I Think Mamaw Would Like ‘Em, Too

When I was a little girl, one of the dishes that was just flat out REVERED in my family was my Mamaw Davis’ chicken and dumplings. Except that we never, ever pronounced the “g” in the word “dumplings.” We said “dumplins.” Still do. So just know that from here on out I’m gonna type it like I say it. Chicken and dumplins.

Well.

Earlier this week I was temporarily overtaken by the plague, and on Wednesday, when I actually wore clothes that were not pajamas and started to emerge from my plague-induced haze, I decided that I had to have – HAD TO HAVE – chicken and dumplins for supper. I always think of chicken and dumplins as the Southerner’s answer to chicken noodle soup, and in light of the week I’d had, it sounded like the world’s most perfect food. So I went to the store, rounded up all the ingredients, then headed home to try to honor my sweet Mamaw’s memory.

I should probably tell you that I’ve tried lots of different chicken and dumplin recipes over the years. I’ve gone the totally-from-scratch route; I’ve gone the add-some-cream-of-something-soup route; I’ve gone the make-dumplins-from-canned-biscuits route. But Wednesday night, I have to say, is when I think I finally hit on the perfect combination of convenience and made-from scratch goodness. Because the chicken and dumplins? THEY WERE TASTY. And the next time I decide to cook up a batch, I’m going to make them the exact same way.

So on the off chance that anyone, you know, CARES, I thought I’d share the recipe. It’s a combination of (no kidding) about three different recipes, and for whatever reason, it works. Be advised that we don’t really enjoy it when vegetables interfere with our chicken and dumplins, so you won’t find any of them in this particular mash-up. You could definitely add them, though.

All righty. Here you have it.

My Favorite Chicken & Dumplins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup buttermilk
(if you like fluffy, biscuit-y dumplins, add 2 teaspoons of baking powder – but we like dense dumplins around here)

*****

2 fully cooked rotisserie chickens
1/2 stick real-live (salted) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 box chicken stock (32 oz. – I like Kitchen Basics)
2 cups water
1/4 cup half and half
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

*****

In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 2 beaten eggs, salt and buttermilk. Once mixture is blended, cover the bowl and set aside. Don’t over mix – it’ll make the dumplins tough.

Pull meat off of rotisserie chickens. Chop into cubes, then set aside.

In a Dutch oven, melt butter over low heat. Once all the bubbles are gone, start sprinkling the 1/4 cup of flour into the pot. Add a little, stir to combine, then add a little more, stir to combine, etc. Once all the flour has been incorporated, continue to stir over low-to-medium heat until the mixture starts to turn a golden color. You don’t want it to get brown – just golden. It’ll only take a couple of minutes.

Once you see that golden color, start adding liquid to the mixture. Add about a cup of chicken stock, whisk it well so that everything combines, then add half the water, whisk to combine, more chicken stock, then whisk – and continue until all the liquid has been mixed with the flour and butter mixture. Turn the heat up to medium and continue to whisk frequently to ensure that you don’t have any lumps.

This is a great time to taste the stock mixture, by the way – the butter and stock already have salt, but you’ll probably need to add more salt and pepper to taste.

Let mixture simmer for about 10 minutes – until it’s thicker and not quite so brothy. Add Worcestershire, garlic powder, half and half and chicken. Stir to combine everything, then taste again. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Once the whole mixture is simmering and is season just like you like it, drop the dumplin dough into the pot by spoonfuls. It’ll start to look crowded, but that’s okay. Once everything is in the pot, let the dumplins simmer (uncovered) for about 15-20 minutes. They’ll cook through, and once they’re done, take the whole pot off the heat, cover it, and leave it alone for about 15-20 minutes.

After 15-20 minutes, take off the lid, grab a ladle, and serve the chicken and dumplins in some oversized bowls.

Be prepared for your people to pledge their undying and eternal devotion.

I’m just sayin’.

Because these chicken and dumplins are slap-your-mamaw good.

(But by all means, please don’t slap your mamaw.)

(I don’t think she would appreciate that.)

(Not to mention that it would be sort of tacky.)

Enjoy, y’all!

