~ Nana's Bare Bones PA Deutsch Chicken Pot Pie ~
I've never lived outside of the great state of Pennsylvania. I was born and raised in Eastern, PA, the Lehigh Valley region, which has a large Pennsylvania Dutch community. For the past forty years, I've lived here in Central Pennsylvania, which has a large Amish population. In both farm cultures, pot pie isn't just a meal -- it's a relaxed, comforting, "pull-up-a-chair and join us for dinner" way of life. Lucky am I to have learned how to make both styles of pot-pie. Recipes do vary from cook to cook, and, yes there are cross-overs of both versions as people and recipes migrated throughout our state and the country, but, if you're interested in a tale of two pot-pies:
In PA Deutsch country, their pot pie starts as a thin, brothy beef, chicken, ham or turkey soup containing simply celery, onion, parsley and seasoning. Large, thickish square-cut shortening-based noodles get rolled, cut and added, or, soft doughy balls of a similar mixture get dropped, into the pot to cook in the simmering soup (the latter is often referred to as chicken and dumplings). As the noodles or dumplings cook in the soup, they thicken the broth to a sauce-like consistency. This pot pie is ladled into bowls and eaten with a spoon. While a bit prosaic looking, this soup is luxurious.
In Amish country, their pot pie, starts as a thick, creamy beef, chicken, ham or turkey stew containing lots of vegetables (carrots, celery, peas, potatoes, etc.). The stew gets transferred to a large casserole dish (or small individual dishes) and topped with dollops of shortening-based biscuit-type dough or a rolled pastry crust and baked. As the casserole bakes, the biscuit or pastry crisps and turns golden brown. This pot pie is scooped onto plates and eaten with a knife and fork (or a spoon if it is baked in individual casseroles). It is delicious.
Want to develop or re-create a favorite pot-pie recipe?
Soup: If you've simmered meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a pot of seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup. Soups can be thin, chunky, smooth, or, if you've thickened it in some manner after the fact (by adding potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables, or, used a mixture of cream or water mixed with cornstarch, flour or eggs), thick, meaning: having a stew-like consistency. Soups in general (there are exceptions) tend to be refined and light tasting, using shreds of meat and/or small diced ingredients, or, pureed to a thin or thick, smooth consistency. In many cases they can be prepared in less than 1-1 1/2 hours, and sometimes, as little as 15-30 minutes. Soups can be served as an appetizer, side-dish, main course or dessert, but, are always served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon.
Stew: If you've cooked/sauteed your meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a small amount of seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew. Stews tend to be full of chunky ingredients and full of bold herb and/or spice flavors. Stews are hearty and filling and are almost always served as the main course. Stews, because they require a longer, slower cooking time than a soup, sometimes 3-4 hours or longer, often in a tightly-covered vessel, are great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat. Stews, while usually served in a bowl, can be spooned over a starch (couscous, rice, potatoes, etc) and turned into a knife and fork meal.
You say Pennsylvania Dutch, We say Pennsylvania Deutsch!
I am here to make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either. The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch". So: When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine. The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist". They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh Valley. Why? Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics. Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an official "State" religion. Pennsylvania. The first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life? You betcha!
Nana was Pennsylvania Deutsch & her "bot-boi" was divine.
Way back when I was eighteen, Nana was my fiance's grandmother, and, she was as PA Deutsch as it gets. She was a marvelous cook, baker and cross-stitcher. I am grateful she gave me her recipes for ~ Applesauce-Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cake ~ and ~ Shoo-Fly Pie (Give it a try!) ~. On nights when she was making ~ Pennsylvania Dutch-Country Chicken and Waffles ~ or her "bot-boi", she invited the family because: she roasted a chicken or two to make the stew for the waffles (see Related Article link below), and, she put a huge pot of chicken stock on the stovetop to make the pot pie -- both of these meals are an event.
PA Deutsch pot-pie is a celebration of big, thick, homemade noodles bathed in a flavorful, thickened chicken stock and fall-off-the-bone tender chicken. Period.
To make Pennsylvania Deutsch pot pie you need chicken broth with chunky pieces of cooked chicken, diced celery and onions. Some people add coined carrots and/or potatoes to their pot pie. Nana did not, she told me not to, and, most PA Deutsch cooks will tell you the same. Pot pie is bare bones good eating -- it's a celebration of noodles swimming around in a pool of flavorful thickened chicken stock with pieces of fall-off-the-bone tender chicken. This means you need to make some chicken stock. This is my favorite recipe, but, feel free to use your own.
2 3 1/2-4 pound frying chickens, whole or split in half
8 quarts cold water
1 1/2 pounds yellow or sweet onion
3/4 pound peeled carrots
4 large garlic cloves
1 small bunch fresh parsley, or, 4-6 6"-8" rosemary springs (Note: I use parsley from my garden -- Spring, Summer and Fall. In the Winter, I use rosemary from a small bush we bring indoors.)
