Last weekend my college BFF Janet came to visit me from Washington, D.C. It was pretty much the most exuberantly exhausting, laughter-filled weekend I’ve had in a long while. Pretty much the best weekend EVER, actually– in part because of the LUNCH we had on Saturday:
That’s right, in between the shopping, speakeasy cocktails, dancing, billiards, live jazz, karaoke, 4:30 a.m. diner breakfast, epic street fair and delicious brunch with sorority sisters, we managed to find the time to cook my very first recipe post for this blog: Granny’s Chicken Pastry!
The dish comes from Janet’s Granny in Eastern North Carolina (many thanks to her mom, aunts and other family members for getting the recipe to us in time), and it was really the perfect lunch meal after a long night out on the town: simple, filling, delicious and light.
Aside from being probably the easiest recipe ever, Chicken Pastry is really versatile: we thought of about a million variations you could try to add different flavors and textures (Bitter greens? Crispy bacon? Root vegetables?). I’ll probably do a follow-up post sometime in which I make this ‘Janet’s Way,’ – with parsnips, parsley, thyme, carrots, etc. – but for this post we wanted to keep things simple, just like Granny likes to make it. We’re fairly certain Chicken Pastry is unique to Eastern North Carolina, at least the version with the long, noodle-like dumplings (as opposed to your typical biscuit dumplings). Some folks call it Chicken Slick. And pretty much everyone uses store-bought, frozen pastry strips now… but not Granny– and not us, either.
Let’s get started. You will need:
- Bone-in, skin-on chicken (we used 2 legs, though next time I think I’ll use a whole chicken)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- Eggs (1-2 per serving, depending on how hungry you are)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- About 12 cups water, or enough to fully cover the chicken (other recipes I’ve seen call for a lot less water– as little as 6 cups– which I think is probably O.K., as long as you’re happy with a lot less broth)
First, boil your eggs in a small pot.
Place your chicken into a large stock pot and cover with water.
Add onions, celery, salt and pepper. Bring to a steady boil.
(Don’t forget to remove your eggs from the heat. Peel and halve them, then set them aside).
Cook the chicken and vegetables for about 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Turn the heat all the way down. Remove the chicken from the pot.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and discard it. Pull the meat off the bones and shred it into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
Take about 3/4 cup of the chicken broth you’ve made and add it to the flour, along with additional salt and pepper (lots of pepper, if you’re like Janet or her uncle. I think it could also be interesting to shave some lemon peel into the flour, perhaps?).
Knead your dough for the pastry strips.
Flour your work surface and your rolling pin.
Roll out the pastry until it’s about 1/8″ thick.
Cut your pastry into strips that are about 5″ long and about 1″ wide.
Turn the heat back up under the pot, bring to a low boil.
Add your pastry strips into the boiling broth, one by one. Gently stir between strips so that they don’t stick together.
Simmer uncovered for about about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Add your shredded chicken back to the pot, along with your eggs.
And that’s it!
A meal in a bowl. The eggs make a huge difference.
Don’t forget to add lots (as in, even more than this!) of freshly cracked black pepper before you dig in. The flavors are so simple and clean, you’ll love the peppery bite. Serves about 6-8.
… Thanks Granny (and Janet of course)!