Sunday, May 24, 2009

American Comfort Classics: Cornbread, Chicken and Dumplings

My daughter has a cold, so I decided to boil a chicken to make some homemade stock and use it to make Chicken and Dumplings. It is my standard knee jerk reaction - someone is sick, make chicken soup! In fact, I have even been known to make chicken soup when I myself am the one sick in bed.

Chicken and Dumplings recipes are pretty easy to come by, but most of them don't go into much detail about how to boil the chicken in the first place. It is really very easy to do and can be used to make other things besides Chicken and Dumplings, such as Chicken Noodle Soup. Here is how I boil my chicken and make my own stock:

Boiled Chicken & Homemade Stock
(makes about 4 cups cooked chicken meat, and 10 cups stock)

1 whole chicken, about 3-4 pounds, giblets removed
water, to almost cover the chicken
2 carrots, peeled
1 large celery stalk,cut in half
1 small onion, peeled, root end cut off
salt and pepper to taste
1 chicken bouillon cube

Take a clean chicken and place it into a deep stock pot. Add enough cold water to mostly cover the chicken. Cover and set over medium-medium high heat and bring to a boil, about 10-15 minutes. Once it boils, skim off any of the white scum that has risen to the top. Add the vegetables and grind some salt and pepper over the chicken itself (about 10-12 grinds each). Add the bouillon cube to the water. Reduce the heat to fairly low, put the cover back on and allow the chicken to simmer for 1 hour. When it is ready, the chicken should easily fall off the bone.

Remove the chicken to a bowl and allow to cool. Strain the stock through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. Discard all of the now soggy vegetables. Allow the stock to cool, then skim off the fat. Remove skin and bones from the chicken.

If I were planning to make chicken noodle soup, I would at this point use some of the stock to boil some sliced carrots, celery, and skinny egg noodles, adding seasonings and herbs and then some of the chicken meat, heating it all together until everything becomes tender.

For the chicken and dumplings, I decided to try the recipe demonstrated here. I used all 10 cups of the stock I had made, and most of the chicken meat. (I wanted to save some for chicken salad sandwiches for tomorrow). What I liked about this version, and what made me decide to try it, was the use of soft flour tortillas to create the dumplings. I have been making a tortilla soup for years that uses the same idea, so I already knew this trick would work out well. Flour tortillas are made from the same ingredients you normally would use in a noodle style dumpling, so really it isn't that strange. When they boil in the stock, they soften and become very tender.

To accompany the Chicken and Dumplings, I made some cornbread, some stewed squash, and a simple tomato and cucumber salad.

This cornbread is a unique version I picked up years ago, but I am uncertain of the source. It is called WWII Custard Cornbread, and it bakes up very low in the pan. Extra milk is poured over the batter right before baking, which seeps into the batter as it cooks, creating a moist middle. I suppose this is where the "custard" part comes in. I am not quite sure that I would quite call it custard myself, it is really just a moist center. However, it is really quite tasty.

WWII Custardy Cornbread
(8 slices)

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk mixed with a bit of lemon juice)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk (whole works best), for pouring over the batter

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease a round stoneware baking dish (I would think a cast iron skillet would work well too) well with butter or oil and pop the dish into the oven to warm up for about 5-10 minutes as the oven preheats.

Mix together the ingredients except the whole milk. Just mix them to combine, it can be slightly lumpy. Pour the batter into the warm pan and then drizzle the 1/2 cup milk over the top. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool some before slicing into 8 wedges.

This squash is addictive. I wanted to serve some kind of stewed vegetable on the side, but I didn't want to make black-eyed peas and okra as seen in the Chicken and Dumplings video. Since I love squash and wanted to use up some canned tomatoes, I decided to make a version of this recipe. I only used 2 zucchini but kept the other measurements the same. It was absolutely delicious and one of the best new veggie dishes I have tried in a long time. The tomato sauce is rich and very garlicky.

The salad was just some diced English cucumber and fresh diced tomatoes. I didn't really make a dressing; I just sprinkled the veggies with a pinch of salt, pepper, sugar, and a tiny tiny drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I didn't have any fresh basil or I would have added some in, so instead I added just a bit of dried Italian seasoning.


  1. Looks a lovely meal Heather! Those chicken and dumplings look so delicious I feel like I could dig right in. Everything looks great. I hope your daughter is feeling better soon!

  2. Hi Heather! the chicken and dumplings, cornbread and the simple salad looks really yummy!!! the salad reminded me of my dad, he kind of make the same thing except no tomotoes instead he adds julienne cut turnips and red ring onions but everything else is the same. We always eat this salad with pan-fried fish and rice. thanks for sharing your recipes :)

  3. The tortillas are a great idea. I'm getting ready to show my college aged daughter a few easy to make recipes to prepare for her roommates next year. This just looks perfect. I'll let you know how it goes.