This month at Food ‘n Flix we watched The Help hosted by Glennis at Can’t Believe We Ate. This is actually one of my favorite movies (and books) of all times. I typically don’t enjoy movie renditions of books, but I really feel like the movie did a great job of creating the book onto film.
In The Help there’s a lot of cooking on part of the help, the maids who raise rich white families’ children, cook dinners, and get no praise or thank you for the hard work they put in. The movie is based in Jackson, Mississippi, deep in the US South. There was a lot of fried food, a lot of Crisco… In fact Minny Jackson says at one point in her cooking lessons to Celia Foote:
“Crisco ain’t just for fryin. You ever get a sticky something stuck in your hair,like gum?…That’s right, Crisco. Spread this on a baby’s bottom, you won’t even know what diaper rash is…shoot, I seen ladies rub it under they eyes and on they husband’s scaly feet…Clean the goo from a price tag, take the squeak out a door hinge. Lights get cut off, stick a wick in it and burn it like a candle….And after all that, it’ll still fry your chicken.”
That’s actually the direct quote from the book, so maybe she delivered it differently in the movie. I don’t remember.
But that quote almost convinced me to make fried chicken. And if not fried chicken, to make something else with Crisco.
But as I sat there after the movie I found myself craving my Aunt Beau’s food. My Aunt Beau is actually my great-aunt. She lived in North Carolina before she died several years ago and really has been my only influence in Southern food. The movie left me hankering for hush puppies, for deep fried soft shell crab, and most of all, for chicken and dumplings. I didn’t eat very much Southern food growing up because that influence was across the country from us. But when I did have it, it just felt good.
And it still felt good and felt right and reminded me of my Aunt Beau when I made it. This is far from being an authentic chicken and dumplings. I mean, I got it from Rachael Ray. And on top of that, I didn’t even use a full chicken. But I’m sure my aunt would appreciate me working with what I had to make something reminiscent of her.
And then I almost had to scratch the whole meal because there were bugs in my biscuit mix. Lucky I found another box in my cabinet which was unopened and didn’t have the same problem.
Chicken and Dumplings
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp chicken bouillon
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup Bisquick
1/3 cup warm water (plus more if needed)
1 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 cup frozen peas
1. Place a large pot on the stove over medium high heat. Add oil, butter, vegetables, and bay leaf. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt, pepper, and bouillon. Add flour to the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Stir broth into the pot and bring to a boil. Add the chicken to the broth and stir.
2. Place the Bisquick in a bowl and combine with water and parsley. If the mix is too thick, add more water. You want it to be fairly watery – not as thick as if you were baking biscuits. Drop tablespoonfuls of the biscuit mix into the pot, spacing the dumplings evenly.
3. Cover the pot and reduce heat to medium low. Steam for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and stir chicken and dumplings to thicken sauce. Stir the peas in, until warm. Serve in shallow bowls.
* serves 2