Recently, my husband and I performed the arduous task of moving across the country. Moving across town can be bad enough; cross country is another creature altogether! Northern Arizona to southeastern PA.
The decision to move was a last minute, 11th hour, crazy type of thing. At that particular moment we were both unemployed, contract jobs having ended, and nothing new in the pipeline. Job options were somewhat scarce, flipping burgers at the local fast food restaurant wouldn’t pay the rent, and I had family back east. We always talked about having an adventurous life and moving around from town to town, so why not make this the beginning of that adventure?
Within one week, we whittled our life down to what we could fit into a 6’X12′ trailer. Fortunately for us, we lived in a small, back-road community. Our neighbors were more than happy to put our excess to good use. And just like that, we loaded the two dogs into the truck and began our trek.
Unfortunately, funds were tight and we didn’t get to take our time driving across America’s heartland to truly experience each state. Amazingly, we made the drive in four days with a little bit of our savings intact! We still managed to stop at a reasonable hour each evening and gave the dogs potty breaks and a chance to stretch their legs. Thank goodness for family, as they were all waiting in the living room for us as we rolled into my hometown well after ten o’clock on the fourth night!
My mom has been so gracious to let us and our dogs stay with her for the short-term, but after four months of building stability, we’re getting ready to make that next transition into our own place. My heart burst with joy when my husband, who is a desert rat, said that he could see us settling down in my hometown for a few years! I have to admit I was skeptical, as life in Lancaster, PA is very different than Phoenix, AZ! We’re talking about going from freeways to Amish buggies.
I’m sure part of the appeal is the PA Dutch cooking (I know my waistline has grown slightly since we’ve been home)! Within the first week, my mom whipped up a huge pot of chicken pot pie. Now, before you begin conjuring images of warm, flaky crust and delicious chicken and vegetables, let me educate you (unless you’re from southeastern PA….then there is no need).
PA Dutch chicken pot pie has no crust. It is a hearty chicken stew filled with wonderful homemade noodles. Chicken pie, on the other hand, is the delicious marriage of chicken and vegetables encased in that warm flaky crust. Of course, if you are anywhere else in the country, you would be correct in calling the latter chicken pot pie; just do a Google search. But don’t you dare do that in Lancaster; it’s an aberration! And quite honestly, I would call it chicken pie anywhere within the state of Pennsylvania, you know, just to be on the safe side.
This has been an ongoing argument between my husband and myself for the past five years. The only difference now is that I have a whole community to back me up! But just in case you’re still not convinced. I’m going to share the recipe with you. One taste and I’m sure you’ll reconsider your stance on the name!
There are a few important tips to follow when you’re making chicken pot pie. The recipe itself is actually very simple. It all revolves around the homemade noodles and a good chicken stock. While it may be simple, it’s not a recipe that you want to rush.
Give your chicken time to cook with the vegetables. And whatever you do, don’t remove the skin or use boneless chicken breasts and thighs! This is what gives your stock its rich flavor. If you’re worried about fat, I have had success by removing up to half of the skin. Once you remove the chicken from the stock, you can always skim the fat from the top of the stock.
Fresh vegetables are a must. I don’t care what you say, you can always tell a frozen vegetable from a fresh one. If you’re trying to keep your pot pie authentic, make sure to cut your veggies into large chunks. My mom always quartered her potatoes. I go a little bit smaller, but not by much. Slice your carrots no thinner than a quarter inch thick. Dice your onions and celery large. You want them to hold up to the cooking time. If you cut everything small, it’s going to be a part of the broth by the time you’re done. And remember, this is a hearty meal that was created for a big family. It was meant to fill you up.
These last two tips are the most important.
Mix your dough for your noodles with your hands! Seriously, it’s just easier that way. Plus, the dough is all about the consistency. You don’t want it to be sticky, but it shouldn’t be dry either. The easiest way to think of it is like play-dough. You need to be able to roll it out onto a floured surface without it sticking to the counter or your rolling pin. And it’s somewhat forgiving. If it’s too dry, add more water. If it’s to sticky, add a little more flour. Speaking of rolling it out, don’t roll it too thin! Think of your noodles as a hybrid. Part noodle, part dumpling. About a quarter of an inch thick is perfect, in my opinion. Make sure that counter top is well floured, too. It’s this residual flour that will slightly thicken your broth.
And finally, don’t skip on the hard boiled egg! This is a big part of what makes it PA Dutch. We put hard boiled egg in everything!
There you have it! Give it a try and tell me what you think.
Chicken pie……… Or chicken POT pie!
Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie
- One 4-6 pound chicken
- Enough water to cover chicken in Dutch oven
- 1-2 tsp. salt (or to taste or dietary preference)
- black pepper, to taste
- 5 medium potatoes, quartered
- 1-2 medium carrots, sliced
- 1 medium onion, coarse diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 3-4 hard boiled eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 4-6 Tbsp. water
Place whole chicken in a large pot or Dutch oven with the diced celery and onion, and cover it with water.
Cook for about 1 1/2 hours, or until chicken begins falling off the bones.
Cool, and remove from broth.
Debone chicken and cut into large chunks.
Skim excess fat from the top of your chicken stock.
Add chopped chicken back to the pot and add salt and pepper.
Bring to simmer over low heat.
To make noodles, place flour, salt and eggs into a bowl.
Mix for about one minute.
Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until ball of dough forms.
Shape dough into circle, and place on a well floured surface.
*(At this time, add potatoes and carrots to simmering broth and allow them to cook for 20 minutes while finishing up the noodles.)
Roll very thin (about 1/8 – 1//4 inch thickness), and slice into 1-inch or larger diamonds or squares.
Bring simmering broth mixture to low boil, slowly add noodles, one at a time so as to avoid them sticking together.
Cook for 20 minutes, over medium heat.
Add hard boiled eggs and serve.