Dumplings. I love them. My grandmother made them and taught my mother. My mother made them, although not very often, and she taught me. It’s one of those down-home foods that bring back memories of a steamy kitchen, messy cooking, lots of laughter and lots of love. Did you know that every culture has some form of dumpling? They do, and I’m on a mission to seek them out, eat them, learn to cook them, and share them with you.
What is a dumpling? The best definition that is all inclusive of all world dumplings is from Merriam Webster, and it shares two: 1. a small lump of dough that is boiled or steamed; 2. a piece of food that is wrapped in dough and cooked. These definitions do not, in any way, cover the variety, the taste, or the reason that these bits of dough are still one of the most popular foods found around the world today. Why?
Dumplings are about family, about stories, about sitting around the table on a cold, crisp day and eating comfort food. I can remember my grandmother making these for us every time we came to visit. She made my favorite dish: chicken and dumplings. Not much to look at, and really not all that hard to make, they aren’t the most flavorful of foods. My grandmother’s, and in turn my mother’s and my, dumplings are simply a biscuit dropped into the boiling chicken broth after we’ve boiled the chicken. Sure, you can fancy it up with herbs, but why? It really doesn’t need it.
I can pinpoint the exact day when I really started to have an appreciation for this hearty meal. I as about ten years old, and we were visiting my grandmother as we did most summers. We were going to have Chicken and Dumplings for dinner, but we had to get a good, fatty hen first. My mother packed me off to my uncle’s mother-in-law’s house. We called her Grandma Cantele, and she was straight from Italy. She had a few chickens, and we went to her house where we plucked the chicken’s for dinner. I never knew how much work was involved in de-feathering a chicken. I have to tell you, it made the dinner that night that much more special to me.(I’ve included our chicken and dumplings recipe at the end of the post).
Since I started collecting information on my dumpling project just a few months ago, I’ve eaten them in over six countries, countless varieties of them. I’ve taken cooking classes in three countries: Czech Republic, Georgia, and Hungary. I’m collecting the history, stories from the people who share them with me, photos, and of course the recipes.
Here are a few dumplings that we’ve had and will be sharing more in depth with you in the near future. Can you guess which countries they are from?
Table of Contents
My grandmother’s recipe for Chicken and Dumplings
1 or 2 stewing chickens, fatty hens are the best and it’s your choice whether they’ve already been plucked!
A bit of sauteed onions and celery, optional
I just wash and dump the chicken into a pot of water, add a little salt and boil away until done. To add a bit more flavor, start out with some sauteed onions and celery and maybe some pepper. This takes about 45 minutes.
Note: At this point, you can either take the chicken and keep it warm in the oven or go ahead and cook the dumplings in with the chicken still in the pot. We always take it out, because we don’t want our pot to boil over.
2 cups all-purpose flour
A dash of salt, about 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon shortening
3/4 cup milk
Sift together the dry ingredients a couple of times. You want them well mixed. Mix in the shortening with a fork. Add the milk and mix, but don’t make the dough to smooth; it should be a bit rough.
Use a good sized-spoon (soup spoon), and drop spoonfuls of dough in the same water that the chicken was boiled in, cover and cook ten minutes. Uncover and cook another 10 minutes. Serve immediately when finished.