked goodies as far back as this Mother Hen can remember.  I have the daunting challenge of doing my best to make her proud in one more homemade treasure.  I will share it with you when I feel it would meet her approval. So far still working on it. 
The pictures will allow you to see this is a task of love. 




Boil chicken till tender.  Strain and save broth.  Return to pot add chopped onion and celery, simmer till tender. I always add some extra chicken flavor either via cube or chicken flavor soup base and a shake of poultry seasoning.  Be careful as this can make broth salty.  When chicken is cool, de-bone, and give a good sprinkle of salt & pepper. 

Make dumplings as recipe directs:
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1stick margarine
2C boiling water
1tsp. salt
4C sifted flour
Mix together. Let stand to cool and refrigerate for a few hours if you wish to freeze. Roll out thin on floured board. Cut in squares and place on ungreased cookie sheet to freeze. Place in bags after frozen. 
To cook: cook in boiling water for 15 minutes or until tender.
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 When ready to cook have broth at low boil and place dumplings in one or two at a time.  Do not drop them in from a height or the broth will splash out and burn you. Also do not add them too quickly as they will stick together in a giant dough ball. Keep at a low boil only stirring occasionally or you may end up with mushy, not defined dumplings. When you do stir, do so gently making sure to get to bottom of pot to avoid sticking.  Cooking time depends on how large the amount of dumplings you are fixing but usually 20-30 minutes.  The key is to cook slowly to allow them to soak up all the flavors from the broth AND not burn and stick to bottom of pot.  The last 10 min of cooking add the chicken meat, it only needs to get hot again as it is cooked already. 
This Mother Hen likes to make the dumplings and freeze them un-cooked (yes, you remember I like to freeze everything I can) for quick meals.  Knowing the amount of prep time and clean up along with cooking makes this old time favorite a meal of love. If you really want to think of the love from the past, I would assume before super markets and freezers, it would be necessary to make a visit to the barn yard to round up a chicken.  That is a whole experience in itself.  Yes, I have done it.

Good luck and happy eating Spicy and Nugget.
Love to you. Mother Hen 


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