Chicken Pot Pie (Pennsylvania Dutch-style)

Anyone who knows me well knows that Chicken Pot Pie is on the heavy rotation menu at our house. We all loooove it. My mom made it, and so did both of my grandmothers. For some reason, though, I have stronger memories of my Grandma Losch (my mom’s mother) making this.

Chicken Pot Pie is misunderstood outside of Central Pennsylvania. For the rest of the world, “chicken pot pie” is a concoction of chicken, vegetables and gravy, cooked inside a pastry crust, oftentimes procured in a small square box from your grocer’s freezer section:

banquet-chicken-pot-pie

THIS IS NOT THAT!! Mine is more of a chicken stew that features delicious homemade egg noodles. It is the quintessential comfort food. It’ll cure what ails ya.

(Check out this photo from Flickr – what I make is the stuff that’s in the black skillet on the left.)

Here’s a photo of my Grandma Losch, in her kitchen, from whence came gallons of this stuff, plus more good food than you could possibly ever quantify. She is shown here with my mom’s sister, my dear Aunt Doll. This photo had to have been taken in the late 1980s, because Grandma died in 1992 and was smaller and grayer by the time she finally went home to Jesus:

Grandma Losch and Aunt Doll
Oh, what I wouldn't give for one of her hugs right now.

Here is the gist of Chicken Pot Pie. You make chicken stock, boil some potatoes and veggies in it, then add homemade egg noodles. I cook this dish like both of my grandmothers did – by “feel”. Thus, I am unable to precisely quantify it, but can only tell you that this recipe makes a good-sized potful, enough to feed a hungry family of 4 or 5 for dinner, with possible leftovers for later the same evening or maybe lunch the next day. (But don’t count on the leftovers.)

I don’t know why it’s called “pot pie”, but it’s a Pennsylvania Dutch thing. I would guess it’s because the dough is cooked within the “pot” instead of as a baked pastry crust. Pot pie can also be made with ham or beef, but I always use chicken.

The specifics:

Make chicken stock: Cook bone-in chicken pieces (say, 2 breasts and a couple of dark-meat pieces) in water in a medium stock pot until the meat is done (2-3 hours). To make it extra-flavorful, include onion, garlic, celery trimmings, salt, pepper, maybe some parsley and/or oregano while you cook it. Remove chicken pieces and allow them to cool. Strain the broth to remove the “chunks” of cooked veggies and discard said “chunks.” When the chicken pieces are cool, pull the meat off of the bones and save the meat for the cat pot pie. Discard the skin and bones. (You can do this a day or three ahead of time… or make the stock and freeze it for later use.)

Peel 3 or 4 medium-sized potatoes and cut into small dice. Add these to the pot with the chicken stock, along with 1 rib celery (diced), 1 small onion (diced), and a handful of chopped fresh parsley (or shake in some dried parsley flakes), plus salt & pepper. Bring this to a rolling boil and cook until potatoes are tender (test with a fork)(no I don’t know how long, maybe 15 minutes?). Optional – add some corn for sweetness (preferably frozen kernels) and/ or some diced carrots.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the dough. These noodles are what make pot pie, POT PIE, so pay attention and don’t screw it up:

  • In a bowl, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 tsp salt. Cut in 3 or 4 Tbsp vegetable shortening (or butter, or some combination thereof) until mixture is crumbly (kind of like making pastry crust).
  • In a separate bowl, combine 1 large egg and 1/2 cup milk. Add liquid to flour mixture and combine with a fork to form a soft, yet rollable dough.
  • On a floured work surface, dump out the dough, form it into a disc, then roll it pretty thin – about the same thickness as you would roll a pie crust, maybe a little bit thinner. Use a pizza or pastry cutter to cut into squares, approx. 2″x2″. Or, 1”x1”. Or rectangular. Or heck – get crazy – make triangles, you nut! Be sure to use plenty of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the surface or the rolling pin… the flour left on the noodles will help to thicken the broth.
With the broth at a rolling boil, drop dough squares ONE AT A TIME into the pot, stirring every so often. (If you drop them en masse they’ll clump together, so trust me, don’t even try it). Maintaining a very gentle boil, cook the dough for 4-6 minutes.  Add the reserved chicken, some more chopped fresh parsley, stir, taste and season with salt and pepper.
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