February 19, 2016

Stirring up nostalgia with this classic vintage Chicken Stew and Dumplings recipe


Like most people, I find that there are certain foods that remind me of my childhood more than any others. Over the years, I've shared several of them (such as Hamburger Pie, Schill Family Spaghetti Sauce, and Cheddar Green Onion Cheese Ball) here with you and am sure others will follow as time goes on. In fact, we're shining the spotlight on one here today that suits these last few icy cold weeks of winter extremely well: Hearty Chicken Stew and Dumplings.

My mom makes an incredible chicken (ditto for turkey and beef, too) stew with dumplings, which was truly a cornerstone of our family meals when I was growing up. Economical, easy to freeze and reheat, and a huge crowd pleaser with everyone under our roof, this was a classic dish that I could never get enough as a youngster and which, albeit in gluten-free form, I still make each fall, winter and early spring to this very day.

There is something so powerfully comforting about the rich, creamy broth of a hearty meat and vegetable stew, which, already filling unto itself, becomes a true stick-to-your-ribs meal with the inclusion of a classic biscuit topping that is cooked right on top of the simmering liquid.

I have only to think of this dish and suddenly I'm seven years old again, coming inside from hours spent making snow forts and snow angels alike in the backyard. Or, I'm 10 and its games of street hockey in the driveway of the elegant little Edwardian house we lived in at the time. 12 and I've just gotten back from selling cases of Girl Guide cookies around our neighbourhood, and at 15, it's enjoyed with my girlfriends before we stay up into the wee hours of the night for a sleepover.

This dish represents the often forgotten warm side of winter. It hugs and comforts the stomach and soul alike. Easily multiplied for a large groups, it is equally at home when serving one person. Shortly after those aforementioned memories, I was living on my own and making meals like stew and dumplings to eek every last cent that I could out of my extremely modest income at the time.

These days, it's a fond reminder of decades past and a way for me to nourish my own family, as well - coming full circle - as my parents when they come 'round for a winter eve's dinner of stew and biscuits.

We need foods like this in our life. They don't have to be this exact dish by any means, just so long as they’re ones where we’re uplifted and filled in ways far surpassing our actual bellies by recipes that have constant companions throughout the decades. They're everyday traditions that are worth their weight and gold and which will always provoke a happy sense of nostalgia in us, while also being the bedrock for future meal related memories, too.



{This delicious mid-1950s Chicken Stew and Dumplings recipe is wonderful as it sits, but can also be modified to suit your family's tastes and what you've got in your fridge at the moment. Stews are very versatile dishes and can usually take a lot of alterations in stride, so they're well worth turning to often throughout the dark, chilly winter months, when a nourishing bowl of steaming how stew not only fills a person up, but also brightens their mood as well. Vintage recipe image source.}


Of course, if you're not a meat eater, you can easily opt instead for an equally satisfying vegetable only stew, with or without biscuits (which can easily be made vegetarian or vegan). When going this route, I'll often take things in a French or Mediterranean direction, sometimes starting with a tomato base and adding in whatever suitable veggies I have to hand at the moment.

I usually like to partner stew with a light side vegetable and/or green salad, some buns/rolls or bread for dipping up every last morsel of the delicious stew liquid, and a refreshing dessert, such as vanilla ice cream with spiced poached pears, chocolate mousse, or a chilled cheesecake afterwards, especially if I'm serving such a meal to company.

Whatever foods evoke a positive wave of nostalgia in you, I hope that you're able to tuck into at least a few this season and well on throughout the rest of the year. Such dishes remind of us of where we came from, what life was like when we were growing up, and
how important it is to keep everyday meal traditions alive even in the midst of our hectic, mile-a-minute adult lives. Something that I will definitely raise a glass - and a spoonful of stew - to anytime!

