Just because folks live near the ocean doesn't mean they eat seafood all the time. Especially when home is someplace like the Eastern Shore, an area as well known for its chicken farms as its crab boats.
Which explains why the residents of Sussex County, Del., (including those living in the shore towns of Dewey Beach, Rehoboth and Lewes) proudly lay claim to chicken and slippery dumplings as one of their regional specialties. And why not? It's really something worth crowing about.
As any Sussex County cook can tell you, a meal of chicken and slippery dumplings consists of basic baked chicken served with a side dish that looks something like floating bits and pieces of lasagna noodles. Actually, the concoction is dumpling dough that has been rolled and cut into squares, then cooked in plenty of chicken broth. The broth makes the cooked dumplings slippery, while also providing a savory sauce/gravy for the accompanying chicken.
A variation on the recipe (some say created on the Maryland portion of the Delmarva peninsula) turns the dish into chicken and slippery dumpling soup. To do so, more broth, celery leaves, and pieces of cooked chicken are added while the dumplings cook and -- voila` -- the side dish become a one-pot meal.
Either way -- as a side dish or as a soup base -- slippery dumplings are worth cooking, or at least sampling in a home-style restaurant or church supper next time you're at the shore.
Fortunately, this is one regional dish that's still served in the area where it originated. Gloria Hardesty, the Sussex County native who provided the following recipe, also passes it along to her home economic classes at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes.
SLIPPERY DUMPLINGS (6 servings)
2 cups unsifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
6 to 9 tablespoons very cold water
3 1/2 quarts seasoned chicken broth
Mix flour and salt together. Cut in the shortening. Add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, and stir well. Continue adding water until a soft dough is formed and the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl.
Roll the dough out as thinly as possible on a well-floured surface. (Using plenty of flour allows the dough to be rolled very thin.) Cut the dough into 2-inch squares.
In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. (For additional gravy, up to 2 cups more chicken broth can be added.) While maintaining a boil and stirring, add dumplings to the broth until all the dumplings are added. (Maintaining the boil helps keep the dumplings from sticking to each other.)
Reduce heat; cook for 15 minutes. Serve with baked chicken.
Per serving: 227 calories, 4 gm protein, 32 gm carbohydrates, 9 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 90 mg sodium.