15 June 2010

Hello, Dumplin'

It’s become abundantly clear that I’m not in the mood to work today. So, because Amanda commented that she’d like the Chicken and Dumplins (yes, I know there’s supposed to be a “g,” and yes, I refuse to include it) recipe that I promised to send her, I’ll take up a little more of my workday and type it out here.

First, though, an introduction. My Aunt Marcel makes the best chicken and dumplins ever. Aunt Marcel is my grandfather’s sister; her birthday was Friday and she turned 86 (I think…or 85 maybe? Someone help me here.). I’ve only made them once, and she walked me through the process via telephone. I must have called her about 12 times, just to make sure I was doing everything right. All my Arizona friends were suitably impressed; I, however, was suitably exhausted. Apparently, I still need practice if I’m gonna make it look as effortless as she always did.

I’m sure that I wrote the recipe down somewhere way back then, but I have no earthly idea where it might be…probably on a scrap of paper stuck in one of my many cookbooks. So, as I was driving Aunt Marcel home from Mary Allison’s rehearsal dinner on Friday night, I asked her to explain to me again how she makes her dumplins. This time, I was ready! I pulled out the iPhone and took an audio memo! Now, whenever I want, I can pull out my phone and hear my sweet Aunt Marcel’s voice!

Here we go:

Cook your chicken. I *think* that Aunt Marcel boils hers on the stove, but I cook mine in my pressure cooker. Use a fork to shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Aunt Marcel warned me to be sure I get all the bones out of the chicken so that I don’t choke any of the people who come over for dinner; I address this problem by buying frozen, boneless chicken breasts. Aunt Marcel says that these do not make a rich broth, which is why she uses a whole chicken. I address this problem by adding canned broth to my homemade broth…but some of you may not want to do that. If you choose to use a whole chicken, PICK OUT ALL THE BONES. Dinner guests apparently do not enjoy nearly strangling themselves to death on a stray chicken bone.

Aunt Marcel also tells me that if I want to make sure I get all the fat out of the broth, I should remove the chicken, then pour the broth into a Tupperware container, and stick it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, all the fat will have congealed on the top, and I can just pick it off. She further tells me that she does not recommend doing this because the dumplins won’t be as good.

Her recipe for the actual dumplins is more of a ratio. You can double or triple or quadruple it, depending on the number of people you’re feeding. A triple recipe, I am told, makes about enough for 6-8 people, “depending on how hungry they are.”

To one cup of self-rising flour, add one tablespoon of oleo (for those of us who are not 86 years old, that means margarine), and some ice water. The exact amount of ice water is uncertain, but Aunt Marcel and Granny Joyce (Amanda, Rob, and Rebecca’s grandmother…and really, for all intents and purposes, mine too) estimate that it’s about two tablespoons. The ICE part of the ICE WATER is very important. Your dumplins will not hold together right if you use water that is just cold or room temperature.

Mash this mixture together; you can use a spoon if you want, but Aunt Marcel recommends that you do this part with your hands. Once it’s mixed together, form it into a ball, and then roll it out “pretty thin”. I will leave in your discretion what the definition of “pretty thin” is, but I imagine it’s basically a matter of taste. Cut the dough into dumpling-shaped pieces, and drop them into BOILING broth.

It only takes a few minutes for the dumplins to cook (8-10 minutes, actually), so after about that long, add in all your chicken and let it boil for a few more minutes. Then make some cornbread and EAT.

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