45 comments:

  1. hhhmmm!!!! this is a meal for my heart!!!
    i really love chicken in every version - in a wintery stew like here or grilled on open fire in summer with exotic sauce and salad. the add reminds me of a kitchen i once had - with deep red counter tops and red splash protection. it was a cosy place for some years......
    happy weekend! xxxxxxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same here (ditto for turkey and - my all-time favourite type of poultry meat - duck), plus, I'm so grateful that chicken is one food, in its natural state, that has never bothered any of my various medical conditions that are highly impacted by what I eat. It's a super frequent player on our table and I love that it can be such a blank canvas for a million and one possible dishes. I wish you lived nearby and I could invite you 'round for a hearty chicken dinner during these last few icy cold weeks of winter, dear Beate (and naturally we'd save some scraps of meat for our kitties to both enjoy :)).

      Tons of hugs & happy last week of February wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
    2. we would LOVE to dine with you and your little family of tony, stella & annie!!! <3
      xxxx B.&L.

      Delete
  2. It's always funny seeing old recipes when they are in breach of health and safety - 'wash the chicken' - our supermarket chickens these days come with big stickers on saying 'DO NOT WASH' because of the spread of disease that causes. Am sure the stew itself is delicious though! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent observation! It really is fascinating how many things have changed on the food safety (and prep) front over the years. The prolific use of raw eggs in yesteryear dishes, for example, is one that always jumps out at me (granted, if they're fresh and from healthy birds and the person eating it has a strong immune system, there's relatively little risk, but still, having grown up being told never to do so, the idea of eating raw eggs always gives me pause for thought).

      Many hugs & happy tail end of February wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  3. My mom grew up in the 50s so I grew up with meals very similar to this. She used to make dumplings too and they were the best I ever had. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yum! They sound awesome! Chicken and dumplings (as well as beef stew with dumplings) was a standard when I was growing up, too. It's awesome that so many of us who adore/appreciate vintage today were raised by parents and grandparents who were still cooking all kinds of classic mid-century (and/or earlier) dishes for us during our youths. I'm certain that the fact that such rang true for me had a direct impact on my passion not only for mid-century foods, but for cooking and the culinary arts in general.

      Big hugs & many thanks for your great comment,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  4. I have vegetarian stew and dumplings in the slow cooker right this moment, Andy adores it xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh lovely! That sounds so tasty and absolutely ideal for these nippy days of late February.

      Oodles of hugs, sweet Melanie,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  5. I love the thought of recipes as constant companions following us from one decade to the next. This is such a timely post as I've been craving stew and dumplings for a few days now, perhaps I'll try my hand at this recipe this weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't such an intriguing concept, isn't it? So dishes will be us for virtually our entire lives and that aspect of food downright fascinates me, both as a home chef and as a lover of history (and genealogy).

      I hope it turns out splendidly for you, if you do give this hearty dish a spin.

      Many hugs & thanks for your terrific comment,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  6. I love meals like this, that bring back so many memories. They're just the best!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely!!! I'm a very nostalgic person by nature, but few things stir the pot that is my memories quite like food, especially when it involves dishes/ingredients that played a starring role in my childhood.

      Big hugs & many thanks for your lovely comment,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  7. I always look forward to my mom's chicken and dumplings. It's so comforting, especially when it's cold outside :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aren't dishes like this, though? They're akin to cuddly hugs for your tummy. :)

      I hope that your week is off to a great start, dear gal. Thank you very much for your lovely comment,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  8. *claps her hands*
    This is the ESSENCE of family joy in Vojvodina (the region of Serbia where I live!). No Sunday is a real without hearty soup!
    I have just opened an old cook-book (belonged to my dad's mom) and found a recipe for "chicken soup" that starts from a very beginning:
    "You can find a good, slaughtered and cleaned chicken at your local Farmer's Market; but in case you buy a live bird, you must proceed as follows..."
    (comes a description HOW to get the bird from a live state to the state of being ready to put it into "a LARGE pot" as it states in the book). Plucking included.
    Ohhh... :))))
    I apologize to those who are disgusted by this, but it makes me laugh every time - have YOU ever came across a "how to" pluck a bird? :)
    ...
    Thank you for this, I needed a giggle.
    (not that there is ANYTHING funny about chicken soup, no madam!)
    M.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How wonderful that hearty, stick-to-your rib dishes like this are still an integral part of the culinary scene in your area.

