Slap-together Chicken & Dumplings

Making things from scratch is a wonderful thing. All the time, love, and passion that goes in to taking base ingredients and molding them into a completed dish is something to be respected and revered.

I didn’t feel like doing all that work. I wanted to plop stuff into a pot, and boil it off.

So, here we go. Slap-together chicken and dumplings.


I took a picture of some of the ingredients. Not sure why. I was pretty sleepy.

5(ish) pounds of boneless-skinless chicken thighs.

3 32oz tetrapacks of low-sodium chicken broth

1 26oz can of cream of chicken soup

1 10oz can of cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup (couldn’t hurt right?)

2 large cans of “Grands” style buttermilk biscuits

1/2 cup AP flour

1/4 cup oil (olive/canola/blended/whatever)

2 TBSP butter or margarine

1 TBSP dried thyme (divided)

1 TSP dried parsely

1 TSP ground black pepper  (divided)

1TSP seasoned salt

1/2 TSP hot sauce (Tabasco/Texas Pete/Crystal/Louisiana/whatever)


Rinse chicken and pat dry. Trim any excess fat that hangs off. Drop the thighs into a bowl and coat them with the oil making sure to get all pieces equally covered.


Place them cut-side down on a sheet pan (foiled if you want) making sure to roll them back into their standard thigh shape. Keep the chicken as uniform in size as possible (that’ll make it cook more evenly.)


Sprinkle the chicken with all of the seasoned salt, half the thyme, and half the black pepper.

(Here’s a few more shots of raw chicken and seasonings for absolutely no reason. Did I mention I was sleepy? Also, I’m a crap photographer that likes to play with his cellphone camera.)

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Preheat the oven to 425. Once it’s up to temp, bake the chicken for 20-30 min or until internal temp is 160 degrees.


While the chicken is baking fill a large stock pot with all of the broth, both cans of soup, hot sauce, and the remainder of the spices. Make sure there’s at lease half a pot of room left for the chicken and dumplings. Cover, set on med-high heat and bring to a boil.


While our pot is heating up and the chicken is baking, lets make some dumplings. Put your 1/2 cup of AP flour into a bowl large enough to do some coating.


Pop the biscuits and separate. Cut each biscuit into 4 equal pieces.


Then drop them into the flour.


…and shake until evenly coated. Remove and reserve for later.


The flour will help thicken the stew as well as keep the dumplings from sticking together during the cooking process.


Chicken’s done! Let it rest for 20 minutes. No touchy.

(Here’s another picture of chicken. Randomness.)


Once it’s rested, get to chopping. Nice big chunks. Set these aside.


Pot should be boiling now. Add the dumplings a handful at the time until they’re all in there. You’ll probably have to sink them down with a spoon, but, be gentle. We don’t want them broken up. Bring the pot back to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through.


Once the dumplings have finished, add your butter and chopped chicken and stir lightly. After 3 minutes on the heat, cut the eye off and let sit for 5 minutes. By then the chicken should be warmed back through and you’re ready to serve.


Hmmm… never noticed that sticker on my big plastic spoon. Wonder what it’s made of? It’s survived about 300 trips through the dishwasher…

Anyways, Happy eating.


Quick Pic: Pan-Seared Salmon

Stopped by my in-laws to see my son on the way to work (I’m a day sleeper and they were babysitting) and my Mother-in-law was pan searing salmon for dinner. I realize salmon isn’t exactly “southern,” but the results were too pretty to not shoot and post.


I can confirm that they tasted as good as they look (she was gracious enough to send me off with a plate.

On the Road: The Great Southern Cafe (Summer Brunch 2013)

This summer I got the opportunity to go back to one of my favorite restaurants. The Great Southern Cafe in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. This time the trip was during brunch, so my go-to favorite the “Soul Rolls” wasn’t on the menu. (See my original post about The Great Southern Cafe from 2010) but, I wasn’t deterred. I was just happy to have the opportunity to go back to a place that I thought I would probably never see again. To be quite honest, I had been thinking about it ever since I learned that we’d be going back to the Destin area for a family vacation, months before.

Maybe I was setting myself up…

This time, the trip was lackluster at best. The waitstaff was mediocre and just seemed confused about everything they were doing (never a good sign.) The food was hit-or-miss. Polling the family I got results that spanned the line from delicious to dreadful. I’m not really sure what went wrong. Maybe only the new folks work Sunday brunches, I don’t know. The overall impression I got was that no one really cared.

I really hope that this restaurant isn’t on some downward spiral. I hate it when good places go bad. I’m holding out hope that it was just an “off” day. Every place has those. Sometimes when something little goes wrong it drags everyone down with it. (Ever seen a newscaster flub up on live TV? Watch the rest of them, they’ll all start screwing up after that. It’s a domino effect.)

That being said, if I ever get the chance to go back, I’ll probably skip brunch.

The Great Southern Cafe

83 Central Square, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459



Outside the restaurant


Inside near the bar. The restaurant is only partially enclosed. The bar and half of the seating area are on a covered patio.


Brunch menu. Summer 2013


My son was not as excited about the restaurant as the rest of us were. Well, that and he really likes to play educational games on my wife’s phone.


Mickey Mouse pancakes for my son. He was delighted.


