Friday, February 10, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings Roxie Waller Style

Chicken and Dumplings is a humble food that brings people together. No matter who you are, where you live or how you got here, a bowl of steaming salty broth with chunks of tender chicken floating on little rafts of parsley speckled dough will heal your woes.

Chicken and Dumplings is like a slow grinding blues song. First you just like it, then you can't help but get into it, and pretty soon all you can think about is wanting more.
When I was growing up in Southern United States (in the 70s) "Integration and busing" was still new and struggling. I remember being told that many of the "Black" parents were mad because their kids were being made to go to my "White" school, instead of the school all their parents had gone to as children. It never occurred to me then how it must have felt to have integration only move in one direction.

I lived way out in the country on a dirt road beside my Grandparents' farm and next door to my other set of Grandparents. Both Grandmothers cooked a lot, their kitchens always steamed with bubbling pots of stew or canning jars filled with jam or tomatoes. There wasn't a lot of money in those homes, it wasn't anything like the movie "The Help", and when folks made food it was generally shared with a bunch of neighbors with no regard to much else than who needed it.
I was lucky, the messages I got from my mom were about God's unconditional love and not so much of the cliches we hear about the South, now. My family is very emotional, my mom plays piano by ear (and can tear it up), and I heard a lot of gospel music. By the time I was out traveling on my own, I had a natural love for gutsy, soul-throbbing-with-just-a-touch-of-humor blues (oh, yeah.)This month my global buddies (we call ourselves the Let's Lunch bunch) are posting recipes that are inspired by music. To tell ya the truth, I can hardly listen to music when doing anything else because it just takes me over; I'm not kidding. I love all kinds of music and it was hard to pick just one, but eventually I always go back to my beginnings.Both my Grandmothers made Chicken and Dumplings, but my mom's mother (Roxie Waller) made hers just a little differently. Grandma Waller rolled out the dumplings instead of leaving them in clumps. As my mom will tell ya, my grandfather absolutely loved Roxie's food and would hardly ever eat anyone else's cooking. I can still hear him slurping up those dumpling noodles, and then sopping up the broth with a biscuit til the plate almost didn't need washing.

I guess when I mixed the feel I get from Chicken and Dumplings, the memories of the South, and how the food brought people together (even in the midst of poverty, tension and growing pains), it just felt like Jazzy Blues.
Of course, this food can't help but make ya feel good, so it couldn't be sad blues. It had to be funny, and the song, "If I Can't Sell It", has always made me giggle out loud and grind my hips. If you can listen to it without moving, I think you should get your pulse checked.

I'll post the video, but if they have to take it down - here's the link, too:

If I Can't Sell It, I'm Gonna Sit On It, Cuz I Sure Ain't Giving It Away

RECIPE: Chicken and Dumplings Roxie Waller Style

1 (3-4 pound) Whole Chicken (farm raised preferred)
1 Carrot (chopped)
1 Celery Stalk (chopped)
1 Onion (chopped)
1 Bay leaf
*optional - pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

1 cup Flour
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon salt, pinch of pepper
1 Tablespoon Crisco (melted) or you can use Bacon Fat
1/3 cup Buttermilk
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley

1) Place whole chicken in a large pot with the chopped carrot, celery, onion and bay leaf. Cover completely with water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours til chicken is tender and fall off the bone good. (Make the dumplings while the chicken is cooking.)

2) Skim the broth, then remove the pot from the heat. Using a fork, remove the chicken meat from the bones and hold to the side in a dish.

3) Strain the broth and discard the vegetables, then return the broth and the chicken to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and optional red pepper flakes.

4) Bring to a simmer and place the dumplings into the pot, also. Cook at a low simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stir occasionally. Season, to taste and serve in bowls.

Recipe: Dumplings

1) In a bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.

2) In another bowl, whisk together the melted shortening (fat) and buttermilk.

3) Using a fork, combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and add the chopped parsley. Continue until mixed and starting to hold together. (If you need more moisture, add ice water just a Tablespoon at a time.)

4) Using your hands, press the dough together and remove to a lightly floured board. Knead for only about 5-6 times. Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into long pieces, about 1 inch by 2 inches or your preference. Hold until you add them to the Chicken broth.

Check out all these fun Music and Food posts from my Lets Lunch buddies around the world:

Cowgirl Chef's Tiger Cakes (and a really sexy song)

Monday Morning Cooking Club (Hawaiian treat)

HotCurries and Cold Beer - (tribute to her dad with a song)

Burnt Out Baker - (rock and roll in the house)

GeoFooding - (a very fun video about One Meatball)

Grongar Blog (You can Polka while the Kishke bakes )

More to be added - check back often :D


Cowgirl Chef said...

What a great story and a wonderful always. You never disappoint. Just reading your story took me back to my childhood in Texas...we grew up at the same time, and my mother used to make the most incredible chicken and dumplings. Now I'm totally in the mood. Thank you for taking me back home. Hope you're feeling better! xx

Rashda Khan said...

Love it! Chicken & dumplings are one of my favorite comfort foods and I love the way you brought in blues, and your childhood.

Will definitely be trying the recipe soon :)

Lana said...

What a great post, Cathy! Music is always an inspiration for me, and I grew up with my mother who could pick up any tune and play piano just by instinct (I, on the other hand, went to piano school for eight years:)
I love chicken and dumplings and have been looking for a really good and tested recipe (my husband is from the South - Georgia_, but his mother was not a great cook and he cannot offer any input, except to tel me if he likes it or not:)
I love our Serbian Chicken Paprikash (influenced by the proximity and a long rule of Austro-Hungarian Empire over a big part of the country) made with dumplings and I hear the call of the comfort food:)

Emma said...

Yum! I just made some chicken and dumplings this weekend to help fend off a cold. Great post!