Chicken and Dumplings — A Whitey’s Memory

I felt a bit of sadness when reading today about the closing of Whitey’s, an eating institution in East Grand Forks for more than 80 years.

Whitey’s used to be a favorite of mine for many years, but since the Flood of 1997, I’ve rarely frequented the restaurant that’s located on DeMers Avenue, just down the street from its original location.

Therese and I have had several conversations about Whitey’s in the years since the flood. She worked there as a waitress while earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees in speech pathology from UND. One thing both of us agreed on was that the food wasn’t as good as  had been before the flood.

But I’m not here to write about that or other things that may tend to shed a bad light on the well-known eatery. I want to reminisce about some of the good meals that the restaurant used to serve. The asparagus tips over toast were always one of the dishes that appealed to me. Also, the Reuben and Riverboat sandwiches were quite tasty, too. And the burgers, made from freshly ground beef each day, were hard to beat.

But my favorite food recollection has to be the chicken and dumplings, which I’ve decided to make for supper tonight. It will the perfect remedy for the below-zero temperatures we’ve been experiencing the past few days.

I remember my first half-dozen to dozen years at the Herald, starting in August 1974. Once a week, Whitey’s used to serve chicken and dumplings during the noon lunch hour. There used to be at least five to 10 of us from the Herald who would make the trek across the Sorlie Bridge for the meal every week. The chicken was always tender and the dumplings light and fluffy.

Here’s a recipe that I came across for chicken and dumplings that looks pretty good. I plan on using it as a guide, along with a few tips from Therese, who knows a bit about making the tasty meal.

Chicken annd Dumplings
1 whole chicken
1 cup onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 cup carrots, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Take skin off of a whole chicken. Put chicken in a 5-quart pot with enough water to cover it. Cook until meat easily comes off bones. Remove chicken from broth and let it cool; debone it. Cut meat into small pieces and return to broth. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, skim fat off the top. Add about 3 cups water to broth.
Saute onions and celery in small amount of oil. Add to chicken broth. Add bay leaves, thyme, marjoram and parsley. Add carrots if desired, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil before adding dumplings.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Light Dumplings
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons (rounded) fresh baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Beat eggs. Add milk, beat again. Mix and sift dry ingredients together, then stir into egg mixture. Drop by the spoonful (teaspoon) into soup that is gently boiling. Cover closely to keep in steam and cook for 15 to 20 minutes without lifting the cover. And then they’re done. Serve 1 or 2 in a bowl of soup. Can put rest in another bowl on table and then they can help themselves
Yield: 20 to 25 dumplings.

Dumpling tips
— For small dumplings, use a teaspoon to drop the dough into the boiling soup; for larger dumplings, use a soup spoon or tablespoon.
— Dumplings rise in the soup broth as they cook, so use a deep stock pot to give them room to double and triple in size.
— To add color, add a tablespoon of fresh or dried parsley to the dumpling dough.
— If you want light dumplings, don’t pack the flour when measuring it; sift the flour or softly load it in a measuring cup.
—  If dumplings get too firm, use less flour next time.