3 tablespoons sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely-ground black pepper
~ Step 1. Place all of the ingredients in the stockpot, except for the pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, and, using a skimmer, remove and discard the white foam as it collects on top of the liquid. This will take about 10-12 minutes.
Note: If you had added the pepper, it would have collected in the foam and you'd be discarding it too.
~ Step 2. After you are done removing the foam, remove and discard the parsley or rosemary. It will be limp and losing its bright green color. This herb has done its job. The result will be a stock that is lightly and pleasantly flavored by it, rather than overpowered by it.
~ Step 3. Stir in the black pepper. Reduce heat to simmer gently, partially covered, for about 2 hours. Remove from heat, cover the pot, and allow to steep for about 1 hour.
~ Step 4. Using a large slotted spoon and/or the skimmer, remove the chickens to two large plates. Set aside. Remove and discard the veggies, with the exception of the carrots -- this is why many folks slice and add them to pot pie. I just eat them with a bit of salt and pepper!
~ Step 5. Ladle the stock into a fat/lean separator. Pour the stock from the separator, through a mesh strainer, into the desired-sized food storage containers, leaving about 1/2" of headspace at the top of each container to allow for expansion if you are freezing the stock. Discard the fat from separator. Repeat process until all stock has been separated and strained.
Use as directed in specific recipe or refrigerate overnight and freeze.
~ Step 6. By this time, the chicken will be cool enough to handle with your hands. Using your fingertips, methodically remove all of the skin, pick the bones for the meat, cover with plastic wrap and set aside while preparing the pot-pie noodles as directed below.
Note: To this point, the stock and the chicken can be prepared 1-2 days ahead of making the noodles.
You will have 6 1/2-7-quarts of "liquid gold":
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons butter-flavored shortening
Having the right equipment on-hand and ready to go makes these noodles super-easy to make:
large wooden pastry board; pastry blender; paring knife; small rolling pin; 12" ruler; pizza cutter; baking pan; parchment paper
~ Step 2. Add half of the milk. Using a spoon, stir until crumbs begin to form. Add the rest of the milk and stir until a rough dough comes together. Do not overmix.
~ Step 4. Using a small roller, gently roll dough into a 12" x 8" rectangle. This size insures proper thickness. I use a ruler to measure and by bumping it up against the sides every now and then, to shape the rectangle.
24, 2" square pot pie noodles made from 12 ounces dough:
3 cups shredded chicken
1 cup each small diced celery and onion
1 teaspoon Bell's poultry seasoning (Nana used Bell's only.)
24 pot-pie noodles
parsley, for garnish
freshly-ground sea salt & peppercorn blend, for seasoning
~ Step 1. Place the chicken broth, chicken, celery and onions in a 4-5 quart stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat, adjust heat to simmer and continue to cook until onion and celery are tender, about 5-6 minutes.
~ Step 2. With the soup simmering gently but steadily, begin dropping the noodles into the liquid, 1-2 at a time. When all noodles have been added, lower heat and continue to simmer for about 15-16 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot and allow to steep and thicken a bit more, about 15-16 minutes.
Gently simmer noodles in broth for 15-16 minutes...
Nana's Bare Bones PA Deutsch Chicken Pot Pie: Recipe yields 6 1/2-7 total quarts chicken stock and instructions to make as many pot pie noodles and as much pot pie as you want. Two quarts of stock and 24 noodles will yield 4 servings.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 16-20 quart stockpot w/lid; skimmer; large slotted spoon; soup ladle; fat/lean separator; fine mesh strainer; desired-sized food storage containers, preferably glass; fork; plastic wrap; large wooden pastry board; pastry blender; paring knife; small rolling pin; 12" ruler; pizza cutter; baking pan; parchment paper; thin spatula; 4-5 quart stockpot; soup ladle
Cook's Note: Modeled after the pot pie served at The City Tavern in Philadelphia (the oldest still operating tavern in the USA, dating back to 1773), my recipe for ~ Old-Fashioned Chicken Stew w/Puff Pastry Crust "Pot Pie" ~ can be found in Categories 2, 3, 17 or 19. What a delight!
Extra Cook's Note: A bit about Bell's Poultry Seasoning: Bell's is America's oldest purveryor of seasonings, spices and stuffing mixes -- it all started in Boston in 1867 when Mr. Bell created a combination of herbs and spices that he called "Bell's Seasoning". Trading ships carried his ingredients into Boston Harbor and his blend was soon a beloved staple in kitchens throughout New England. Over a century later, the mixture remains unchanged. It was Nana's & is my undisputed favorite!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)