My parents both spent most of their growing up years in or around the waters of South Carolina. Dad’s heart is in the marsh and Mom’s toes (literally and figuratively), the sand. Dad often says that God created the South Carolina low-country last, everything before that was just practice.
Mom and Dad moved inland to metro-Atlanta when they were a very young couple. It was not supposed to be a permanent move, but then babies and life happened, so here we stayed. But when my brother and I were kids and on up into our teen years, we spent many summers on the beach in Surfside, S.C. where my maternal grandparents had a house.
We would fill the tiny beach house with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and the occasional stow-away friend, bathe babies in the sink, walk barefoot to and from the beach, read Nancy Drew while laying on the sand, rinse our feet with the water hose, dry our towels on the porch railings. Our summers were the stuff dreams are made of.
Just a few miles away from Third Avenue South is Pawley’s Island. An incredible place where the land meets both the ocean and the marshes. It’s in our blood. When I get to this spot on the planet, I breathe in the salty, marshy air and let it heal me.
This year the family rented a house on Pawley’s for a mini-reunion. My grandmother still lives close by, but most of the rest of us are in Georgia now. It had been years since all the cousins had been together with our grandmother, so this trip was really to rectify that problem.
We spent a lot of time sitting around in our pajamas and letting the breeze blow through that house, while making massive amounts of coffee and eating my aunt’s homemade cinnamon rolls. I was asked to take care of dinner one evening of the trip, which I was more than happy to do. I chose to make Chicken and Dumplings, because it’s October and that’s comfort food time. It also would be enough for a crowd and keep for leftovers the next day.
The Chicken and Dumplings
This recipe is one I originally borrowed from Guy Fieri. But I have been making it so long now, and adapted certain things along the way, so I consider it mine now. It’s a favorite among my friends and family, I’ve made it for several family dinners and a few people request it as soon as the weather turns chilly.
I am calling this one “Low-Country” because that’s where I made this particular batch and I wanted to honor that and my grandmother, who loved it and took the leftovers home with her when the rest of us had to head westward away from the water. I consider that a huge compliment.
For the Soup:
- 10 cups of chicken stock (homemade if possible, see post here for my recipe)
- 2 lbs cooked, shredded or chopped chicken
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 stalk of celery with leaves, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup of butter
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
For the Dumplings:
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 4 tsps baking powder
- 4 tsps sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 2 tsps dried herbs (I used dill and thyme)
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup melted butter
Heat all the stock in a large dutch oven over medium heat.
In a sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom and the diced veggies. Sauté till the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes) and then add the garlic and crushed red pepper, sauté for another minute. Then add the veggies to the warm stock.
Add the butter to the same sauce pan and when completely melted, add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Then slowly ladle about 2 cups of the hot stock to the roux, combining. Then add the mixture back into to the stock and veggies and combine. Add the cream and chicken to the soup and keep at a low simmer while you make the dumplings.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the dumplings. In a separate medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients, adding the butter last.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and very gently fold together with a spatula until just combined. (Don’t over mix!)
Using two spoons, shape the dough into golf ball sized biscuits and drop them into the hot soup. Cover with a tight fitting lid and allow the dumplings to cook for 15 – 20 minutes over low heat.
Ladle into bowls and serve hot. Provide some various hot sauces for your guests if they like a little more heat. It’s great with a touch of Tabasco.
Take your bowl of dumplings out to the porch.
The front porch view is the beach and the ocean. There are rocking chairs, porch swing and a hammock. The breeze is coming off the ocean and it’s just chilly enough for the hot soup to really feel like it’s warming your soul.
The back porch is screened in, but since all the doors are open the breeze is coming right through the house from the beach side. You can see the grasses blowing in the wind, while the egrets and your father fish in the marsh.
I was born and raised on a Carolina sea island and I carried the sunshine of the low-country, inked in dark gold, on my back and shoulders. ~ Pat Conroy