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Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Potpie

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 23 January 2011 at 12:20

From Time/Life's Foods of the World - The Eastern Heartland - 1971:

Quote In Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, potpies are pieces of noodle or baking powder dough. They are boiled with meat and often potatoes to make rib-sticking potpie stews that are named for the kind of meat used. Thus, the following recipe made with chicken is called "chicken potpie," though it bears no resemblance to the pastry-encased potpies typical of other parts of the United States.
 
When Dave posted his family's ham and bean potpie, I immediately fell in love with it as I recognized simple, farmer's fare that could very well have been served by my own hard-working Lutheran ancestors in rural North Dakota, which was heavily settled by German and Scandinavian Protestants. The monikor "Pennsylvania Dutch," may be confusing to some, but Time/Life explains:
 
Quote [T]he Pennsylvania Dutch [are] descendants of the German religious radicals who began emigrating to America at the end of the 17th Century to join William Penn's thriving young colony for "schismatical, factious people," his "Holy Experiment" in religious tolerance.... [Pennsylvania Dutch] is a corruption of Deutsch, meaning German, and has nothing to do witih Holland.... [T]this region became a sanctuary for thousands of German Protestants of many diverse sects whose homeland in the Rhine Valley had been ravaged first by the Thirty Years' War and then by the armies of Louis XIV. The mennonites, members of a sect founded by Menno Simons in 1561, were the first and most important group of Deutsch to arrive in Pennsylvania, followed by a multitude of others - Crefelders, Amish, Dunkards, Schwenkfelders, Seventh-Day Adventists, Moravians and strange minor cults with names like New Born, Mountain Men and the Society of the Woman in the Wilderness. Under the sheltering wing of William Penn, who offered them land at 10 cents an acre, they settled down, increased and prospered. In 1763 there were approximately 280,000 Germans in the state, and their neighbors were highly impressed with their industry. Wrote Benjamin Rush, an influential Philadelphian of the day: "A German farm may be distinguished from the farms of other citizens by the superior size of their barns, the plain but compact form of their houses, the height of their enclosures, the extent of their orchards, the fertility of their fields, the luxuriance of their meadows, and a general appearance of plenty and neatness in everything that belongs to them."
 
The incredible work ethic and simplicty of the Pennsylvania Dutch are directly reflected in their food, which is simple without pretense, yet simply good, nourishing and bountiful; solid food for hard-working people. This approach to life and to food brings back every good memory from my rural background and speaks to the incredible labour and love for the land that brought "the Heartland" into prosperity, whether in rural Pennsylvania or rural North Dakota. Such attitudes toward land and life built rock-hard values in the generations who live there. As Time/Life says, "These are people who love to eat, in their own expressive phrase, feinschmeckers, which, roughly translated, means those who know how good food should taste and who eat plenty of it."
 
So, without further introduction, here is the recipe provided by Time/Life; my method will be a melding of this recipe with methods introduced by Dave in his post:
 
Quote Chicken Potpie
 
To serve 6 to 8:
  • A 5- to 6-pound roasting chicken, cut into 6 or 8 pieces
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 medium-sized celery stalks, including the green leaves, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon crumbled, dried saffron threads or 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron*
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup coarsely-chopped celery
  • 2 medium-sized boiling potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 pound potpie squares (using Dave's recipe here)
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper

Combine the chicken and water in a heavy 6- to 8-quart casserole and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off the foam and scum as they rise to the surface, Add the pieces of celery, saffron, 1 tablespoon of salt and the peppercorns, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer partially covered for about 1 hour, or until the chicken shows now resistance when a thigh is pierced deeply with a sharp knife.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and return 2 quarts to the casserole. (Reserve the remaining stock for another use.) With a small, sharp knife, remove the skin from the chicken and cut the meat from the bones, discard the skin and bones, slice the meat into 1-inch pieces and set aside.
 
Add the chopped celery, potatoes and the remaining two teaspoons of salt to the casserole and bring to a boil over high heat. Drop in the potpie squares and stir briefly, then cook briskly, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until the noodles are tender. Stir in the reserved chicken and parsley and cook for a minute or so to heat them through. Taste and season with more salt if desired and a few grindings of pepper.
 
To serve, ladle the chicken potpie into preheated individual bowls.
 
*WHAT??? Saffron (widely known in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine) in a Pennsylvania Dutch (decended from south Germany) dish? What's this all about??? 
 
Patience, dear reader - all will be made clear during the preparation post.Wink
 
For simplicity's sake, here is Dave's recipe for the potpie noodles, cut in half as he recommends:
 
Quote Potpie Noodles:

3 cups flour
2 eggs
2 tsp shortening
1 1/4 cups cold water

Mix the egg, flour and shortening together.  Slowly mix in the cold water until you get a thick dough.  Flour the dough and roll until it is approximately â…› thick. 
The flour on the dough will help to thicken the broth.



Cut the dough into noodles that are approximately 2-3 inches square. 


Gently, place the noodles into the broth.  Some people like the noodles to be balled up so they are a little doughy.  

