Not My Grandmother's Chicken and Dumplings

No one makes chicken and dumplings like my Grandma Kane did.  No one.  Nope, not your mother or your grandmother or some famous chef somewhere.  No one. Not even Michael Symon.  Her chicken and dumplings were simply the best.

Grandma Kane
She made them in a pressure cooker so the chicken melted in your mouth.  The dumplings were big and fluffy not gummy and dense.  There is not, and never will be any better.  One of my biggest regrets is not learning that recipe from her.

My mother would try to make "Grandma's" chicken and dumplings but we all agreed it never quite matched up.  Why?  I don't really know.  The story my mother sticks to is that when Grandma said dinner was ready we came running and sat at the table.  When she said dinner was ready we continued to play or goof around and so by the time we got to the table it just wasn't as good.  I didn't buy that story when I was a kid and I'm not sure I buy it now! 

I think my Grandma had a secret, whether she knew it or not, to making her chicken and dumplings so delicious and perfect every time.  Or maybe it was just because Grandma made it.

All I know is I will never have chicken and dumplings that good again.  I'll cling to the memory of that amazing dish forever.  So what sparked all this nostalgia for Grandma Kane's cooking?  Well, Dave had military duty this weekend so I was sifting through cookbooks since I have time to cook.  I was going through Michael Symon's Live to Cook and saw a recipe for Chicken and Dumplings Soup and I thought of Grandma and I had to make it. 

Now this is soup, not the chicken and dumplings that my Grandmother made, but it sounded really good, even if it takes two days to make!  How can it not be good when you use chicken fat to make the dumplings?  I can't believe I'm going to use chicken fat to make dumplings....

I love Michael Symon!  But you already know that from my blog about the halibut don't you?  If you haven't read it, well get to it!

Enough already get on with the chicken and dumplings soup, right?

Day One:

There's a lot of chopping for this soup, carrots, parsnips, celery root, onion and garlic.
Once you're done chopping, you sweat the veggies with just a tablespoon of butter.

Next add 8 cups of stock and a couple bay leaves.  Aren't they beautiful looking bay leaves?!  Fresh from Byerly's!

Finally you add a whole chicken and simmer for an hour and a half.

After the chicken has cooked you remove the chicken from the skin and bone.  The chicken fell apart!  When I tried to remove it with tongs it came out in pieces.  There was nothing to separating out the yummy chicken from the skin and bones!

This is the end of day one. You now refrigerate the soup and chicken separately trying hard not to eat all the chicken before it goes back in the soup!

Day 2:

By day two the chicken fat has congealed and can be removed from the rest of the soup.

The recipe says to reserve 1/2 a cup of the congealed chicken fat (doesn't that sound delicious) and to add butter if you don't have 1/2 a cup.  I had just slightly under the required 1/2 cup so I didn't add any butter!  Sorry Paula Deen!
The dumplings whip up pretty easily.  They are a lot like a puff pastry recipe I have.  One of my brother Larry's favorite desserts, at least it used to be.

The chicken fat is simmered with milk.  The recipe called for whole milk, I only had skim in the house so skim it was! I think there was enough fat in the recipe!  To this mixture you add flour, eggs and fresh tarragon and mix it up until it's a smooth dough.

Now there's a pretty picture of a smiling Michael Symon (I can hear the laughter) in the book where he has a little wooden cutting board filled with perfect little pillows of dough.

This is what mine looked like when I tried to cut it:
So I decided to use the drop method instead!

The dumplings simmer in the soup for a few minutes.  As they cook they float to the top and I had a hard time not scooping one out to taste it!

Finally add the chicken and bring it back up to a simmer before serving.

I decided homemade soup warranted homemade bread.  Thanks to Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois and their wonderful Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day I had dough in the frig just waiting to be baked.

So what was the verdict on the soup?  Oh my god, delicious!  I was a little worried about the tarragon in the dumplings.  It's not my favorite herb but they were amazing.  It's hearty and well seasoned and, well, yummy!  And the whole time I was thinking about the chicken fat I used in the dumplings... didn't stop me from eating it though!

Don't tell Michael Symon, it's not my Grandmother's chicken and dumplings, but it wasn't supposed to be was it?  I thought it was delicious and so did Dave.  I'll definitely make this again.  I can make the chicken the night before and finish the soup for dinner the next day.  There really wasn't that much work involved (other than all that chopping).

When I was looking for a picture of my Grandma Kane I found a couple of other ones.

Below is a picture of Dad and the  kids with Grandma Kane.  This must have been Easter.  Dad looks pretty crabby, Joe's not looking at all.  Ah the memories!  For those of you who know the family, does Marcus not look exactly like Joe?

Here's another fun picture of Grandma from a vacation to South Dakota.

My best memories though have to be the weekends I'd stay at her house and we'd play Scrabble all day.  And I mean all day.  We'd break to eat and that was it.  I remember once telling her on a Sunday we couldn't play anymore.  We'd played so much I was dreaming of seven letter words! 

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