While it is not unusual for me to proudly proclaim my Kentucky heritage, there are a few things that, like Kentucky’s hot browns and Ale-8, Georgia has all to its own. I’m going to address one of them today, and that is chicken mull.
Yes, indeedy, you read that right: mull. Not unlike “church fluff” and “funeral potatoes” in its own right, chicken mull is something you’ll often see at a church potluck or family gathering, usually in the colder months (when they make an appearance). It is also one of those foods that just doesn’t venture too far from its origins – chicken mull, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t exist far out of North Georgia, quite possibly not even out of the general Athens area. I know it definitely didn’t exist in my houses when I was growing up. Chicken and dumplings, chicken and stars, chicken noodle – chicken mull was nowhere to be found. Don’t confuse it with chicken stew, which is a different animal altogether. Stew involves vegetables, is mostly broth and leaves out the cream.
Though the origins of chicken mull elude me, I can be fairly sure that it was created in a time of a short-listed pantry. It’s pretty simple to make – shredded chicken, stock or broth, milk, crackers and salt and pepper. If you buy a whole chicken, as seen here, instead of chicken in a can and stock in a box (or can), you add cooking time but save money – poaching the chicken gives you plenty of stock and more than enough meat, but requires shredding by hand and straining the stock (my preference) before adding the meat and remaining ingredients into your liquid. You also have the option in such case to control what goes into your mull – always a plus in my book. The frugality appeal is what has made it so popular as a church potluck – cheap and easy, in monstrously gigundous rather large quantities if needed.
(Behold, my ugly CrockPot. Ahem.)
Mull is comfort food at the top of the list – creamy, thick and velvety on the tongue. Easy to make, and enough for leftovers to eat the next day or freeze for another time. Fix it with a salad and have a full meal. The best way to eat it is hot out of the pot, with a generous helping of Texas Pete (no Tabasco, please), and maybe some extra crackers.
A Family Recipe
One whole roasting chicken (4-5 lbs)
2-3 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cans of evaporated milk or 3 1/2 cups milk or cream
2-3 sleeves of Ritz (or crackers of choice)
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil chicken in deep stockpot or crockpot, with enough water to cover, until meat is done and tender. Remove chicken from stock, let cool enough to handle, and shred meat from the bone. Strain stock back into cooking pot, add shredded meat, milk and additional broth. Let cook to a simmer, add crushed crackers and salt and pepper, and cook to desired thickness. Add more crackers if needed. Serve with hot sauce and extra crackers if desired.
It really is as simple as that. More crackers means a thicker mull; using milk or cream means a richer mull than using evaporated milk. It’s extremely forgiving, and very tasty. I promise you won’t regret making it the next cold night that comes around!