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Remembering Mom-Mom: Chicken and Dumpling Soup

Posted Jul 12 2012 12:00am
Funerals are weird.  I can't say that I know anyone who's ever looked forward to going to one.  They're sad and depressing and I am definitely an ugly crier.  No one needs to see that.

In my mind, one of the only good things about funerals is it gives you a chance to remember all the wonderful things about the person who's passed.  Such was the case at Mom-Mom's memorial yesterday.

Mom-Mom was the mother of my mom's good friend, who was also my nanny.  My memories of Mom-Mom are kind of like a patchwork quilt; different patterns that stick out in between the blurry hubbub of the rest of my childhood.  I can't tell you how often I saw Mom-Mom when I was growing up; I'm not sure if I went to her house regularly or if it was more sporadic.  But I do remember her house.  I remember the day I realized it was the same layout as my nanny's, just reversed.  I remember the basket full of hair ties that we would use to play with each other's hair.  I remember the sound of I Love Lucy reruns on the TV.  I remember the smell of chicken and dumpling soup.

Mom-Mom always made me chicken and dumpling soup when I was sick.  Nothing special, just the canned Campbell's variety, but it always made me feel better.  I'm pretty sure I pretended to be sick a few times just to be able to go to Mom-Mom's and eat that soup.

She had a little Scottish terrier - I think his name was Einstein - who I don't remember ever seeing, I just remember being scared of him.  I think they kept him in a crate when there were a lot of kids around, in the same room where I would play Pitfall on the Atari and try not to get eaten by the 8-bit crocodiles.

Mom-Mom would take these long naps on her recliner in the living room, while we played on the floor or the couch.  Just when we thought we could get away with doing something naughty, she would magically stir and, keeping her eyes closed, say, "I'm just resting my eyes," and we knew better than to test that statement.

The thing I remember the most about Mom-Mom was her smile.  It was the kind of smile that took up her whole face, reducing her eyes to happy little squinty lines.  I loved that smile.  She lived that smile.

I don't remember her ever getting mad.  I just remember her loving me, and treating me like family.

When I took communion at her memorial service, I tasted love - and chicken and dumpling soup.

Chicken and Dumpling Soup (in memory of Mom-Mom)
(Serves 4 - 6.  Dumpling recipe via Olga's Flavor Factory )

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 10 baby carrots, minced
  • 4 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 medium white onion, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 7 cups low sodium chicken stock (or broth), divided (6 c and 1 c)
  • 1 lb uncooked chicken tenderloin or breast, cut into small chunks
  • 6 T unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c cake flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the minced carrots, celery, onion, salt and pepper and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and fresh herbs, stir, and cook an additional 1 - 2 minutes.
  3. Add 6 cups of stock or broth and turn the heat back up to medium-high.  Bring to a boil.
  4. Add the chicken, using a spoon to break the chunks apart.  Cover and gently boil for 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the dumpling dough: Bring 1 cup of stock, the butter, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan.  Set the heat on low and add the flour.  Stir gently for a couple of minutes until the dough pulls away from the saucepan into a smooth ball.  Transfer the dough to a mixer bowl and mix on low for a few minutes to let the dough cool.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until they are smoothly incorporated into the dough.  Continue stirring either with the mixer paddle or by hand until the ingredients are well incorporated.  Transfer the dough to a Ziploc bag and snip off one of the bottom corners.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium.  Uncover the soup and gently squeeze out the dumpling dough from the open corner of the Ziploc bag, using either your finger or a knife to cut the dough at 1/2 - 1-inch intervals (creating small dumplings).  Move the bag around the pan to spread out the dumplings.  You can also use a wooden spoon to gently separate the dumplings if they start to stick together.  Cover again and simmer for about ten minutes.  The dumplings will plump a little and create a nice top layer to the soup.
  7. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with fresh parsley.  Enjoy.

Eat well.
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