      Isn't that cool! I've encountered such before in vintage cookbook and household management books and it does seem a bit alien to many of us in the 21st century for sure. For better or worse, most of us do not process our own meat and poultry at home any more and in a way, it's one of many (largely) lost daily arts of decades and centuries past (like, for example, churning butter would another such job in the same vein).

      Thank you very much for great comment. I hope that these final days of February are treating you kindly, sweet Marija.

      Tons of hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  9. I am really wanting to try this out, but with fake chicken from a Dutch brand The Vegetarian Butcher. They make amazing meat substitutes, and their chicken really comes close to the real deal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds awesome! It's wonderful how far the immitation meat world has come in recent years. I hope that this classic dish turns out wonderfully for you, if you give it a spin, lovely Lindsay.

      Big hugs & happy tail end of winter cooking,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  10. Dear Jessica,

    Oh how many wonderful memories for you and this delicious meal! Life is just better with warm chicken stew. I'd like to have a bowl of it with fresh homemade bread and a salad :) Love the photo.

    ♥Hope

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it though? Comforting, filling and so sublimely scented. It's winter and early spring in a bowl for me, big time. If only we lived nearby, dear Hope. I would invite you over for just such a meal anytime!

      Many hugs & happy Wednesday wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  11. I love all kinds of stews and hearty foods such as meat and potato pie. Funnily enough ive just made a batch of shepherds pie and beef cobbler for my freezer. Family recipes are so precious along with the memories they help to create, it brings joy to my heart to hear of how your mother cherished you in this wonderful way. Thank you for such a heartwarming and mouthwatering post xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those both sound absolutely, positively delicious. Meat cobblers are an under appreciated area of the culinary spectrum, if you ask me.

      Thank you very much for your wonderfully lovely comment, sweet Emily. It, in turn, warms my heart to know that this post resonated so deeply with you.

      Big hugs & joyful end of February wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  12. Hello Jessica, how nice that your thinking toward food. The food seen as a vehicle of feelings and memories, I believe that this is the most important part, the one that affects our lives, our traditions, our roots ...
    This made me feel a pleasant nostalgia for some Sundays, when there were my grandparents, and the five of us ate together as if it were the most natural thing in the world and safe. But nothing in life is granted, unfortunately ... The dish that brings me back to childhood for me is the minestrone Pisan prepared by my grandmother: it is a wonderful and rich dish, yet so simple, a poor traditional peasant dish. Its warm color and the vegetables are well dosed, was a real comfort to the stomach and the heart! How I miss my grandmother Marisa!
    A good Saturday evening my sweet Jessica!
    Here at last (after a terrible storm last night) is a magnificent sun!

    serena

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A storm in February, you say - I'm sure that must have been a powerful sight indeed. You might encounter a blizzard here, but a thunder storm would be a true rarity in February. So long as one is safe inside and it isn't powerful to the point of causing serious damage, I personally adore storms. There was a summer lightening storm with 24 hours of my birth and the romantic side of me likes to believe I've felt a strong tie to storms ever since then. I usually sense them coming and get the biggest boost in energy before they arrive. It's awesome! :)

      Thank you very much for your wonderfully lovely comment, dear Serena, and for sharing some of your own treasured memories with me (and all of us) here.

      Tons of hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  13. I do like stew and dumplings in the cold weather. It is a dish that has childhood memories for me too as my mum used to make it quite regularly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How wonderful! What are some other foods from your youth that stir up heaps of nostalgia for you now these days, my sweet friend?

      Big hugs & happy tail end of February wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
    2. Shepherd's pie, pasta bake, any kind of fruit crumble and custard and tomato soup with cheese scones are other foods that bring back memories. How about you?

