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VINTAGE RECIPE: My Great Aunt Ellen’s Chicken and Dumplings- MY VERSION!!

TO SEE PART 1, CLICK HERE

My version

After I finished writing the last blog post, I started on the chicken and dumplings.

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The original version omits any thickener for sauce

right away I could tell that 2 tsp baking powder in one cup of flour was WAY too much- also, most recipes call for some form of fat, which I added.

Aunt Ellen used ‘chicken cooking water’ and canned broth. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and make my OWN broth.


CHICKEN AND BROTH:

2 packages of boneless skinless chicken breast (3 breasts per package)
a couple stalks of celery, leaves on, broken up in large chunks
a couple unpeeled carrots, broken up into large chunks
UNPEELED onion, cut in quarters.
water to cover
handful of fresh parsley (do not chop)
tablespoon of chicken bouillon

Basically, I just dumped it all in a pot on high- when it reached a full boil, I covered it and let it cook on low for an hour.

After, I plucked chicken breasts out and chopped them into small pieces.

I strained the broth and discarded the solid vegetables.

Then, I measured out about 2 to 2.5 quarts of the broth for the ‘sauce’ later.

isn’t this beautiful?

 

Aunt Ellen’s granddaughter warned me to test out the recipe before totally committing, as her grandmother had different variations of the same recipe floating around. I immediately noticed that the baking powder to flour ration was WAY too high and would have resulted in a very bitter product. I increased the flour to 2 cups and decreased the baking powder to 1 tsp. I also added 1/3 cup of lard (or crisco), as it makes for a more tender dumpling and can be found in most chicken and dumpling recipes online. When I experimented WITHOUT the fat, it didn’t taste as good.

 


DUMPLINGS:

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chicken boullion
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 c lard or crisco
1 cup milk

(instructions are underneath photos)

first I rubbed the fat into the dry ingredients until it was kind of mealy

after, I added the milk and just mixed it all up with my hands. Next time I will use my stand mixer- I then made the dough into a smooth ball.

rolled it out- we liked the thicker ones- cut them into squares using pizza cutter

 

dumplings!

 

CHICKEN ‘SAUCE’ (GRAVY):

2 quarts of reserved chicken stock from boiling the chicken breasts
1.5 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup flour
stick of butter
salt and pepper to taste
(optional: garlic powder, parsley, etc)

Melt stick of butter in pot over medium-high. Add flour and cook for a minute. Slowly add the cream and milk, a bit at a time, stirring until it becomes a white cream gravy. Add the 2 quarts of chicken stock and adjust seasoning. If you worry about lumps, use a stick blender or whisk while incorporating the broth. Return to a boil, stirring constantly.

When it begins bubbling again, add most of the dumplings and cover. Lower heat to low and cook about 12 minutes. Add rest of dumplings and cook uncovered on medium for about 20 minutes. Keep a close eye on it or it will boil over (like mine did).

Add chopped chicken and cover, set heat down to low, until warmed through.

it boiled over when I turned my back

 VERDICT:

This is definitely a keeper. I have to admit, I’ve never eaten real chicken and dumplings before. The only other exposure to it that I had was Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie and the stuff that comes out of a can (yuck). I was truly impressed with the delicate flavor.

I can see why my father loved it so much.

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VINTAGE RECIPE: My Great-Aunt Ellen Renfro’s Chicken and Dumplings

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Aunt Ellen Donoho Renfro and her sisters- she’s the second from left

UPDATE: TO SKIP AHEAD TO MY TWEAKED VERSION OF THE RECIPE, CLICK HERE

Aunt Ellen Renfro was my favorite great aunt. She was just the sweetest woman and best cook in our family.

My grandfather was her baby brother.

My dad is always going on about how wonderful his late Aunt Ellen’s chicken and dumplings were (and her bread and peach cobbler).

She’s been gone now for 29 years, so one would assume the recipes were lost forever- luckily, this week her granddaughter Vanessa was kind enough to send me photos of a few of her them! I am so thankful that she took the time out to scan these for me- I am also a little teary eyed (happily so) about the prospect of attempting these dishes.

Food is love, and memories, and family… this is definitely a tie to our collective pasts.

