Lupie’s, Chicken and Dumplings and Stuff!
In Charlotte, there is a landmark restaurant called Lupie’s Cafe. It is named Lupie’s after the owner, Lupie Duran. This comfort food goldmine serves such diner classick as Cincinnati Chili, burgers and vegetables that, in my option, are some of the best in the Queen City. Each week night there is a daily special. Spaghetti, meatloaf, etc. Typical diner meals on the cheap but on Thursdays stuff gets real! Thursdays at Lupie’s means chicken and dumplings! The line is usually out of the door and around the corner of the old building on 7th street in the Elizabeth neighborhood. The building is sturdy and eclectic in its decor. There is a sunroom like structure that has one 6 top table. For many years, there was whst appeared to be a bullet hole in the glass front window. A couple of years ago, a hit-and-run driver ran into the front part of the diner and they had to have it rebuilt. I do believe the bullet hole is gone. The neighborhood borders Uptown and in the ever up and coming Elizabeth neighborhood. Parking can be a problem so you should go early on Thursdays.
As you walk inside to a dimly lit room with the required squeaky wood floors, the glorious scent hits you. Chicken and dumplings! Ahhhh! Looking to the back of the room, you can see the cooks at the range. The Masters of Dumplings! You are seated on wooden tables reminiscent of The Waltons’ family table. You may be sitting next to a biker covered in tattoos or a bank VP in a suit and heels. Who knows. The menus are on the table but you won’t need one on Thursdays because most people know what they want. Your only decision would be your 2 sides. A large hunk of cornbread comes on the side of your meal. Mac and cheese is side #1 for me. If it’s warm, I get cukes for side #2. If it’s cool, green beans. A sweet tea is always good to drink while you wait for your meal. The tea is a little sweet so I usually get half and half. Sweet tea in North Carolina is so sweet it can be served with pancakes. Tea at Lupie’s is served in a Mason jar. I love it! North Carolina moonshine! Beer is available also.
The wait always seems long but it is not. It is just the anticipation of having that bowl of steaming dumplings and the two sides placed in front of you. You butter up the cornbread and take another sip of tea then place a spoonful of the dumpings in your mouth. You want to be sure to get a dumping, a little chicken and some of the gravy on your spoon for the first bite. Oh sweet Mary, it is heaven!
From where I live now, Lupie’s is quite a drive. Thursday night is choir night for the Staff Photographer so I don’t get by as often as I used to when I lived in the city. What is a chicken and dumpling loving girl to do? Make her own! The following is the recipe I have perfected over the years. Here are a few “rules” I follow when making chicken and dumpling:
- You can use store-bought stock if you want but it is so much better with homemade stock. I will get a rotisserie chicken on Sunday quite often. They are on special at Harris Teeter on Sundays. On Sunday, we will have the chicken with rice or potatoes and green beans (or another veggies). Monday, I will make Curry Chicken Salad (recipe will follow in another post). That is two meals but there is usually plenty more chicken left on the bone. I pick off as much of the chicken as I am able, chop it and put it in a bowl.
- Stock: Get a large pot and add about 5 cups of water. Turn the heat on to medium. Add about 1 teaspoon of salt and what is left of the chicken intact, bones and all. While the pot is heating, wash 2 stalks celery, 2 carrots and the outside of one onion. I chop the onion into quarters skin and all. Those roots have great flavors and you will strain out everything later. Rough chop the cleaned celery (leaves and all) and cleaned carrots (roots and all). If you have FRESH thyme add 2-3 sprigs. In my opinion, dried thyme is not worth it but you can use it if you want. Thyme is very easy to grow in a container garden and yields a lot! Add all to the pot and cover with a lid. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a slow simmering boil turning the heat down to medium low for about 20 minutes. Place a large bowl in your sink with a large strainer. Turn off the heat and carefully remove the lid. Let the stock cool for about 5 minutes then remove the chicken to a plate with forks or tongs as the chicken will still be hot. Take the pot to the sink and CAREFULLY pour the contents into the strainer. Remove the strainer to your other sink or a plate after shaking the strainer into the bowl lightly to get all the liquid that you can. Put the contents from the bowl (the stock) and pour into the pot. This is the best stock and it has a much richer flavor than store bought.
2. After the chicken has cooled, pick all the chicken off of the old bird that you can. Rub the pieces of chicken through your fingers to ensure you do not get bones in your chicken. Pick off the white and dark meat. It is all good. Add the picked chicken to the bowl with chicken you picked off earlier, shread and hand mix.
3. You now have the stock and chicken and you are ready to use the recipe below. Again you can just use your favorite store bought stock, boil or bake your chicken or use leftover chicken.
Pin photo courtesy of tiphero.com
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- I/8 teaspoon pepper (optional)
- 1 cup buttermilk (or regular milk with one tablespoon lemon added)
- 4 cups of stock (from recipe above of store bought)
- 3 cups of chicken (from the rotisserie or chicken breasts cooked and shredded)
- 1 carrot, cleaned and minced
- 1 celery stalk, cleaned and minced
- 1/2 onion, peeled and minced
- Mix the flour, butter, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
- Use a fork or a pastry cutter cut the butter into the dry ingredients.The butter should look like little B-Bs.
- Stir the buttermilk into the flour mixture until it forms a ball. I often dig in with my hands working the dough gently.
- Place the dough ball onto a heavily floured surface.Pat out and finish with a floured rolling pin, rolling until the dough is about 1 1/2 inches thick.
- Using a knife or a Pizza cutter, cut into desired shape.I like to cut long strips then cut into about 2-3 inch pieces.
- Using the leftover flour, dredge each piece in flour adding flour if needed and place on a cookie sheet in single layers. If you like gummy dumpling like Cracker Barrel, let the dumplings "dry" for about an hour.
- When you are ready to cook, return the pot with the stock to stove and let the liquid come to a light boil.
- Add the vegetables and cook about 10 minutes until celery is done.
- Start to drop the dumplings, dredging through more flour as you go, into the stock. Do not shake off excess flour. The flour will thicken the stock.
- Cook for about 15-20 minutes until nice and gummy!
- Add the shredded chicken and stir. Cook about one addition minute to ensure the chicken is warm. Remove from the heat.
- Spoon the chicken and dumplings into bowls and left them cool for five minutes.Finish up your sides and place them on the table. Put the dumplings on the table and you are ready for dinner.
- You don't have to add additional veggies but it is a yummy way to get them in and they add additional flavor.
- Mince the veggies and the kiddos usually won't complain with all the dumpling yumminess!
- Onions are the one thing kiddos often do not like. Even for adults, who wants to bite into a big chunk of onion in their dumplings? If you have onion haters, use a microplane and grate them in with no one being the wiser. All that onion goodness and none of the tears!