Shirley Wollard Woodlock of Texas learned to make chicken and dumplings while watching her mother, Jennie Wollard Nunn. “Hers were made to perfection,” recalls Shirley. “She would always say, ‘Don’t forget the bay leaves and the pepper.’ Now Shirley always makes her mother’s chicken and dumplings to bring to Wollard family reunions. The recipe was passed down from Shirley’s grandmother, who grew up in the hills of Tennessee.
Editors’ note: Today, this is one of Almanac readers’ all-time favorite recipes! Whether you make your dumplings in strips, balls, or squares, all are acceptable forms. “Dumplings,” simply put, refer to small pieces of dough and can be savory or sweet.
Wash the chicken and place into a large Dutch oven. Cover well with plenty of water and add bay leaves. Add salt and pepper, and the butter (the more butter, the richer the dish). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook, uncovered, until the chicken is well done, about 1 hour.
Remove the chicken from the broth. Discard the bay leaves. When the chicken has cooled, remove the meat from the bone and return the deboned chicken to the broth. About ½ to ¾ pot of broth should remain.
For dumplings: In a large bowl, mix together the salt, oil, water, and eggs. Slowly add the flour to the mixture, blending it constantly with a fork. Stir only long enough to mix the dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Pinch the dough in half, and roll out until thin, about ¼ inch. Slice the dough into ½-inch-wide strips, and cross-slice into pieces 4 to 8 inches long, for ease in handling.
Bring the broth and chicken back to a boil, and pepper well to taste. Drop the dumpling strips into the boiling stock. Boil approximately 20 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the dumplings are done (they’ll be puffy). Most of the broth will be absorbed. Serve with red pinto beans and corn bread.