Short Notice, I Know…

…but does anybody have any interest in participating in a little impromptu DipTacular this Wednesday? College football starts Thursday, you know, and since our last DipTacular was a couple of years ago, I thought maybe y’all might have some new dip recipes to share.

Here’s how it would work: on Wednesday you’d post two or fourteen of your favorite dips on your blog or Facebook page (you could post your recipes as a note and then make sure your note setting is public), then you’d copy the URL of your blog post and add it to a Mr. Linky that I’ll have posted here.

I’m assuming, of course, that everyone still enjoys dip. Perhaps the dip landscape has changed in the last two years. Maybe cupcake craze has dictated that cupcakes are the new dip. But with football season just a few days a way, I can’t help but think that at least a few of us would enjoy some dip-related inspiration.

No pressure, though – and if nobody’s up for it I’m sure we’ll all still be able to find some new and exciting uses for cream cheese this fall. I just figured that it couldn’t hurt to ask.

So if you’re interested, just leave a comment. If there are at least, say, 25 people who are game, then we’ll plan to have a little dip party on Wednesday.

Hope y’all have had a great weekend!

This Takes The, Well, You Know

A few weeks ago I spent the better part of three days cooking a whole bunch of food. It’s sort of weird, but I love to plan and shop and cook for a crowd. It’s strange, I know, but I’d rather cook for 40 than 2, and while I realize that this pretty much makes me THE FREAK OF ALL NATURE, it’s one of those quirky little things I enjoy.

And for this particular round of brunch-y offerings, I made some of our family’s favorite treats.

I made sausage balls.

(Those sausage balls hadn’t been baked yet, by the way, but they were on their way into the oven when I snapped a picture with my phone.)

(I just wanted to clarify so that no one worries if I enjoy serving up a delightful side of salmonella as a compliment to the brunch-y offerings.)

I made homemade granola – which is probably one of my all-time favorite foods.

One reason I like making granola so much is because my friend Merritt’s recipe is so good and so easy. I don’t know where I’d be in life without it. Except that I’d probably be at a place in life where I wished for a really delicious granola recipe.

This would probably be a good time to confess that I double the amount of butter in Merritt’s recipe, though.

Doubling the amount of butter is my inalienable right as an American, after all. I believe it’s covered in the Constitution or some other government-y type document. It’s all very official.

And I also made pound cakes. So many pound cakes. So many, many pound cakes.

I made so many pound cakes, in fact, that I had to get sort of inventive with where I put them after they cooled. I needed my countertop space so that I could keep cooking, so I wedged in my pound cakes on the breakfast room table between pans of granola and Ziploc bags filled with sausage balls. And when I ran out of space on the breakfast room table, I decided that my next best option was to set one of the pound cakes in a breakfast room chair.

What can I say? I was tired and it was the fourth pound cake of the day and I was fresh out of food storage ideas.

About that time D walked through the kitchen, and I said, “You know what? I’m going to fix myself a Diet Coke, make a plate of cheese and crackers – and I’m going to play catch-up with the DVR for a while. I think I need to take a break.”

So that is exactly what I did.

Once I was back in the kitchen a little bit later, I started gathering ingredients so that I could mix up some hash brown potato casseroles. I walked to the refrigerator to grab the cheddar cheese, and I couldn’t help but notice something sort of peculiar out of the corner of my eye.

I walked over to the chair to get a better look.

It was the strangest sight, y’all. I couldn’t figure out what in the world had happened. I mean, I know my people enjoy sweet treats and all, but they typically make good use of utensils when they eat. Thankfully it is not the norm for them to just bend down and start gnawing the sides off of a pound cake.

I was oh-so-puzzled.

But then I heard the pitter-patter of little feet behind me.

And when I turned around, I realized that somebody had come back for seconds.

Apparently Ally finds pound cake to be TASTY.

I take issue, though, with the fact that she didn’t clean up after herself afterwards.

She didn’t even have the courtesy to throw the SaranWrap in the trash. She just slung it over to the side of the chair all devil-may-care-like. LEFT IT ON THE FLOOR, EVEN. I guess her dessert-related enthusiasm caused her to take temporary leave of her good manners.