A bit about Ellen Donoho Renfro here:

http://image2.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=87300176

I have been cross referencing her dumpling recipe with others found on the Internet. It seems like her recipe omits the usual shortening and/or egg that many of the others have. Her sauce looks like a scaled down version of traditional Southern Chicken and Dumplings recipes.

I am going to attempt her ‘chicken sauce’ and dumplings today. I will test a batch of dumplings using her recipe- and make another batch using a dough that contains the usual shortening/egg and compare.

Since her sauce is a tad bland for my taste, right off the bat, I will likely doctor that a bit as well.

Will post the results later today or tomorrow- going off to cook now!

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Oregon White Truffle Pasta

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wide egg noodles with Oregon white truffles

 

The Oregon white truffle is a strange thing:

Raw, it is VERY strong and pungent- however, once warmed lightly in a pan of butter for a few moments, it mellows out to a more agreeable and subtly luscious form.

My second experiment was a pasta dish. It was a huge hit with everyone, even the truffle hating Man.

I read somewhere that Oregon white truffles should be treated more like the European black ones- slightly warmed so that their true flavor shines through (and to temper the sharpness that they have when raw).

I threw a knob of butter in a pan and warmed it over low heat- then added shaved truffle slices- HEAVEN!

It completely changed the flavor profile.

While the truffles were warming, I boiled the noodles. I asked R to buy pappardelle, but he brought homemade German wide egg noodles back instead by mistake. It wasn’t a bad substitute and actually tasted better than the last batch of pappardelle noodles I bought.

I drained the cooked noodles, threw them back in the pot- added a splash of heavy cream, a small handful of good parmesan, the truffle-infused butter… omg! PERFECTION!

I shaved more raw truffle over my plate when serving and LOVED the contrast between the cooked and raw flavors.

R isn’t pleased with the pasta quality, so today we are going to hunt for better quality noodles for today’s batch (I am making some for my parents).

 
These things are starting to really grow on me…

 

 

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Homemade Old Fashioned Tapioca Pudding Saved Me From A Nervous Breakdown Today

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Maisie ate most of this bowl

I bought a bag of medium pearl tapioca from my local Indian grocer and decided to make some for the kids. After the flood that happened this afternoon in my basement, I credit this pudding with saving me from a nervous breakdown.

There is some great tapioca food history at this site.

Tapioca Pudding

I prefer my pudding very thick and with lots of tapioca- if you’d like yours creamier, with less pearls, cut the tapioca in half and omit the cornstarch mixture.

1 cup of medium pearl tapioca, soaked in a quart of cold water overnight (NOT INSTANT OR QUICK TAPIOCA)

4 cups of half whole milk/half heavy cream

1 whole egg

3 egg yolks

1 cup of sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup of cold milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Place the tapioca in a large bowl with a quart of cold water. Cover and allow the tapioca to soak for at least 12 hours. When ready to use, use a fine mesh strainer to drain off the water and set the soaked pearls aside.

    what the tapioca looked like after being soaked overnight

    what the tapioca looked like after being soaked overnight

  2. In a large saucepan, combine the milk/cream, vanilla, 1/2 cup sugar, and the salt and set aside. Place the eggs and yolks in a large bowl and whisk them until they are combined. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, a little at a time, whisking constantly, until all of the sugar is added. Whisk until the egg mixture is a very light yellow color, about two minutes, then set aside.

    milk mixture, with nutmeg added

    milk mixture, with nutmeg added

    egg/sugar mixture

    egg/sugar mixture

  3. Place the saucepan with the milk mixture over low heat and bring to a simmer. Once it begins to bubble, remove the pot from heat and temper the eggs with the hot liquid by whisking the eggs constantly as you add the liquid a little at a time.

    before I added the egg mixture

    after I added the egg mixture

  4. Once the two mixtures are completely combined, pour the custard back into the original pot and and add the tapioca. Add the nutmeg. Whisk constantly over low heat. Add cornstarch mixture. As you whisk, the mixture will begin to thicken. Watch the pearls, they will become translucent, with just a bit of cloudiness in the centers, indicating that the pudding is done. . Scrape the pudding into a bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the top surface. Chill in the fridge, at least 2 hours.

    my version is thicker than most, but that's because I like it like that.

    my version is thicker than most, but that’s because I like it like that.