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 January 2011 at 14:43
Well, unfortunately there won't be any pix of today's preparation, and tomorrow I guess I am going to find out if that one-year replacement plan we purchased is any good!
 
I will post some preparations notes as soon as I can and will also post reactions to it. For now, here's the story on the saffron, provided by Time/Life:
 

Quote [T]he thrifty farm folks of Lancaster and Lebanon counties buy a great deal of the world's most costly spice in their markets to use in their chicken and noodle dishes, soups and gravies. They employ many spices of the usual sort for pickling and baking, but their use of so exotic a spice as saffron was something of a puzzlement. Made from  dried stigmas of a fall-blooming crocus native to southern Europe - it takes 75,000 blossoms to make one pound of the spice - saffron has a long history un Europe as a flavoring, dye and medicinal herb. But nowadays you find it mainly in the dishes of countries bordering the Mediterranean - the paella and arroz con polloof Spain, Italy's risotto alla Milanese, the oignons monégasques of southern France, and the many rice dishes of Iran and India. How did it get to Lancaster County?

 
I was told that the Pennsylvania Dutch once grew their own saffron, and a little historical research confirmed this. Not only were their ancestors of the Rhineland familiar with the spice - cultivation of the crocus had spread to Germany from Italy - but it was so highly prized in mid-15th Century Nuremberg that men were sent to the stake for adulterating it. The precious stuff probably got to Pennsylvania with a group of Silesians known as Schwenkfelders who came to America in 1734. A prominent Schwenkfelder family had owned a saffron warehouse and the immigrants probably brought a supply with them - as well as the recipe for the saffron-flavored yeast cake that was their traditional wedding cake. This still appears in Pennsylvanian Dutch cookbooks as Schwenkfelder or Schwingfelder cake.
 
In such strange fashions do foods migrate, but strangest and most miraculous of all is how and why they survive. Probably this can happen only in regions like the Pennsylvania Dutch country that have kept their cultures and character and cooking virtually intact despite the creeping conformism of the 20th Century.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 January 2011 at 14:55
My mom was born in Pennsylvania Dutch country. I wouldn't be surprised if she knows how to make this. It sounds great. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 January 2011 at 17:53
ok, preparation of this wonderful, filling winter dish is going very well and we are in the final simmering. the smell filling the house is nothing short of phenomenal, and one really has to see it in action in order to appreciate the effect of the saffron, visually and otherwise. 
 
a few notes on preparation: i forgot dave's admonition that the noodle recipe is good for two batches, so i have edited my post above to reflect an amount needed for one meal. i also added a few extra potatoes, since we have a big family. finally, rather than save some stock for later, i simply reduced it down to the required two quarts and de-fatted it using john's bread-slice trick (which works very well, by the way!).
 
it's just about time to plate this masterpiece - we'll see how it goes!
 
(later)
 
well, i must say, this was an excellent and satisfying meal that, as i predicted, reminded me so much of the meals i ate in my grandparents' home, even though they had never prepared this specific dish.
 
preparation went off without a hitch - the only thing i would say is that the extra potatos were not necessary, but they didn't hurt, either. the entire family loved it, including the beautiful mrs. tas, and their only complaint was that some of the potpies (noodles) were a little thick and therefore doughy/chewy. other than that, it was a smash success.
 
the next time i make this, i might add an onion and a couple of diced carrots, but to be honest, these would not be necessary. this dish was perfectly suited for chicken as prepared and i strongly urge anyone looking for hearty winter fare to try this.
 
i also want to thank dave very much for his inspiration, since i wouldn't have ever even thought of trying this unless i had seen his post!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dla69 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 January 2011 at 18:21
Glad to see that you tried it.  I appreciate the additional research that you did.  I have to say that I've been to several Amish bulk store and I've never seen saffron. 

Regarding the noodles.  I am my brother like them doughy.  In fact, I'll look for noodles that get balled up since they're likely to be more doughy in the center. 

If you have any leftovers, try frying them like hash. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 January 2011 at 16:44
hey, dave - unfortunately there were no leftovers!
 
i did a little bit of light research on the google machine today and i do see many references to saffron in use with chicken recipes in lancaster county - maybe it is something more to do with some other pennsylvania dutch sect? evidently it is being grown and it is a hallmark both in a particular cake as well as many chicken recipes. it might be a simply a very localized thing - not sure ~
 
in any case, it was very, very good. i am truly sorry that my camera died on me because this entire preparation was picture perfect, except i added a couple of things a little early (this did not affect the dish, but i always try to follow a recipe closely the first time). i got pix of the goods and some of the prep work, but it died soon thereafter. i am returning it today and will hopefully have a new camera soon.
 
the more i think about it, the more i am sure that a little onion and also a couple of diced carrots would really make this sing ~ i'll know by next time ~
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dla69 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 January 2011 at 18:26
Regarding the different sects of amish, that is definitely true.  In the rural area where I grew up there are 4 or 5 different sects.  Each one is autonomous and really doesn't interact much with each other.

