My grandparents owned a butcher shop in Evansville, Ind.–it sounds like it must’ve been an early grocery store–so there was always good eating in their home. Following is a recipe passed to my mom from her mom, Maxine Kissel. I remember being a little girl and watching Mom roll these out–a crucial memory in the success of this recipe, because here’s the thing:
These are the best dumplings ever.
Better than the Amish dumplings in pricey tourist traps, better than the frozen briquettes in the grocery store.
How could one woman’s flour and water differ so dramatically from another’s? There are two secrets. First, remember how I watched my mom roll out dough? She rolled them thick, say, between a fourth and an eighth of an inch. While experimenting with the recipe, I got carried away and rolled them to a half inch. You guessed it: The dumplings swelled in water, and I was left with an inedible pot of damp bread.
The second secret: Boil cheap parts of chicken for these dumplings; fat enhances the flavor. Healthy? No, but remember, my German-American ancestors worked long, hot, hard days: Their food needed to fill and fortify. Eat these dumplings, and you’ll feel like you could conquer a country. Of course, they ate less than we do: The recipe below fed a family of eight; I had to double it to feed two adults and four children. Wonderfully, the dumplings freeze perfectly, so you can thaw them for a home-cooked triumph on your busiest days.
Kissel family recipe dumplings
Mix 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside. Beat 1 egg, stir in 2 tablespoons milk and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add to flour mixture. Stir until mixed together to form a ball.
If too dry, add more milk. If too wet, add a little flour.
Dust wax paper and rolling pin with flour. Roll out the mixture on the wax paper. Cut in squares with a regular place knife. If time, let them dry. Add them to a pot of boiled chicken and a cup or two of chicken bouillon, boil twenty minutes, and–as my grandparents would’ve said, “Das ist gut!”