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Soul Food Fusion Feast: Collard Greens, White Truffle Sriracha Macaroni and Cheese, and the Works!

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my mom found the nicest collard greens today at a tiny farm stand run by two little old men

So my mom went to a tiny farm stand today in Benton Harbor, Michigan that was run by two little old men. It was more like a few boxes next to the road with their home garden produce for sale. They had the most BEAUTIFUL collard greens I’ve seen in a long time- clean, no insect holes… and some great sweet corn. She picked up a garbage bag full of greens, another bag of fresh corn and sweet banana peppers and later showed up at my house.

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Cleaning and shredding the collards

As luck would have it, R brought home a slab of artisanal hog jowl bacon the day before- delicious small batch stuff. I secretly wondered what I’d do with it- and my mom provided the solution! She cleaned the greens while I sliced up the onions and bacon.

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hog jowl bacon and onions at the bottom of the pot

I filled the pot with the washed and torn greens, onions, bacon, chicken stock (to cover), threw in a whole hot pepper, garlic powder, black pepper, a spoonful of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.

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getting ready to simmer the greens for a few hours

The entire thing was brought to a boil, then covered and simmered for a few hours- it’s done when the bacon is very fork tender.

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White truffle sriracha macaroni and cheese ready for oven

In the middle of our cooking, my dad called to tell me that his bestie from Oregon, my Uncle Bill, was in town. I told them to come on over and I’d cook a big spread for everyone. I quickly thought up a menu to go with the greens and rice I’d planned for mom and me.

I decided on homemade macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, basmati rice, cornbread, and two types of cucumber salad (thanks to a box of cukes and zucchini my dad pulled out of the van at the last moment). I did a German type sour cream cucumber onion salad because my uncle was fond of it- and a Malaysian cucumber onion salad with sambal. I fished a few sweet banana peppers out of the garbage bag full of corn- and roasted the peppers. Later, I cut them in strips and dressed them with fresh raw crushed garlic, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.  When my dad asked where the meat was, I sent R out for a bucket of chicken to go with it all.

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though it was pretty, next time I WON’T bake it. It’s MUCH creamier when the sauce is just mixed in with the noodles.

This mac and cheese was quickly improvised- a box of elbows boiled al dente, a white sauce with 3 cups of various cheeses melted into it, spices, sriracha, white truffle oil- easy peasy.

The next time I make it, I will not bake it, even though it’s pretty when baked. Baking dries it out a bit and I prefer the creaminess of the sauce. My uncle wanted the old-fashion baked with breadcrumbs type, so I whizzed up 4 slices of buttermilk bread in the food processor. I mixed those crumbs with butter, white truffle oil, paprika, and a little salt- and topped the noodles with some sliced tomatoes (that my mother dropped off from another aunt’s garden 2 days prior), then covered the thing with the breadcrumb mixture. I baked it at 375 for about 20 minutes (when the bread crumbs were browned).

It was an amazing meal! I am surprised that I was able to pull everything off at the last minute- especially with how chaotic my house has been from renovating!

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Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk/Cornmeal Breading

salted sliced tomatoes and all the things to dip it in, ready for cooking

I used this recipe and added some cajun spice to the flour mixture. They turned out GREAT. Sam and I ate the entire thing!

Fried green tomatoes are such a summer treat that I look forward to each year. Usually I have heirloom tomatoes growing in the raised beds of my garden, but for the first time in 6 yrs I didn’t plant any. Luckily, they sell them now at my local grocery store. My cousin posted on her Facebook today that she fried some up, so I decided to do the same.

I have not been able to find any solid history on fried green tomatoes. Smithsonian says they’re possibly not even Southern, but of Jewish origin. Other sources maintain that they were not really a thing until after the 1980s. I remember eating them as a child way back in the 1970s, so those ‘other sources’ can’t be right. Wikipedia has absolutely NOTHING on their page regarding their history, either.

Whatever the history, they sure are delicious!

these things may not be pretty, but they sure taste good!

the fried green tomatoes were polished off within 30 minutes

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Cheater’s Crab/Lobster/Shrimp Seafood Corn Chowder and some chowder/bisque food history…

this was a delicious concoction!

