Our son-in-law Tom likes to watch American’s Test Kitchen. His quiet enthusiasm has led me to watch whenever I can. Compliments of the Public Broadcasting System, it airs in my area and I think of Tom often when I watch. Not only do we see delectable recipes being demonstrated, but we learn a bit about the science of why one ingredient works better than another, how products like canned peeled tomatoes are rated, or what the best bang for your buck is if you are looking for a stand mixer.
It was while I was up in Minnesota visiting that I saw an episode on chicken and dumplings that set my taste buds afloat and brought to mind my Aunt Babe, who made the most delectable dumplings I ever set my teeth into. Aunt Babe, Isabelle, was my mother’s older and only sister.
Babe was a force to reckon with. Often the instigator of family spats, she could cut you down to size in an instant. She could also be your greatest ally. I was afraid of Aunt Babe as a child. I sometimes resented her when I was I young adult and she moved in with my mother. I grew to love her as a woman and mother.
Aunt Babe would call me on my birthday or holidays, then she would call me more frequently. Eventually, I realized she was repeating herself more and more in the course of a conversation and that she was calling me at odd times. Since she was calling from Michigan, I worried about the cost and asked her daughter if she was aware of how often Aunt Babe was calling me. It was sad to not hear from her as much after that. Her phone bills, it seems, were exorbitant – and she was calling others as well. Eventually, the calls stopped. I miss her gruff “yyyyellow” as a greeting, instead of hello, or picking up the phone to hear “doing?” Her wicked laugh and role as family historian stilled. Her storytelling and good food, however, remain in my heart and mind.
Aunt Babe had given me some recipes when she heard I was putting together cookbooks for my girls. I still have them, in her own script. She was known to leave out ingredients or steps. The little touches that make good recipes great. Aunt Babe never shared with me her recipe for dumplings, but the ones being made on America’s Test Kitchen looked a lot like hers.
I’ve had a hankering for chicken and dumplings ever since I saw them on American’s Test Kitchen. I was intrigued by the use of a dish towel, under the lid as the dumplings cooked to capture the steam. The use of buttermilk and baking soda with the flour sounded like they would float on air. The weather had turned cold, the days had shortened, and my appetite was whetted, so I found the recipe in “The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook” and set out to try my hand at these dumplings.
I can almost see Aunt Babe, nodding approval and smiling down at me.
Yum! You can find the recipe here. For vegetarians, they would be good floating in vegetable broth.
We’re on the road again, headed back up to Minnesota. I wonder if another recipe with a tasty memory will find me there.