A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chicken and Pastry

Here's a new one from the Southern food files: chicken and dumplings, aka chicken and pastry.

Southern dumplings are completely different from what we think of as dumplings, Mom -- these are more like big noodles, like those big 3" square Thai rice noodles except made out of soft wheat flour.

Most people here call the dish chicken and dumplings, but Lawson's dad's family calls it chicken and pastry, which I think is more descriptive. For me, the word "dumpling," what with that "plump" assonance and my own childhood memories, just describes balls of dough better than flaps of dough. So pastry it is.

There's another key way in which Southern chicken and dumplings is different from what we make elsewhere, and this difference took me longer to understand. It's not a soup, although it's made with a bunch of broth. It's got no vegetables, and it's not heavily seasoned. It's more like chicken and noodles in gravy. The dumplings thicken the stock as they cook, and you serve the chicken and dumplings on a plate or flat bowl with just some of the liquid, which clings to everything like a sauce. Vegetables go on the side.

Here is Lawson's grandma's recipe for chicken and pastry, as written down by his...maybe great aunt?:
Make a hole in the center of a pan full of self-rising flour. Get a cup full of hot chicken broth and pour it into the hole. Take a fork and stir it around and work in enough flour to make a firm ball. On a floured surface, roll it out thin. Leave it for a couple of hours to "die." (I don't know if you would have to "let it die" if you used all-purpose flour, we never had any of that kind at our house.) Then cut into thin strips and drop into the boiling pot of broth and chicken. Cook until tender, (not long).
Lawson remembers watching his grandma make chicken and pastry when he was a kid, so he was able to fill in some of the holes in that recipe for me. I also looked at Jean Anderson's instructions in the cookbook you gave me, Mom, and a few other places. And here's what I did:

Chicken and Pastry

Roast a chicken. Eat half of the meat at one meal. Pick the other half of the meat off and save for chicken and pastry.

Make stock with the carcass, skin, pan drippings, an onion, and a carrot.

(Most traditional recipes call for starting with a whole chicken and boiling it. But most traditional recipes are for tough old hens that have stopped laying, not grocery store roasters. Roasting the chicken first gives a bland bird more flavor. And since we can get several two-person meals out of one chicken, there's no use just boiling the whole thing.)

When the broth is finished, make the pastry dough:
  • 2 cups white all-purpose flour -- I used White Lily.
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • warm broth, not yet skimmed -- I used a bit less than a cup, but this will vary.
Mix together with a fork just until doughlike. Do not knead. Form into ball and set aside.

Skim the fat off the broth and heat the broth in a clean pan. Add salt, pepper, a fresh sage leaf, and a sprig of thyme and simmer for 10-15 minutes, long enough to get the flavors smoothed out.

Roll out the pastry on a floured counter. At first I rolled it to about 3/8", but Lawson said it should be still thinner, almost translucent, so I did that. Later we decided the thicker pieces were a bit better -- they had some chewy substantialness that was lacking from the thin ones.

Cut the pastry with a knife into rectangles about 2" x 3".

Add the chicken meat to the broth and bring to a boil. It should be a big rolling boil. I didn't like it and tried to convince Lawson to turn it down, though he swore he remembered a ferocious boil -- I thought it would make the broth taste scorchy and flat. But I understood after we put the pastry in that the broth has to be moving and hopping furiously to keep the pastry from sticking to other pieces. So do that.

Drop the pastry pieces one at a time into the pot. Once all the pastry was in, it probably took about 15 minutes for everything to cook through and the broth to thicken slightly.

We ate it with green beans boiled and then tossed with lemon zest and a touch of butter. Very simple, and perfect on a cold wet January night in South Carolina.


Kris said...

This dish has "comfort food" written all over it! I was also moved to roast a chicken last week, mostly with my eye on the broth I would get the day after. I always feel good about using one bird over several meals.

Faith Dwight said...

I just want you to know I'm from North Carolina, but I married a man from England. We currently live just outside London, and I am dying for some Chicken and Pastry. I googled it and found your blog, and I am now sitting in my kitchen waiting for my chicken to roast. I'm praying it tastes similar to my great-grandma's, and I'm bookmarking your blog to find other yummy southern recipes. Thank ladies; you saved my life.

Brandie said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful recipe. This was my first time making chicken pastry, and everyone told me how hard it was, but this was simple and turned out delicious.

Anonymous said...

pastry is made out of flour and dumplings are made from corn mill

Anonymous said...

I am from North Carolina and now live in MO. In my area of NC, we call this dish chicken and pastry. This is the recipe I use.
Boil one whole chicken in a large pot until done. Remove chicken and continue to boil broth.

