Katie Stew

A rich, simmering blend of my favorite things

Pearl and Her Cooking

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My grandmother passed away about a week ago. Life events like this are never easy, but I feel blessed that I was able to be there with her and my family at the end. It has been an exhausting and emotionally draining few weeks.

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Pearl Pryor Shields was 96 when she passed. Just a few months away from her 97th birthday. She was a beautiful, elegant woman and a wonderful grandmother. She was also a great cook. A few years ago, before a stroke and other numerous health issues began to make her life so much harder, I asked for a specific Christmas present from her. I asked her to write down her favorite recipes for me. That year, she gave me a recipe box filled with handwritten cards containing some of her classic dishes. That box is one of my most precious possessions.

recipe box

I remember standing on a stool beside her at her kitchen counter rolling cookie dough into balls and then into a bowl of cinnamon sugar to make snickerdoodles. I remember eating her fried potato sandwiches (which were insanely awesome) and that she would always have a huge breakfast prepared for my brother and I when we’d stay over. Eggs, bacon, toast, and half a grapefruit with an absurd amount of sugar on top.

It is her brisket recipe that I made when my boyfriend’s parents came to Seattle and I wanted to impress them with my cooking. And every time I have a sugar cookie I compare it to hers.

In my experience, life often revolves around the kitchen. That is where memories are made, stories are told, and relationships are built. There are some foods that will always remind me of my grandmother, and that makes me happy. Happy and grateful.

Now that I’m back in Seattle, so far from my family, after the funeral and everything, I was thinking about how I could do some celebrating of Pearl on my own. So, I pulled out the recipe box and got to cooking. It was a ┬ánice experience. And a filling one, since I now have chicken and dumplings and a squash casserole in my fridge.

Chicken and dumplings

Now, lets talk about this delicious recipe of Pearl’s.

Chicken and dumplings is such a delicious, classic Southern dish and one that I hadn’t made since college. I think it had just dropped off my radar as a food option. It is relatively easy to make, makes you feel accomplished, and there really isn’t anything more comforting out there. So here we go.

Grandma Pearl’s Chicken and Dumplings

  • about 4 cups rich chicken broth
  • 1 TB Crisco
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • Chicken, shredded- about 1/2 a chicken

Place flour in a mixer. Pour in 1/2 cup chicken broth and the TB Crisco. Mix until stiff dough forms. Flour a space on your cabinet or a big cutting board and roll out dough very thin. Cut into squares.

Dumplings

Boil remaining broth on stovetop. Drop squares of dough in boiling broth. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add chicken, cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer another 15-20 minutes, until liquid thickens.

When I made this, I used homemade stock and shredded 1/2 a rotisserie chicken into the dumplings. It was so delicious.

chicken and dumplins

If you don’t ever make your own chicken stock, you should consider trying it. Whenever I get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, (which I do often because their easy and delicious), I often make a stock. Here’s a simple breakdown of how to do it.

Chicken stock

Once you’ve picked off all the chicken you are going to eat, throw the carcass in a pot. Look in your crisper drawer and see what you’re working with. The basic broth tends to have about 3 stalks of celery cut in half, a handful of baby carrots, or two whole ones cut in half, and an onion, roughly cut into quarters. If you find half a bell pepper, toss that in as well. Fill the pot with water until it covers all that stuff and add a generous amount of salt. As my mother would say, salt it like the sea. Then toss in about 5 whole peppercorns. At this point, you’re good to go. But, if you grow herbs in your garden, go outside and grab some chives, parsley, and thyme. I wouldn’t add things like rosemary or basil to my stock because they can be overwhelming.

Bring it all to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Forget about it for about two hours, until your house smells so wonderful that you just can’t take it anymore. Strain the liquid through a fine colander or cheesecloth into a large bowl. What I do at this point is usually stick it in the fridge until it cools and then freeze the broth in quart sized freezer bags. Then you always have homemade stock for soups or anything else, really handy.

So, next time you get a little rotisserie chicken, make yourself some stock.

Enjoy.

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