We weren’t feeling well today and I wanted soup, but I didn’t feel like spending all day making one. I made this up at the last minute and was pretty impressed. I am usually a convenience food snob- I don’t really like ‘quick’ meals or ‘ready made’ things, as a rule.

This soup has all SORTS of convenience foods I’d never usually eat: Canned and packaged soups, velveeta (which the guys keep in the cupboard for their favorite football season queso dip that I detest)… but it turned out so well, even I was shocked.

Everyone agreed that this was a keeper.

I am ADDICTED to chowders and bisques! The history of both types of soups is quite interesting. Chowder is an older soup, originating from the peasant fishermen in Europe.

From What’s Cooking America:

Chowder has its roots in the Latin word calderia, which originally meant a place for warming things, and later came to mean cooking pot. The word calderiaalso gave us cauldron, and in French became chaudiere. It is also thought to come from the old English word jowter (a fish peddler).

A simple dish of chowder, in the past considered to be “poor man’s food,” has a history that is centuries old. Vegetables or fish stewed in a cauldron thus became known as chowder in English-speaking nations, a corruption of the name of the pot or kettle in which they were cooked. Different kinds of fish stews exist in almost every sea-bound country in the world.

Fish chowders were the forerunners of clam chowder. The chowders originally made by the early settlers differed from other fish soups because they used salt pork and ship’s biscuits. Today most chowders do not include biscuits, but generally have crackers sprinkled on top. The old-fashioned chowder builder made chowder out of just about everything that flew, swam, or grew in the garden. When the main ingredient is fish or shellfish it is usually called chowder although the term fish stew is also used. Clams, hard or soft, were just one variety of seafood used and were eaten frequently, but there was a certain season for clam chowder and certainly there were other occasions when clam chowder was definitely not served.”

Bisque soups, on the other hand, didn’t seem to appear until sometime in the 17th century:

Bisque first surfaces in the 17th century. Culinary evidence confirms early bisque recipes did indeed include pulverized shells of the featured crustacean. Bisque descended from pottage, a thick soupy mixture often consistent with puree. Most early recipes call for “crayfish,” which denotes what we Americans currently know as “rock lobster.” Notes here.

“Bisque is a thick rich soup, usually containing crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs, and crayfish. The word was originally borrowed into English from French as bisk in the mid-seventeenth century, at which time it still retained an early application, since lost, to soup made from poultry or game birds, particularly pigeons’. It is not clear where the word came from, although some have linked it with the Spanish province of Biscay.”
—An A-Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 29-30)

“Bisque. A rich soup of creamy consistency, especially of crayfish or lobster. An earlier use, for soups of game birds, has fallen into disusetude. Wine and/or cognac often enter into the recipes. When the word was first adopted from the French language, it came over as bisk’, and it thus appears in The Accomplisht Cook of Robert May (1685). His recipes, incidentally, illustrate the wider use of the term in his time. He gives two recipes for Bisk of Carp, both involving many ingredients and having plenty of solid matter in them. And his Bisk of Eggs sound even more surprising to modern ears.”
—Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidison [Oxford University Press:Oxfod] 1999 (p. 77)”

Both types of soups mean comfort food in my house. We love seafood chowders and bisques so much! Since I am half-Filipino, I prefer to eat them with rice.

CHEATER’S CRAB/LOBSTER/SHRIMP SEAFOOD CORN CHOWDER

  • 1 box Original Soupman Lobster Bisque
  • 1 can Campbell’s Cream of Shrimp soup
  • 1 package fake crab flakes, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely in food processor
  • 1/2 package mushrooms, chopped finely in food processor
  • 1/3 package velveeta queso blanco
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced (optional)
  • handful spinach, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • stick butter
  • salt and pepper
  • squirt sriracha
  • 1 soup can heavy cream
  • 2 soup cans whole milk
  • 1 can white corn
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with cold half and half (about 1 cup)
  • pinch nutmeg

Melt butter in bottom of a stock pan, add onions and mushrooms- sauté until soft. Add everything except the crab and the cornstarch dissolved in half and half and adjust to taste. Cook on medium-low until potatoes start to soften, then add the cornstarch mixture. Stir til thick. Stir in the crab meat and heat through. Serve.