Directions for making the Pastry:
Place 4 cups of all purpose flour, 1 Tbl. spoon of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix
Make a hole in the middle of the flour mixture.
Place 1 and 1/2 sticks of soft butter or margarine in the hole.
Pour 2 cups of boiling chicken broth directly over the buter/margarine.
Mix dough until it leaves the sides of the bowl.
Flour your board generously.
This dough will be very sticky so use extra flour.( you need it make your broth thick)
Roll out the dough and cut into 2" squares, 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. (I use a pizza cutter)
Drop the pastry/dumpings into the boiling broth. After adding all the dumpings, reduce heat to low. Simmer 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Take chicken from the bones and drop back with the dumplings. I cut my chicken with kitchen scissors into bite size pieces.

Marcus said...

I am from Delaware, aka, Delmarva Peninsula, the eastern shore (DE/MD/VA). This dish is properly and famously called Chicken & Dumplings in Delmarva. It is a famous and delicious dish...my aunt sarah made it best and my grandmother and aunts make it just as good...I miss them...slippery dumplings...call it what you like, when you come to the Eastern Shore of Delmarva, they are called Chicken & Dumplings...and besides chicken for flavor we use chicken base...and we remove most of the chicken as well...good stuff, not to be racist in anyway, but, there is a difference between black folk dumplings and white folk as there is in macaroni and cheese...blacks is richer with less chicken pieces...hmm hmm good!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with an earlier post, Pastry is made with flour, "Dumplings" at least in NC where i grew up all my life, are made with corn meal, they are 2 seperate things, and both are equally delicious to me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!! I too am a transplant southerner and Sunday's were always about the whole family eating chicken n pastry,fried chicken, corn bread(pan fried) and peas and beans w/snaps!! I would watch my grandma turn whatever she had on hand into the best dinner. As my uncle Wayne used to say "your grandmomma can make mud taste good"anda

Anonymous said...

I am from NC (Charlotte area) and I remember my great grandmother making dumplings from flour, like biscuit dough. I've never had it with corn meal, but i'm interested and want to find a recipe. I did start making "chicken and pastry" when I lived in Eastern NC using Anne's dumplings...it even has directions on the back!!!

Anonymous said...

on my list for tomorrow, hungry in NC :)Lu

Anonymous said...

Grew up eating this stuff. Both of my grandmas and great grandma called it chicken and pastry, have had a hard time explaining to my hubby that is from western nc that dumplings are made out of cornmeal, He finally gets it. Great dish for a cold night or anytime actually. Good ole southern traditional dish.

Anonymous said...

Just found this recipe, seeing how other folks created it. Growing up on the coast of N.C., the Outer Banks, I always knew it as Chicken and Piebread. I never hear it referred to that way anywhere, tho, so I thought it would be interesting to mention it. No matter what you call it, it is the quintessential southern comfort food!

Chris Askew said...

My mom is from Eastern North Carolina, Sampson County area. Mom always had enough chicken meat left over to make chicken salad. We would have chicken pastry, cold chicken salad and baked sweet potatoes or peas and cornbreat. Yummy!

Anonymous said...

My husband's family is from Robeson county, NC. I have spent a LOT of time in the kitchen with my in-laws. My mother -in- law made chicken & pastry the way her momma did...with chicken backs. Said you save the chicken backs, cuz; (1) not much meat on them, but plenty of fat & bone & skin and thats where the flavor is, child; (2) nobody wants that piece anyway and they pout if they get it. She slow boiled the backs, skin and all up with carrot, celery, onion, salt, pepper, and a pinch pf poultry seasoning to make the broth. What meat there is on the backs fell off the bone and you end up with a rich, meaty broth. Take out the bones and skin and turn up the fire. Toss in the pastry and let her boil til done. The pastry thicken the broth and that was put on the table with greens or a summer salad, and the table got quiet.....no talking, just the sound of folks slurping up that chicken and pastry....

Unknown said...

If you don't want to make your own pastry, you can find it frozen and/or dried. It is called Annie's Dumplings. I have used these every time and always have great success.

AutumnAbroad said...

I grew up in the midwest, & my Grandma lived in Wisconsin, but was from NC. She'd make chicken & pastries & so much more food. YUM. I remember corn pone, fried corn meal. I do remember it being quite peppery. My mom says once there was a sheep's head in the fridge, scared her to death. LOL. I'm in Portugal now, & will make this; Thanks

mikej321100 said...

I'm from Eastern North Carolina, but live on Cape Cod,MA now... I love chicken and pastry and have always used Queen Anne's frozen pastry.. I can not find it up here and now i have to make pastry from scratch. I miss my Queen Anne's!