Chicken and Dumplings are a great example of just how good poor folks’ food can be. It’s a food of necessity, made when there are no coins in your pocket and made with what you might have in a sparse pantry. If you think chicken and dumplings are a just mundane sort of everyday meal, then you have never had really good chicken and dumplings. When prepared with care, no comfort food is better to warm your body and soul.
In the old days, chicken was not often on the table; chickens were for laying eggs, not for cooking. Sunday fried or baked chicken was more often than not the one too many cock in the flock (it only takes one to take care of a whole bunch of hens). But you wouldn’t want to stew a young tender chicken. That honor is reserved for an older bird that can no longer do what it is supposed to do and be a productive member of the flock. This tough old bird is perfect for a slow simmered chicken and dumplings.
It’s doubtful that many folks have a flock of chicken in the backyard these days, but chicken and dumplings can be made from a rotisserie chicken or a few thighs that have been roasted until the skin is crispy but the meat is still juicy. Don’t worry if the chicken is still a bit pink in the middle, it will finish cooking in the pot.
The recipe is simple: roast a chicken or buy a rotisserie. Debone it and set the meat aside, making sure to save the bones. Fill a large pot with grocery store chicken stock, add the bones, and simmer for at least one hour (season to your taste). Dice an onion, bell pepper, and a seeded jalapeno, I like to add a little diced Conecuh hickory smoked sausage too. Saute until the sausage is browned, then add the chicken stock (after removing the bones) and 2 to 3 cups of heavy cream. Season with just a little Tony’s, a good sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and some good quality Italian seasoning (I use Gustus Vitae brand, A Taste of Tuscany). Simmer for an hour or so. Add the chicken just 10 minutes before serving (if you simmer it too long it becomes stringy).
Making the dumplings is simple too. I use the Green House in Biloxi biscuit mix (now available for sale). Add a cup or two biscuit mix (depending on how many dumplings you want), a little milk, and melted butter in a large bowl. Just make sure that it has the consistency to stick to a spoon and form a small round ball. Add a spoonful at a time to the slow simmering stock, lid on, and cook for about 15 minutes.
You might want to have a little Valentina hot sauce on the table, but I think if you have seasoned it well, it’s fine just as it is.