Chicken and Dumplings With a Side of Nostalgia

I worked in a small-town grocery story throughout high school. It was more like play since I worked with my friends and boyfriend. After we closed for the day, I would get on the loud speaker and sing the Sound of Music soundtrack. After the money was counted, the products were “faced,” and the floors were swept and buffed, we would go hang out in the parking lot to bitch, dream, and listen to Pantera. I think back to those days with surprising clarity: the fluorescent lights, the butcher, the red aprons (and later, the red polos),  grimy hands from handling money, freezing hands from facing the dairy case, sore hands from facing the 12-packs of soda. My boss’ brown teeth stubs, and the way he would swagger while holding his styrofoam spit cup. Jealousy when a cute girl would come in to visit my boyfriend. Heartache for the person whose check wouldn’t clear. The inbred family, whose arrival would set off a chain of preventative measures, including locking the bathroom doors. One time they removed jelly jar lids, then stuck their tongues in the jar to sample each flavor. Or so that was a piece of our small-town lore.

I would rarely leave for my lunch break (it was called “lunch” even if it really was supper), so I would just pick something from the store. Lunchables, frozen burritos, pizza rolls, or Dinty Moore chicken and dumplings. I would go through the cool cashier’s line in order to get a substantial discount.

I have no idea what provoked me that first time I tried chicken and dumplings; I had never had them at home. It was probably just plain curiosity—balls of dough in a gelatinous substance. Who wouldn’t be intrigued? Surprisingly I liked them and they became my supper of choice. Along with a Pepsi and York peppermint patty, of course.

Fast forward 10 years and Dinty Moore and chicken and dumplings still are synonymous in my head. Last night I made strides to correct that.

I used this recipe. It’s in my Best Chicken Recipe cookbook, which adds this handy tip: do steps 1–3 on day 1, and finishing up takes only 20 minutes on day 2. Putting the stew together went very well. I was a little nervous the dumplings wouldn’t cook through, but I just followed the instructions and they were fabulous. I can’t wait to eat some leftovers!

Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken and Dumplings
The perfect meal for a frigid day.
Chicken fat
The dumplings were amazing, thanks to the fat reserved from browning the chicken. Chicken fat is smooth and light and imparts delicious flavor.

8 thoughts on “Chicken and Dumplings With a Side of Nostalgia

  1. Mmm, chicken fat. How taste-tastic!

    I remember my “lunch” breaks at Tom Thumb. My “never had this at home” item was a frozen burrito. I don’t know if the others appreciated that choice, though! I had either the burrito or a bagel and banana. Ah, how I loved the smell of the fresh bagel bin!

  2. I used to work in a small town grocery store too – same fond memories, except my lunch of choice (also eaten in the back room at the store) was chicken pot pie 😉

    Tricia, these dumplings look delicious … remind me of childhood at Grandma’s house (she used to make them a lot). THanks for the memories and the recipe 🙂

  3. I read this last year when you wrote it and now I’m reliving the glory! I need to make this in Scotland. They have no idea of the goodness.

    • Can you believe it was actually two years ago that I wrote this? I can’t!
      Oooh, yes! It’s the perfect comfort food. I bet you could even freeze portions of the chicken mixture and add the dumplings to individual servings. I’ll be trying this out soon.

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