As the cold, rainy season sets in, we find ourselves wanting comfort foods; those dishes that warm us from the inside out. In the South, chicken and dumplings is one of those iconic dishes. A humble meal of sautéed vegetables, elevated by homemade chicken broth and completed with doughy dumplings that fills stomachs and hearts with gladness.
While chicken and dumplings may be “humble,” they are not just a poor man’s meal as many have come to believe. In fact, before chicken was transformed into one of the cheapest meats on the market with mass chicken production in the 1960s, chicken was actually more expensive than beef or even veal. Chickens were raised for their eggs, not their meat. Killing one to serve for a meal was reserved for special occasions, not weeknight dining. Thus, stewing a chicken was not something associated with poverty, but instead with prosperity.
An 1883 advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution publicized that Bramlett’s Famous English Kitchen and Ladies Café proudly served “Stewed Chicken with Dumplings” right alongside big ticket meals like roast beef, leg of lamb, and roasted turkey with cranberry sauce.
Last weekend, I was asked to work with Chef Zeb Stevenson of Watershed Restaurant in The Kitchen Workshop at Taste of Atlanta. While Chef Zeb taught festival-goers how to cook chicken and dumplings from scratch, I was assigned to help demonstrate how to take pictures of their dishes. The best part is that I got to see how Chef Zeb makes this classic dish, which is a popular mainstay of Watershed’s Southern-inspired menu.