      Delete
    3. Yummmmm!!! Thanks for asking. :) There's a lot of foods, honestly, but some that jump out at me off the top of my head today (aside from those mentioned here in this post) are stroganoff, chocolate cake with marshmallow (aka, 7-minute) frosting, a Sunday roast with popovers/Yorkshire pudding, lots of different handmade soups, a classic baking powder biscuit (in the North American sense of that word) called cloud biscuits, heavily iced sugar cookies for various holidays, eggs-in-a-nest, coconut and raisin cookies, and various homemade jams, apple sauce and canned fruits.

      Okay, I'm officially hungry now! :D

      Hope your week is off to a great start, my sweet friend!

      xoxo ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  14. Yum Chicken and Dumplings, sounds good and a great meal when one is feeling under the weather. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure, lovely Akram. This really is an excellent dish when one is feeling poorly, I agree. Served up with some herbal tea or an ice cold glass of ginger ale, it would set most winter bugs packing in no time!

      Big hugs & happy end of February wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  15. Yum, love a chicken stew. Has to be one of my favourites for winter of all time. So easy, but so tasty! If I ever do get a slow cooker (which I'm seriously pondering), I'm pretty sure a chicken stew will be the first thing I make in it! Hope you're doing well this week and that the end of your computer troubles are in sight xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same here! It's one of those cold weather foods that I could absolutely live off of all season long. Slow cookers rock! I don't actually have one at the moment myself (largely because of a lack of space for it in our wee kitchen), but I've owned them in the past and really can't sing their praises highly enough.

      The new laptop should be arriving very soon and though I know there will be a wee adjustment period (I've never been one who feels instantly well acquainted with a new computer), I'll be throwing myself back into my usual happenings as soon as it is set up - even if I'm typing at 1/10th my usual speed, LOL, until I'm accustomed to the new keypad and trackpad on it. :)

      Tons of hugs & happy Wednesday wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  16. Replies
    1. How lovely! Sunday roasts (beef, pork, chicken, etc) were another staple that I grew up with, albeit much more so in the earlier days of my childhood (and also at my grandparent's house). Drippings, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, the whole scrumptious kit and caboodle! :)

      Big hugs & many thanks for all of your wonderful blog comments here this month,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  17. I love stew and dumplings. Chicken and bacon is my favourite, though I also make beef stews. I always make my dumplings with self-raising flour, suet and water. So good! So filling!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So many yums!!! Chicken and bacon are incredibly together. Thank you for the delicious reminder of how nicely a spot of bacon goes with chicken stew and pies.

      Many hugs & happy end of February wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  18. So interesting, I never had chicken stew, but I've chicken soup hundreds of times. I'm a little curious as to what the consistency is like. Is it just much thicker?
    xx Belle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great question! It can be, yes. More like a chowder or thick bisque most traditional chicken soups (especially those without cream or milk). It's absolutely delicious and I bet you'd love it, sweet lady.

      Big hugs & many thanks for your comment,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  19. Mmm... I agree: dishes like this transport us back to our childhood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't they though! What are some others that instantly whisk you back to your youth, Ally?

      Have a fabulous last week of February!
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  20. Ooh, thank you for posting this! There really is nothing better than chicken and dumplings, especially in the winter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure, sweet lady. Absolutely! It is so wonderfully warm and comforting. I love chicken stew (and chicken potpie) so much that I've even been known to make them during the dog days of summer (albeit in the case of the potpie, often served cold).

      Big hugs & happy Wednesday wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete
  21. You're so absolutely right, stews and soups are perfect autumn and winter dishes. I'll ask DH to make something like this one day, here in Denmark it is still wintery cold although I'm in a springy mood. DH gives me a new green house as silver wedding gift (I don't want diamonds), and my landscape gardener son has lots of fantastic plans - I can hardly wait. Have a lovely evening, dear. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We're still more firmly planted on the winter side of the seasonal border, too - though, to be fair, February was much more rainy than snowy (which is quite unusual around these parts).

      What a spectacular silver anniversary gift! My happiest congratulations to you both on this milestone event (Tony and I will almost reach the halfway point of such this year when we celebrate 12th wedding anniversary in October).

      Big hugs & many thanks for your terrific comments this weekend,
      ♥ Jessica

      Delete