COUNTRY GAL COOKING
Brenda Shipley says her go-to wedding gift used to be a photo album full of her recipes tucked into a slow cooker. Because her gifts were so popular, she self-published "Tried and True Recipes by a Country Gal." She ordered 100 when offered a price break at that number. To date, she's sold 425.
"It's brought enjoyment," she says. "People will come to me and say, 'I fixed something and really enjoyed it.' That's better than the money to me."
The book costs $10. To order a copy -- which has more than 150 recipes and family photos -- call Shipley at 332-2407.
Brenda Shipley says she doesn't want to mess with what works.
The Sale Creek resident's chicken and dumplings recipe has pleased people for at least eight decades, so she's not about to vary it.
"I'm afraid to," Shipley says.
The recipe -- the dumplings, anyway -- even made her published cookbook, "Tried and True Recipes by a Country Gal," whose cover pictures her in a gingham Minnie Pearl getup.
"It came from the cafeteria manager of Sale Creek School in the '40s, '50s and '60s," Shipley says. "They had wonderful, wonderful cooks. They had foods then like we don't have now."
The chicken and dumplings recipe apparently was printed in the paper, Shipley says, and her mother copied and saved it.
"It's good comfort food," she says.
Shipley, 71, a retired secretary from Sale Creek School and North Hamilton County Elementary School, says the only change to the recipe she's made over the years is in the preparation.
Where her mother used to fix the chicken and dumplings at one time, she makes the dumplings -- and sometimes even the chicken -- a day before, so her kitchen stays tidy if friends or family come for dinner. Flour can get everywhere when you make the dumplings, Shipley says.
"It makes it a lot cleaner if you make them the day before," she says.
Shipley boils a whole fryer or hen rather than just chicken breasts. "There's more flavor to it," she says.
When she picks it apart, though, she uses only white meat for the dish.
The dumplings for the dish are flat and not the rounded lumps that are more familiar in chicken and dumplings dishes.
"I don't care for the round ones," she says. "They're a little doughy."
Shipley says the flat dumplings don't turn out the same every time, but they don't need to be uniform for the dish.
When she drops the prepared dumplings into the boiling broth -- retained and strained from cooking the chicken -- she does so one at a time to keep them from sticking together.
After the dumplings cook for about 15 minutes, Shipley adds whole milk -- better than reduced-fat, she says -- to thin the mixture, then a couple of tablespoons of butter. If the dish is still too thick before serving, store-bought chicken broth may be added.
"You never know if it's going to be too thick or too thin," Shipley says.
The dish takes a little doing, she says, but her family and friends always give it rave reviews.
"I actually like to make [it]," Shipley says. "It's always a treat."
Brenda's Chicken and Dumplings
1 whole fryer or hen
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1 cup ice water
1 cup sweet (whole) milk
2 tablespoons butter
For the chicken, place a fryer into salted, boiling water. Boil until tender. Reserve the chicken broth. When chicken cools enough to handle, pick apart, retaining the white meat for the dish, and shred.
For the dumplings, put a cup of water in freezer to chill. Mix flour, soda and salt. Add shortening, cutting it in with knife or other kitchen tool until mixture becomes mealy. Add cold water. Knead dough and form into a log. Cut into thirds for ease of use and roll thirds, one at a time, into thin sheets on floured surface. Cut into 1 1/2-inch strips.
Strain broth and bring about 3 quarts to a boil. Drop dumpling strips into boiling broth, one at a time, separating each dumpling with a fork. Cook 15 minutes, then add 1 cup of sweet milk and 2 tablespoons of butter. Mix in chicken. Cover and let stand for about an hour before serving. If too thick, add broth from can or carton, a small amount at a time.
Tip: For ease, mix and cut out the dumplings with a pizza cutter the day before serving, then place on layers of wax paper. Cover with foil and freeze overnight.
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.