My father was born in 1930 in the dustbowl of Oklahoma just as the Great Depression was taking hold. Years later, he recorded some of his favourite recipes from his boyhood during the 1930s. If you're interested in authentic Depression-era food or are throwing a 1930s style dinner party, be sure to give this authentic recipe a try.
From my father:
"I was raised in Oklahoma in the American Midwest. One of my favourite meals was chicken and dumplings. My mother made a fair pot, but my grandmother Bessie was the master of this dish. I have tried for years to duplicate her recipe, to get that same texture and flavour. The following recipe is close, but grandma's is still the best.
For some reason, this dish always tastes much better the following day, after spending the night in the refrigerator. Because of this, it might actually be preferable to prepare it the day before. Traditionally this dish would be served with cornbread, collard greens (Kale), and black-eyed peas."
CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS,
SOUTHERN U.S. STYLE
1 stewing chicken, 1.5 to 2 kg (4-5 lbs)
2 tbsp salt
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 litres (3 qts) water
4 tbsp flour
3 cups Bisquick or self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
- Using a cleaver or large butcher knife cut the chicken into pieces. Place the chicken in a large pot, add the water and simmer for about 3 hours* or until the chicken can be removed from the bone and is just about tender enough to chew. Do not overcook.
- Remove the chicken from the pot with a strainer and set aside to cool.
- Add the salt, onion, and garlic to the chicken broth and simmer.
- While this is simmering, remove the chicken from the bones. Discard the bones, skin, fat, and gristle. Cut the chicken meat into bite sized pieces. If the chicken is not tender enough to eat, return it to the pot for further cooking.
- Prepare the dumplings by mixing the dumpling ingredients and rolling the dough out on a floured board with a rolling pin. Roll the dough out until it is no more than 3 mm (1/8") thick. Slice the dough into long strips 25 mm (1") wide. Cut the strips across into 50 mm (2") lengths.
- Have the broth at a full rolling boil (high heat) and slowly add the dumplings one at a time to the pot. Reduce the heat and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the dumplings have cooked through. The dumplings rise a little but do not puff up. They will increase their thickness by about 2 times to about 6mm (1/4") thick. These are a very thick and heavy type of dumpling, rather than a light and fluffy dumpling.
- The entire preparation should have a very thick gravy-like consistency when finished. If this is not the case, add enough flour mixed in cold water to obtain a thick paste. Slowly add this flour paste until the broth thickens. Be very careful at this point. The mixture gets so thick it will burn very quickly on the bottom of the pot, even on low heat.
* Additional note: Diamond Dame reader Shay commented that in Depression-era days the chickens that were boiled up tended to be tough old birds, not the nicer, tender variety that we can now purchase in supermarkets.
I checked this with my Dad as I know he's cooked his Chicken & Dumplings meal in 'recent times', and he concurred with Shay's comment:
"Yes that's right. We used old, tough hens or even tougher roosters. Even today's stewing hens are not that tough. I would say to cook the chicken until it is done, just coming off the bone." – Dad