Discovering Southern Chicken and Dumplings

Food and Travel, Ingredient, Regional Food
on March 14, 2012
Mark Boughton/styling: Teresa Blackburn

Chicken and dumplings are as ingrained in Southern culture as old fashioned apple pies and folk renditions of “Coming ‘Round the Mountain”—the song does chant “We’ll be havin’ chicken and dumplings when she comes” in the seventh verse. But what makes a dumpling dish authentically southern? The answer is in the dumplings.

Dumplings, small pieces of cornmeal, potato or flour dough cooked and served in a liquid mixture, are by no means exclusive to southern cuisine. Since they are incredibly simple to make, dumplings likely originated independently in multiple parts of the world as an affordable way to make soups more filling.

Across the states we enjoy dumplings in two forms—rolled and dropped. Though some disagree on which region claims what shape, rolled dumplings tend to be more common in the south and dropped in the north.

Dropped dumplings are pinched from the dough and cooked in chicken soup to create fluffy dough-balls while the dough for rolled dumplings is flattened with a rolling pin and cut into thin noodle-equse strips before cooking. The rolled dumplings are slippery in comparison to the ooey-gooey dropped earning them a slew of nicknames from chicken slick to chicken pastry.

While there is no ‘right’ dumpling shape, cooks across the states continue to fervently fight over which method is superior. Fortunately, debating tends to simmer at dinnertime—because whatever shape the dough may be, the dish is sure to be a home-style hit. Enjoy our take on the classics below.

—By Emily Arno