Neighbors

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Food heals.

Sharing food with a friend who has suffered a loss or a neighbor recovering from an illness is a universal act of goodwill.

That’s what happened in my childhood neighborhood in Plant City, Florida. It’s what we did in college when a sorority sister got the flu. It’s what neighbors have done for us in times of need.

And nothing heals more than homemade chicken and dumplings.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I had chickens stewing in dueling pots on the stove. One pot was for our own dinner (with leftovers heading to the freezer) and the other for a friend recovering from an injury.

My kitchen smelled like so many others have on similar days; of chopped onions, carrots and celery stewing along with the birds. My hands covered in the gloriously gummy combination of flour, milk and lard that make dumplings so much better than plain old biscuits.

It brought back memories of my old friend Jeff and his gracious grandmother. In high school, Jeff would sometimes invite several of us—or we would invite ourselves— to join him at his grandmother’s house for a late lunch. As we opened the door we were always met with the most incredible smells from pots of homemade Southern specialties bubbling away on her stove.

She never knew how many of us would be stopping by for lunch, but she always made sure there was enough and we were always welcome.

Aren’t there days when that’s all we really need?

Chicken and Dumplings:

One whole fryer chicken (not cut-up and neck and gizzards thrown away because they are gross)

One onion quartered

2 sticks of Celery and 2 carrots (not peeled just washed and roughly cut)

One chopped large onion

2 diced carrots

Pinch of dried thyme

2 whole cloves

Pat of butter

Put the quartered onion and roughly cut celery and carrots in a large pot, place rinsed chicken on top and cover with water. Season with thyme, whole cloves, salt and plenty of pepper and pat of butter. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove from heat but leave the chicken in the pot to cool.

After chicken has cooled remove meat and place in another bowl. Then return the skin and bones back to the pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer until liquid starts to reduce.

Now drain through a large sieve or colander. You’ll return the broth to the pot and discard the solids. (for convenience sake I usually drain the broth into another pot with a tight fitting top at this point).

Add the chopped onions and carrots to the broth, bring it to a simmer until the they are soft (about 10 minutes.) While the broth is simmering, shred the chicken and add to the pot once the vegetables are soft. Season again with plenty of pepper and salt to taste.

Use your favorite dumpling recipe, I prefer a Crisco based one, but add one half teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper. Place carefully in the simmering stew, cover and walk away for 8-10 minutes. DO NOT STIR the dumplings.

This dish freezes and reheats beautifully. Enjoy!

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