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Mariliyn Hagerty: Soup's on

More than 400 attended the annual soup supper at Grand Forks Air Force Base. There were 33 pots of soup entered in this year's competition.

And the winner was: Master Sgt. Scott Harris with his version of chicken dumpling soup.

This week, the Eatbeat digresses from restaurant reviews with a report from the Oct. 4 soup dinner at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center.

The soup supper has been running for 11 years. It's a tradition on the base. It's the biggest event of the year for the center, where ongoing classes are available. And there's help for those preparing for deployment. At this time, the center is working with an estimated 1,600 military personnel on base and around Grand Forks, along with a couple hundred civilians.

The chicken and dumpling soup was quickly gone. The event was billed to run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., or whenever the soup ran out. All of the soup was eaten before 6 p.m., according to Cheryl Anderson. She's director of the Airmen & Family Readiness Center on the base.

The soup supper draws families and many of the single airmen on base. They wend their way through an array of soups. They vote on their favorites. They meet up with friends. Children play.

While Harris has no precise recipe, he said he uses chicken breasts in a homemade stock made with celery, carrots and onion. He says he lets it go for a little while, then pulls the chicken out to cool. For his dumplings, he uses the basic ingredients of flour, salt, butter and baking powder. He rolls the dough flat and thin. He uses a pizza cutter to create ½- to 1-inch squares.

He puts them in the stock, he said, for 15 minutes of cooking. He makes the stock with cornstarch and water. Then he "eyeballs it." Next he adds cream and milk. Then the chicken goes back in the pot after it's shredded into bite sized pieces.

"Everything back in the pot and done," he told me. "Most soups are better the next day."

Harris has been cooking his whole life, learning from his mother, Laurie Harris. He was one of three children of Michael and Laurie Harris, Middleboro, Mass.

Now he cooks on weekends with his wife, Ashley. They have two young children: Ava, 4, and Owen, 2. They came here in May of 2016.

"We love it on the base," he said. "There's a small town feel. The city of Grand Forks is close. The people are super friendly."