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Fourth of July Recipes: Chicken and Dumplings

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Along with the influence of the German family recipes, another part of the foundation that made up the food I was raised on came from regional influences in the areas in which my family settled in the US.  Most of my family settled in the Ohio area, in particular Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  As you can see there are some southern states listed there and typical southern recipes became a big part of the family recipe repertoire.  To kick off this brief tour of Southern delicacies, we begin with Chicken and Dumplings.  Here is my grandma’s recipe for dumplings.  There are a few ways of making them – generally either drop dumplings or rolled dumplings.  If you prefer a “doughier” tasting dumpling, you will probably prefer the drop kind but Ma (our “pet name” for my dad’s mom) and my Mom always made the rolled kind.  I feel they cook better, more thoroughly through, and are sort of a cross between dumplings and noodles which I like.  However, they are also a little more work to prepare.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup shortening

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup milk

3 cups chicken broth

1 cup cooked chicken, cut into bite size pieces (white meat or dark according to your preference but I will tell you that even white meat is nice and moist and tender)

Instructions:   In a bowl, stir together the flour and salt.  Some recipes call for the addition of a pinch of poultry seasoning here as well but I have never done this because, well, Mom and Ma didn’t.  Cut in the shortening until mixture is crumbly.  In a separate bowl, mix together the milk and egg and stir this into the flour mixture.  Stir until just combined; overmixing will make the dumplings tough.  Form dough into a ball and place on a floured surface for rolling out.  Using a rolling pin (some drinking glasses make suitable substitutes), roll out the dough to about a quarter inch thickness.  Cut the dough into strips.  I find that strips about 1″ wide and about 2″ long are quite manageable both for preparing and eating.    While preparing the dough, you can put the broth into a large saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Once boiling, add the chicken and drop the dumplings in one by one.  You want to be sure to use a large enough pot to ensure that the dumplings don’t all clump together; they need space to move around in the broth.  Turn down the heat and allow the dumplings to simmer for 15-20 minutes, covered.  DO NOT TAKE THE COVER OFF BEFORE THIS TIME IS UP!  The dumplings need the steam that builds up in the pot to cook properly.  I can tell by looking at them that when the dumplings are done; they begin to float freely and just take on a different appearance but I read that you can actually use the old toothpick test just like you do when baking cakes.  Insert a toothpick into the thickest section of a dumpling and if it comes out clean, they are done!

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