As I have said in the past, my mother did not like to cook. For most of my growing up years, my grandmother lived with us and did the cooking. My mom was very 'right-brained' and did not like the mundane. If she cooked, it was going to be something special, not the day to day ordinary things (my daughter Sara is exactly like her.) Mama did have several dishes that were outstanding and this is one of them.
Mama's Chicken and Dumplings
1 Large Hen (at least 5 lbs.)
3 Ribs of Celery
3 Large Carrots
3 Cloves of Garlic
1 Tsp. Whole Black Peppercorns
1 Tbs. Salt
2 Bay Leaves
1 12 oz. Can Evaporated Milk
1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
Wash chicken well and remove the Parson's Nose (tail). Place in a large (at least 12 qt.) stockpot and sprinkle with the salt. Cut the celery and carrots into about 3 inch lengths and place in pot with chicken along with bay leaves. Peel and cut each clove of garlic in half and place in pot. Sprinkle in black peppercorns. Cover the chicken with cool water and place on heat. Simmer gently for several hours or until chicken is completely tender and falling from bone. Remove chicken carefully from stock and let cool. Strain stock, discarding vegetables, bay leaves and peppercorns. Chill stock thoroughly until fat has hardened at the top. Remove fat from stock (do not discard fat) and return stock to a low simmer on heat. If there is less than 3 quarts of stock left due to evaporation, add water to bring stock level up to about 3 quarts. If more than 3 quarts, boil quickly to reduce volume. Make dumplings.
1-1/2 C. All Purpose Flour (Do Not Use Self-Rising Flour)
1/3 C. Reserved Cold Chicken Fat (see note below)
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1/2 Cup Cold Milk
1 Egg, Thoroughly Beaten
Mix flour, fat and salt well. Add milk and egg. Mix well. Add additional flour if needed to keep dough from being too sticky. Roll on heavily floured cutting board. Cut into squares. Drop dumplings into reserved chicken broth which is simmering. Simmer about 15 minutes, stirring gently once or twice. Dumplings will rise to the top of the broth when done.
Meanwhile, remove chicken from bone and cut or tear into bite size pieces. After dumplings are done, stir in chicken meat. Whisk together the evaporated milk and the 1/2 cup flour until smooth. Pour into chicken and dumplings. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. If too thick, add additional milk. If too thin, stir in additional flour mixed with water or milk.
Note: If you don't want to go to the trouble of chilling and using the chicken fat, shortening may be substituted, but this will not be the 'real deal'. Shortening wasn't invented until about mid-century (give or take a decade) 1900's. Before that, it was chicken fat, lard or butter. So, use hydrogenated fat (shortening) if you must, but the taste won't be the same.