A Lost Art

When you think of a “lost art” what comes to mind?  In this setting I’m referring to the culinary arts.  As of lately I have been asked, by a company, to set my best foot/hand forward and create some scrumptious good ole southern recipes/dishes.  Nothing gourmet at all, just good ole southern home cooking.  When asked I was like, “heck yeah, I can do this.  It’s so familiar.  It’s not what I went to school for, it’s what I grew up with, I’ve got this.  It was I who taught one of my culinary instructors to make biscuits.  I can do this, I thought”.  And that’s where it all began.

Well my list of good ole southern fixins was about 24 items long.  I thought I should start with the one that was least familiar to me.  Yes, there was one, the one and only one, Chicken ‘n Dumplin’s.  My mom didn’t make these growing up and neither did my Mimi, my Aunt Wanda, nor my Nana Nette and if they didn’t make it, then chances are we probably didn’t have it very often.

I thumbed through my favorite cookbooks, googled it, asked the ladies at church, and surveyed my Debo’s Kitchen crowd on Facebook.  Some said they liked their dumpling dense, others said fluffy.  Some said they like a cornmeal dumpling, that was a little gritty for this classic dish I thought.  Some folks resort to canned biscuits and that’s good, just wasn’t what I was looking for.  Then there are those that said they now use tortillas cut up in there chicken ‘n gravy, they said “that’s easy these days”.  Through the searching process I was beginning to feel as though homemade Chicken ‘n Dumplin’s, are becoming a lost art.  Folks just don’t make them like their grandparents used to.

Through the process I learned that really there are three recipes in this one dish.  You have the gravy/sauce, the dumplin’, and the perfect chicken.  The gravy/sauce, I got it on round two.  I knew how I wanted it to taste.  My first batch a little too peppery (which I don’t think is possible), but when trying to appeal to the masses one must be cautious with the black pepper.  The chicken was easy to me, for I prefer it boiled, falling off the bone and slightly shredded, but with some whole pieces throughout, and yes I included the lovely dark meat 🙂 Now on to the dumpling…

Fourteen recipes later it still wasn’t just right.  With this recipe it wasn’t just as simple as making your gravy, pinchin’ in your dumplings and adding your chicken.  This dumplin’ needed to be “stable”.  It needed to be able to cook, then frozen, and thawed or reheated from a frozen state.  It needed to be “stable”, and that is where I was struggling.  I called in the troops.

We had a family gathering and my cousin was there and she claimed to be the chicken n’ dumplin’ master.  She volunteered to come to my kitchen the next day and assist.  It was a long day, but we had fun and what I learned was that I wasn’t kneading my dough enough and I wasn’t cooking the dumplin’s long enough.  It really was as simple as that.  With dough more times than not, you want to be careful to not overwork it.  Well guess what, NOT with these dumplin’s.  We smiled a lot that day and I hugged her a bunch and will cherish that day forever.  Because of her, chicken ‘n dumplin’s are no longer a lost art to me.  Thanks cuz!