Clearly we’ll have to work on that.

I think it’s only fair.
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Because The Deliciousness Begs To Be Shared

Now y’all know that I love me a good dip. This fact has been well-documented.

But for the last year or so, I’ve been in a little bit of a dip desert. There hasn’t been anything new (or new-to-me, at least) that’s grabbed my interest or struck my fancy. And that’s been fine, of course – there are plenty of old dip faithfuls that have been more than able to meet our dip-related needs. Even still, I’ve occasionally wished for something fresh and exciting to liven up the dip landscape.

Well, last week Melanie went to Dallas, and when she got home from her trip she told me all about a really great dip she’d had while she was there.

“I NEED TO KNOW MORE,” I screamed excitedly.

“WELL I WILL SEND YOU THE RECIPE,” she replied enthusiastically.

(We tend to talk in caps when we’re on the phone.)

(This is really no different than how we write blog posts, you understand.)

I made the dip this past weekend for an anniversary party we had for Sister and her hubby, and while I don’t want to overstate it (clearly someone who uses the caps lock a lot would NEVER, EVER OVERSTATE THINGS), I’m pretty sure that this new dip is the best thing that I’ve eaten in recent memory. And keep in mind that we experience the wonder of Chuy’s jalapeno ranch and deluxe tomatillo sauce almost every single weekend, so, you know, HIGH PRAISE.

Last night I asked Mel when she was going to post the dip recipe so that I’d know when to link to it, and she encouraged me to go ahead and share it with the wide world interweb since she already had a post written for today. That was very convenient indeed since I haven’t had a post written in advance in approximately four months.

So here you have it.

Southwestern Tossed Salad

2 cups fresh, frozen (and thawed) or canned corn kernels
1 can of black beans, rinsed
2 roma tomatoes (or a carton of grape/cherry tomatoes halved or quartered)
4 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado, diced
4 ounces of feta or cotija cheese, crumbled (I used tomato & basil feta, and it was perfection)

Dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all of the dressing ingredients and set aside. Combine the salad ingredients and pour the dressing over it. It tastes even better if you let it all marinate for a few hours (wait and add the avocado right before you serve if it’s going to marinate awhile). Serve as a salad or with tortilla chips as a dip.

IT IS SO GOOD. The feta makes it interesting, but it’s the dressing that sends it way over the top in terms of its deliciousness. I can tell you right now that I’ll be making BATCHES of stuff this summer – it will be perfect for lunch. Or breakfast. Or a snack. Or whatever.

Enjoy, y’all!

In Which I Share Some Not-At-All-Original Ideas

Oh, I loved your comments about Sunday lunch. And yes, we do typically call it “Sunday dinner” in these parts. But I thought maybe saying “Sunday dinner” would make y’all think I was talking about supper – which would still be delightful, of course – so I went with the more typical diction.

There. I feel that I’ve overexplained enough. Remember, I am nothing if not a deeply annoying overexplainer.

Several of you asked how it’s possible to get post-church lunch on the table in a timely fashion, and I really don’t have a great answer to that question because, well, I’ve only done the big Sunday dinner thing twice. I do know, though, that whenever I cook for a crowd (I’ve bored you with those details already), the key is to do as much as possible ahead of time. Use the crockpot whenever you can. Buy a dessert at the bakery or put together something really simple the night before (brownies from a box, vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, the end). And setting the timer on the oven is a great idea, only it doesn’t work for me because the clock on our oven is broken, thus rendering the timer feature completely useless.

But if it did work, well, you know, ACES.

Anyway, after I read y’all’s comments yesterday, I made a quick list of meals (besides the classic crockpot roast, carrots and potatoes) that would be fairly easy to pull off after church. They’ll require a little Saturday night prep, but now that we can’t all sit around and watch “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island,” what else do we have to do since Captain Stubing and Tattoo are nothing but a faint (albeit precious) memory? Plus, the payoff of the prep time is all manner of Sunday dinner deliciousness. Not to mention fellowship. Hallelujah.

