Growing up in Pennsylvania (PA) Dutch country (south central Pennsylvania- York county to be specific) there was probably nothing more confusing to me than “Pot Pie”. For in that region of the country, what is in the freezer section at the grocery store labeled ‘chicken pot pie’, is in fact, not a true ‘chicken pot pie’ but ‘chicken pie’. To PA Dutch, their chicken pot pie is basically chicken soup with big fat homemade egg noodles in it. Being a transplant to the area, it made for some confusion when I saw the school lunch menu or was at a friend’s house. As I soon learned though, it may be confusing to outsiders, but trust me, their version is even more of a comfort food than that ‘chicken pie’.
As to understanding why they call this dish ‘chicken pot pie’, my friend Todd, a native to the area offered this: “It’s pot pie because it’s made in a pot, on the stove, and the “crust” is boiled in the stew, becoming something between a noodle and a dumpling. “
And there you have it.
I have a very fleeting but sentimental memory for the chicken soup the cafeteria ladies in my Catholic elementary school made for lunch. I’m sure I’ve mashed a few memories (and dishes) together in reminiscing about the smell of chicken soup wafting through the halls of school on a cold, snowy morning, with the lunch that day being (in my mind) a mash up of their chicken pot pie (PA Dutch style) and chicken corn soup, which was always served with little bits of chopped hard boiled egg floating. This memory is made slightly ridiculous by the fact that no self respecting PA Dutch lunch lady would have combined chicken corn soup with chicken pot pie. PA Dutch food is not known for its mashups, or heavy spices for that matter. It can be a bit on the bland side, but it’s good, hearty comfort food.
Anyway, our inability to shake off the creeping crud going around here meant cancelling a fabulous 3 day weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods with no cell reception or internet last weekend. Sigh. And being home sick on a cold, grey, wet weekend sort of called for chicken pot pie – the PA Dutch version, not the standard. So I asked everyone I thought would have a good recipe and went for it. There are variations out there – my friend Lisa sent me a photo of her mom’s handwritten recipe for a recipe labeled “Ham Pot Pie”, inspiring me to want to play around with adding these noodles to lots of soups. If there is one thing I love making for dinner, it’s soup. (Also, how much do you love a friend sharing her mother’s handwritten recipe? That’s the best right there.)
I understand the trick here is roll them thinly – so I pulled out my pasta maker (it is after all, for rolling out noodles….) to make sure I got them thin enough. While some may consider this brilliant, I freely admit I’m lazy and tend to stink at rolling things like noodles thin enough. But hey, it worked fabulously.
The longer the noddles cook, the more they’ll thicken the stew. I served this served Saturday night and the dish was more chicken soup-like, but leftover and reheated Sunday, you can clearly see why the dish is called Chicken Pot Pie.
PA Dutch Chicken Pot Pie may not be the sexiest dish in the world, but on a cold January weekend when your whole family is home sick, it will be the best thing about your weekend, I guarantee.
I don’t have a very formal way of making chicken soup, so I’m not going to share a formal recipe for that part of this dish. I start with throwing bones in a pot along with salt, pepper, garlic, onion, carrot and celery peels and ends as well as a bay leaf and any other herbs (parsley, thyme). I boil this until any meat on the bones falls off. I strain this, reserving the liquid and picking through the bits for any meat. I then saute onion, carrot, celery and garlic in olive oil until soft. Then I add a portion of the reserved broth plus water (I make my broth thick and tend to thin it for soups) any chicken meat I had reserved, chopped potatoes and corn (I am admittedly, forever trying to achieve that pot of chicken corn soup I remember from my school lunch). I bring this to a simmer until the potatoes are soft, adding chopped fresh parsley at the end (with a pinch of cayenne pepper for a sore throat as needed) and that’s my chicken soup. To turn it into PA Dutch Pot Pie:
PA Dutch Pot Pie Noodles
(Adapted from “More-with-Less“)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup white unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/4-1/2 cup water
Combine dry ingredients. Cut in fat with a pastry cutter until well blended. Make a well in the center and add egg. Beat in egg and slowly stir in water. Mix with hands until blended and can form a ball. Cover and let rest 15 minutes. Roll out on floured surface, as thin as possible (or use pasta machine!) and drop by handfuls into the soup. Stir in noodles and cook 10-25 minutes before serving.