I had “The Fisherman.” Which, to be honest, was sub-standard. The fish was dry and underseasoned. The hollandaise was thin and flavorless (how can hollandaise have no taste of butter nor lemon juice?) The eggs were, well, eggs.. but the gouda grits and biscuit were delicious. I should have nosed further into the menu, but I really had a hankering for a nice piece of fish. Unfortunately they dropped the ball (even if it was a “service” menu item purely to make vacationers happy.)


The winner of the day was my wife’s crab cake and fried green tomato benedict. It had the same bland hollandaise, but the crabcake and fried green tomatoes made up for it.

Southwestern Grits


By popular request, here’s my recipe for Southwestern Grits. (This recipe feeds an army, better grab the “big pot.”)


2 1/4 Cups of Uncooked Grits

1 Can of Chicken Broth (49.5oz)

2 Cans of Chicken Broth (8oz)

1 Can Evaporated Milk

1 Can Rotel (Drained)

1 Can Corn (Drained)

1/2 Can of Chipotles in Adobo (Minced)

1 Bell Pepper (Seeded and Chopped)

1 Medium White Onion (Chopped)

1 Poblano Pepper (Seeded and Diced)

1 tsp Kosher Salt

1 tsp Cracked Black Pepper

4 tbsp Butter (Divided)

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

1lb Shredded Cheddar

1/2 cup Whole Milk to Thin (if needed)

Start with your pot on medium head an melt 2 tablespoons of the butter to coat the bottom. Saute the green pepprer, poblano, and onion until softened. Bring the heat to medium-high and add the rotel, corn, and chipotles in adobo. Continue to saute until fragrant (about 5 minutes.) Pour all three cans of the chicken broth into the pan and make sure to to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom. Add the evaporated milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder and the remainder of the butter and bring the pot to a boil. Once boiling, hold the pot at a boil for 5-7 minutes before adding the grits. Cook grits according to package directions. Once they have cooked completely you might need to add up to a 1/2 cup of whole milk to achieve the consistency you desire. Lastly, mix the cheddar in one palmful at a time until incorporated. Serve immediately.

The Times, They are a Changin’ (The Tomato Gravy Article)

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The process is inevitable. As times change, more and more of the things people once considered a staple of their culture fade into obscurity. Changing tastes, lack of ingredients, modernization of eating habits, or lack of cooking tradition all contribute to the evolution of our cuisine. Subsequently, for one reason or another, the staples of our parents tables (or our grandparents for that matter) become a distant, nostalgic, memory.

Such is the story of tomato gravy. At least, in my family.

If you ask my mother, tomato gravy was a common accompaniment to a full breakfast in her family. Ironically, however, it was not a regular accompaniment to breakfast when she cooked for me.

Why is that?

Was tomato gravy a victim of our faster paced lifestyle? Was there a taste-change, or maybe a sense of being burned out from eating it regularly as a child? I don’t know.

I do know that once in a blue moon, my Grandmother made her tomato gravy for all of us. Usually at a family function (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter etc.) as an option for those who don’t like giblet gravy (Ooh! I smell a future post! )

Ironically, the last time I had tomato gravy was two Christmases ago at my Mothers house (remember, the one who didn’t cook it?) Which begged me to ask myself a few questions.

Internal dialog:

Do you like tomato gravy?


Is it simple to prepare?


Is it time consuming?


Are the ingredients readily available?

Yes, they’re in my pantry year round.

So why has it been two years since you’ve eaten it?


To make a long story short, I have no idea why I don’t cook this on a regular basis. Especially since my wife and I have started a family tradition of having a big home-cooked breakfast on Saturday mornings. Despite this, it eludes me. I never think “Oh I want some tomato gravy with my biscuits!” Even though if I was at a restaurant that had it on the menu, I’d slather it on a biscuit so fast it would make your head spin.

But, I digress.

For all of you who don’t know how to make this, here’s the base recipe my family uses. Only, to be completely honest, I’m guessing on the amounts. This is always been an “eyeballed” recipe due to the fact that it only requires knowledge of one cooking technique to make it. Namely, making a simple roux (something that I will more-than-likely touch on in a future post.)


¼ cup of oil (pan drippings, butter, vegetable oil)

½ cup of flour (all purpose is fine)

2 cups of milk

1 can of diced tomatoes (28oz or less, drained but not pressed out)

Salt and Black Pepper to taste


Heat oil over med/low heat until it comes up to temperature. Add flour slowly, a teaspoon at a time, shaken evenly over the surface area of the pan and stirring to combine before adding more. This is the foundation of your roux. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, until it achieves a blonds color (just slightly lighter than peanut butter. Add milk and stir to combine until smooth. Add tomatoes, and cook for around 5 minutes, until gravy has thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

As for the health conscious among you, I know your first thought was “I’ll use vegetable oil.” Go right ahead, you’ll make a great gravy. I would just ask, that for your own safety, you stop reading this article right here. I’m not responsible for what happens to you if you continue reading.

Now for the rest of us, the health heathens if you will, here’s how to give your tomato gravy that restaurant quality taste. You know how all those restaurant sauces have a huge depth of flavor and a texture almost impossible to recreate? That’s because they use clarified butter. Buy it in a store, or make your own by cooking down butter over low heat and skimming off the solids that will form. The result is a clear, yellow liquid with a nutty depth of flavor. Using this, or a combination of this and pan drippings/residue will take your tomato gravy to a whole new level of flavor.