Chicken Divan – I only use 1 can of cream of chicken but add a little more mayonnaise than this recipe calls for, and I also like to use a little curry powder. But the basic premise is the same. I’d buy a rotisserie chicken, assemble the dish on Saturday night, then pop it in the oven as soon as we got home from church. Serve with salad and rolls. Sometimes Mama would serve this with fresh fruit and poppyseed dressing, and we were all blessed beyond measure as a result.

Lasagna – Use your favorite recipe (I can’t find mine online) and assemble Saturday night. Put it in your oven when you leave for church and set the timer. Or make a yummy crockpot version that you can put together before you head to the church house. Serve with salad and French bread.

Chicken and Asparagus Casserole – Initially I was going to suggest chicken pie, but this chicken and asparagus dish is so pretty and festive and colorful. It’s great with just about any side dish, and if you make it the night before, it only takes 30 minutes for it to be ready for lunch. And truthfully, it takes me almost 30 minutes to get ready for Sunday dinner; those yoga pants are gonna jump on my person by themselves, now are they?

Crockpot Chicken & Dressing – If there’s any dish that brings out my inner Jerry Clower, it’s this one. This isn’t something my mama made when I was growing up, but it just tastes like the South to me. So good. And it begs for peas and turnip greens and maybe even a little okra on the side. TASTY.

Meatball Sandwiches – Melanie’s recipe is a favorite at our house. Make your meatballs the night before, then let them simmer in the crockpot while you’re at church or heat them up on the stove when you get home. Serve with potato salad that you made the night before (or that was lovingly prepared by your local Publix).

Eggplant Casserole – Don’t roll your eyes. Seriously. Because this is one of those dishes that might sound a little iffy but is SO, SO GOOD. You can serve it as a main course (Mama always put chopped ham in ours when it was a main course), or it’s a wonderful side with fried chicken (leave the chicken frying to the professionals at the Popeye’s or the Bojangle’s). Perfect with baked beans and rolls. Also a great reminder that we tend to forget about the eggplant, but the eggplant, it is enjoyable.

Pork Tenderloin – I don’t think there’s any cut of meat that I cook more for company. It soaks up marinade, cooks quickly, and falls into the category of “identifiable meat.” It’s great with potato casserole (make ahead, cook when you get home). I made cheese grits as a pork tenderloin side this past Sunday because I forgot to buy potatoes. And when I mentioned that I might just cook some white rice instead, Alex said, “THAT’S not the mama I know!” So cheese grits it was.

Chicken Cakes – Another great recipe of Mel’s. You could mix up the chicken cakes Saturday night, form them into patties, then quickly pan fry them after church on Sunday. Serve with sweet potato casserole and butterbeans. Then sign contentedly.

Spaghetti – Make sauce Saturday night. Cook noodles when you get home Sunday. Throw a little parmesan on the plate, grab a hunk of bread and you’re ready to roll.

Taco Salad – This is my all-time favorite simple meal. I brown a couple of pounds of ground beef with all the taco seasonings. I chop up a head of lettuce, open a bag of tortilla chips and unzip a package of flour tortillas. FANCY. Then I set out bowls of yummy toppings: grated cheese, black beans, tomatoes, sour cream, onions, Ranch dressing, queso dip, salsa, etc. People can either build their own salad or make nachos or make soft tacos. It’s even better if you use cute paper plates, because the clean-up is practically non-existent.

So. There you have it. And I know that there’s really nothing new under the Sunday dinner sun, but sometimes it’s good just to remember the options. Or, you know, you can always go out to eat. The important thing is to find the option that is most relaxing and recharging for you and your family.

All that being said, I will now return to my regular bloggy box. The box where I talk about bacon and Mississippi State sports and TV. And butter. And also mascara.

The end.

Sunday Lunch

When I was growing up, Sunday lunch was always a big deal. We didn’t go out to eat very much, so Mama always fixed a big ole meal after church. I remember roast with carrots and potatoes as a staple, but fried chicken, beef stroganoff, turkey and ham were also in the rotation – with lots of fresh vegetables on the side. And rolls. Always rolls. OH SWEET MERCY THE ROLLS.