I hope your camera replacement goes well. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 January 2011 at 13:07
just a quick footnote to my camera experience: i tried returning it to wal-mart the other day, and in spite of their large sign stating that they have a 90-day return policy (digital cameras were NOT on the list of excluded items), and in spite of the fact that i had purchased a replacement plan, the gals there declined to let me return or exchange due to the fact that i was about a week beyond 30 daysConfused. they suggested that i call the carrier of the purchase plan, or the company that made the camera. pardon my language, but screw that ~
 
today, a couple days later, i went back again and spoke with the good folks at wally world. the crew that was working this time took my situation a little more seriously and after a few explanations and clarifications, they immediately exchanged it for a new one of identical make, model and quality - including a new replacement plan. this is fine with me, for it is a decent camera, but it isn't quite as nice as a GE camera i had a year or so ago (which was interestingly a little less expensive than this current one), so i will also be looking online for a replacement GE camera.
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I'm glad that the camera worked out well.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 September 2013 at 08:26
This is a dish I have made every winter since discovering a recipe during the food network's heyday a number of years ago.  It was a featured segment on the old show "Calling All Cooks" where the host travelled throughout the US in search of for ethnic family recipes.  The show didn't last long.  I was glued to the T.V. whenever it aired but I guess I was the only one watching.  

I have enough potpie recipes to last several lifetimes so I had not opened this thread until this morning. I know this recipe by another name.  Chicken Bott Boi.  


Chicken Bott Boi


Ingredients

1 whole 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken

1 bunch celery, divided

3 teaspoons granulated chicken bouillon

2 (14-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, roughly chopped and liquid reserved

3 to 5 small white potatoes cut into quarters (optional)

Pinch saffron threads

Bott Boi dough, recipe follows

Salt and pepper

Directions

In a 6-quart stockpot, simmer chicken and half of the celery in 2 quarts of water for 1 hour or until chicken is tender. Remove meat from bones and set aside, discard bones. Add more water to the chicken broth to make about 3 1/2 quarts. Bring to a boil, add reserved tomato liquid, tomatoes, remaining celery, bouillon and saffron, then simmer.


In a separate pot bring water to a boil, add potatoes, and cook for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.


Drop bott boi squares into simmering broth and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken meat back to the broth along with cooked potatoes, salt, and pepper, to taste. Cook until heated through. Serve hot.


Bott Boi Dough:

5 eggs

1/2 cup water

4 cups flour

Beat eggs and water together in a large bowl. Gradually add flour and continue to mix with a whisk until it begins to thicken then switch to a spatula and mix until a soft dough is formed. Place dough on a floured surface and knead for 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the dough into 3 parts. Roll each part on a floured wooden surface in a rectangular shape as thin as you can. Use a wet towel underneath the board to keep it from slipping around. Add another cup of flour to the board if you needed


Cut into 1-inch squares with a pastry wheel and drop into the boiling broth.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 September 2013 at 08:58
Excellent stuff, for sure, and a reminder that, with autumn approaching, I should make another batch of this!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote shellbellc Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 September 2016 at 15:11
I haven't been out here for a while and was sticking my nose in the door on some of these older posts on PA Dutch recipes. I grew up eating chicken pot pie/chicken bott boi (bott boi is just the PA dutch spelling of in our German'ish languare). Most recipes are all very similar, the way I grew up with it was a whole boiled chicken, some salt and pepper. Pull the chicken and cut into small pieces add back to the pot, add your noodles to the boiling stock, cook until noodles are done. Also call these slippery noodles.

I have changed up how I make this now as an adult. I just use chicken thighs for the meat, usually get a family pack. Easy to clean after cooked. I now add a stalk of celery and once in a while will add some diced carrots, but not necessary. Tried potatoes once, just a little too much starch for me. I also add a box of chicken stock to beef up the flavor. I like it fairly strong. My noodles I actually make on my kitchen aide pasta roller set on just the first setting. Makes it easy to do the noodles. I lay them out on floured wax paper then flour the top also. When I add them into the stock, the flour helps thicken it up. Add the chicken back after the noodles are done. Viola! Plate this with a good hearty splash of apple cider vinegar. Good stuff. I make this all throughout the year, but fall and winter are the best times for this meal. Gut!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 September 2016 at 15:30
Hi, Michelle - it's great to see you here!

Thanks a million for sharing your experience with this; I enjoy my Time/Life books, but it is always better to get the "real scoop" from someone who lives there and experiences the food as part of their daily life. Gut, indeed!

These days, I would agree with you 100% on the potatoes. If I were a hard-working farmer who put in 12 hours a day on the Back 40, it would be no big deal; but right now, I can't even imagine potatoes on top of home-made noodles - especially these ones, which are substantial (and delicious).

The splash of cider vinegar sounds great! I will give that a try next time, because I can see my grandparents doing exactly the same.

Thanks again for sharing, and hopefully we'll see more of you in the future!

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 September 2016 at 07:10
    pot pie is one of those dishes I can revisit over and over again...new variations are always wanted!

  thanks all!
Enjoy The Food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 September 2016 at 09:04
This is about as down-home as it gets, Dan - and really, really takes me to my grandmother's kitchen, even though she never made this exact dish.

I know that sounds weird, but I'm guessing that it might have the same effect on anyone making it.
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