Today was a chilly VERY blustery day - my styrofoam Halloween headstone actually blew away this morning! Luckily it only blew into the side yard and wasn't too damaged. Long story short, it seemed like the perfect weather for chicken and dumpling soup. Only problem? I'd yet to find a good dumpling recipe. Until I consulted the glorious Ida Bailey Allen and her 1942 Money-Saving Cook Book.
Ida Bailey Allen is one of my favorite relatively unknown celebrity cookbook authors. She was PROLIFIC and published over 50 cookbooks in her lifetime, from 1917 to the 1973 Best Loved Recipes of the American People, published the same year she died. A food writer, magazine editor, and essentially the founder of homemaker radio (she was the president of the Radio Homemakers Association), she was also the first female food TV host with her show "Mrs. Allen and the Chef" (you can listen to clip here!).
One of the only moving images of Mrs. Allen that seems to survive on the internet is this little clip from the 1940s - a retrospective of the 1920s. Candy in tea! Who knew?
Her Money-Saving Cook Book, first published in 1940 was republished in 1942 as a Victory edition, which is the version I have. It's just a delightful cookbook - chock full of basic, easy, and inexpensive recipes, as well as a bunch of 1940s-style vegetable recipes that I can't wait to try out.
So when I was on the hunt for a dumpling recipe to go with my chicken soup, this one of the first cookbooks I consulted, and it did not disappoint. First, let's start with the chicken soup.
Scratch Chicken Soup
1 pound chicken
5 quarts water (or 4 quarts water and 1 quart chicken stock)
2-3 ribs celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
(or 1 bag mixed frozen corn, peas, and carrots)
salt & pepper to taste
Soup is always way easier than people think. It's just a matter of adding ingredients at the right time depending on how long they have to cook.
Start with the chicken. You can use boneless or bone-in, skin-on. If using boneless, substitute 1 quart of water with chicken stock for extra flavor. In a large stock pot (I used my favorite cast iron dutch oven), add the chicken, water (and/or stock), onion, celery, and carrots (if using fresh). If not using chicken broth (which is salted), add a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer, cooking until the chicken is cooked-through and the carrots are tender. About 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broth, dice, and return to the pot. Add the frozen vegetables and return to a simmer. Once the vegetables are tender, voila - chicken soup. You can now proceed to the dumpling recipe.
Ida Bailey Allen's Puffy Drop Dumplings
I didn't want to roll out the dumplings, so I used the Drop Dumpling version of the recipe. Here's the original, which turned out pretty well! I did substitute butter for the shortening. If you use salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 1/2 or 3/4 teaspoon.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
Use a balloon whisk to blend the flour, salt, and baking powder together. Cut the butter into small pieces and squish in the flour with your fingers (or cut in with a pastry blender) - there should be small chunks or streaks of butter left in the floury mixture. Then add 1 cup milk. Mrs. Allen called for a scant cup, but that wasn't quite enough - my mix was dry instead of being soft. Using a regular table or soup spoon, drop bits of dough about the size of a walnut (or a little larger) into the simmering soup. There will be a lot - submerge any exposed parts under the broth to make sure they steam properly. They'll start puffing up/breaking up almost immediately. Cover the pot and simmer for about 5 minutes. The flour from the dumplings will thicken the broth nicely.
The dumplings exceeded my expectations - being a cross between that doughy chew you expect from a nice soup dumpling and light and spongy on the inside of the larger ones. All in all - a perfect one pot supper on a blustery, chilly day.
The Food Historian blog is supported by patrons on Patreon! Join us for awesome members-only content like free digitized cookbooks from my personal collection, e-newsletter, and even snail mail from time to time!
Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.