If we weren’t eating at Mama and Daddy’s house on Sundays, it was usually because we were having a big family lunch at my aunt’s house. We did this more times than I can remember; my aunt would fix her meal and Mama would fix her meal and then we’d combine everything into a gigantor family potluck. When my grandparents were alive they’d join the fun, too, and my Mamaw Davis would bring a homemade chocolate pie or her homemade apple tarts or some other dessert that would make you weep by virtue of its sheer deliciousness. There was never a shortage of sweet tea or coffee, and after lunch the grown-ups would sit around the big table and visit while the kids ran around outside or walked down to the Jitney Jr. to buy some gum. Or maybe even some Bit-O-Honeys if we were feeling particularly crazy.

A piece of candy cost two cents, by the way. TWO CENTS. Which means that if you were in possession of a whole quarter, you could just about afford to send yourself into a post-candy sugar coma.

It was a simpler time.

And just so you know, now I’m all teary-eyed just from thinking about my Mamaw and Papaw Davis. WHEN DID MY BRAIN TURN INTO A HALLMARK COMMERCIAL?

For whatever reason, I’ve never really latched on to the Sunday lunch tradition since I’ve been the one doing the cooking. I cook all during the week, and occasionally I’ll make a big pot of red beans and rice or chili or something on Saturday night, but I typically leave Sunday lunch to the the experts at the restaurants. We don’t have family here, and we’re too far away from everybody to just hop over to my hometown for a Sunday meal, so eating out has been a pretty practical solution.

A few weeks ago – seemingly out of nowhere – I decided that I wanted to make a big ole Sunday lunch. Roast and carrots. Mashed potatoes. English peas. Homemade chocolate pudding. But since that much food is way too much food for three people, I texted my friend Leigh to see if she and her family wanted to join us. Leigh and her husband are originally from Mississippi, too – were even at Ole Miss the same time my brother was – and Leigh and I love to swap Southern stories. Hers are always the best.

Anyway, Leigh and her family came over for Sunday lunch a couple of weeks ago, and it was so much fun. They didn’t get to stay for long after we finished eating because we were under a WINTER STORM WARNING and there’s a small mountain in between our house and theirs, but I loved every single thing about having company on a Sunday. I loved using my pretty dishes, cleaning up afterwards, having some tasty leftovers for supper – the whole thing. It reminded me of how I grew up. And more than anything else, it was comforting to spend part of the afternoon with friends who feel like family.

Today is D’s birthday, and last week I thought that instead of cooking him a big birthday supper – which is what I normally do – I was going to cook him a big Sunday birthday lunch. Leigh and her family came over again, and I pulled out my favorite green dishes. We had pork tenderloin, cheese grits, squash casserole, butterbeans and rolls (OH HAVE MERCY THE ROLLS). I fixed D’s favorite tres leches cake for dessert. After we ate Leigh and I sat at the dining room table and drank coffee while the fellas went into the den and talked about electronics and movies and whatnot.

When we finally got up to start tackling the dishes, we realized it was 3:30 and couldn’t believe it. We’d spent over two hours talking about everything and nothing: the sermon we heard this morning, our young’uns, our ish-ahs, our TV habits, and so much more. There’s just something about eating a meal together in the middle of the day – with a whole big afternoon stretching out before you – that slows down the pace of life a little bit. And I’m not exactly sure why it’s taken me thirteen and a half years of marriage to figure that out.

After our company left and I loaded the last of the plates into the dishwasher, I walked into the den where D was in the process of rescuing some soldiers from a rogue alien army on the Xbox, and I made a proclamation.

“THAT,” I said, “was DELIGHTFUL. And I think from here on out – at least a couple of times a month – I’m going to make a big ole lunch on Sundays, and we’ll just invite whoever comes to mind.”

“I think that sounds great,” he said.

And so that’s our plan.

What about y’all? Do you go out to lunch on Sundays? Or do you cook a big meal? Do you have people over? Do you get together with your extended family? Do you remember the Sunday lunch traditions from your childhood? I’m strangely curious.

And if you feel led to share any favorite menu ideas, well, you just go right ahead.