coverThe other day, I Facebook-pondered what I should make for dinner, and as usual, my darling friends chimed in with what they were having, or…what they wish they were having.  (I love that, by the way.  We all get in food ruts now and then.  I love getting Dinner Inspiration from my friends!)

And then my lifelong friend, my “Play-Barbies-For-Hours-And-Hours” marathon friend, my friend who remembers that my mom always had a shakey-can of orange cheese powder back in the 80s, my friend Jennifer…..suggested Chicken Pot Pie.

And I was all…. “Now hol’ the eff up.”She lived a few houses away from me, so I knew EXACTLY what she meant when she said chicken pot pie.  Because–around here in Amish Country…  In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania…chicken pot pie is made in a pot.

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Actually, typical “chicken pot pie” gets it’s name from the Dietsch-speaking natives of Lancaster County… “bot boi” or “bott boi.”  This meal is basically a chicken stew with potatoes, onions, celery, and sometimes carrots or corn, but always with pot pie/bott boi noodles, which are basically square egg noodles.

When Jennifer suggested it, my mind immediately went to…..my Yiayia’s homemade pot pie.  Isn’t that nuts?  My GREEK Yiayia made amazing chicken pot pie?

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This is my Aunt Sadie on the left, and my Yiayia (Sophia!) on the right.   New Year’s Eve, 1951.

My Yiayia was a GREEK GODDESS!!  And she grew up in Lancaster County, so she could whip up a gourmet greek dinner or an authentic Pennsylvania Dutch meal that would SA-TIS-FY.

So here’s the thing—at this point, it was too late to call my mom for the recipe (if she even had it) and I really wanted to make a grocery list and make sure I went to the grocery store as soon as I dropped Gabriel off at preschool the next day.  I didn’t know if I should get carrots.  I sort of remember my Yiayia putting carrots in her pot pie, but I wasn’t sure.  Same with saffron–some people add it for color, and some omit it.  Jennifer said her grandmother didn’t put carrots in it.

I was so committed to making amazing chicken pot pie, so I decided to call in the experts, Gam Gam Carol and Mrs. O.  They’re my Go-To women when it comes to local cooking.

Carol said:  “No carrots, no saffron.”    Then, she clarified what pot pie was to a “non-local” friend… “Pa Dutch potpie (“Bott Boi”) is different than what most people think of pot pie. It usually only has celery and parsley, not all those other veggies Here’s Wikipedia’s take on it: In the Pennsylvania Dutch region, there is a dish called “bot boi” (or “bott boi”) by Deitsch-speaking natives. Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie is a stew, usually made of a combination of chicken, ham, beef, or wild game with square-cut egg noodles, potatoes, and a stock of onion, celery and parsley. Bouillon is sometimes used to enhance the flavor. The egg noodles are often made from scratch from flour, eggs, salt and water.”

Mrs. O said:  “Yes I do add carrots. Saffron depends on the mood of the day, but if I am out of saffron I will substitute a smidgeon of turmeric. Saffron is for the fancy days. I am spoiled by Bott Boi; I put onions, potatoes, celery. Sometimes I add dill to the square noodles I make. I do my own, but you can buy them. I don’t care for the store bought ones as they seem the same as any other egg noodle. I try to be imaginative since it is a family favorite. Nothing like a good hearty dish of this to bring a smile to any one’s face.”

And then, my friend “we go back to high school friend” Veronica (with a very “local” PA Dutch maiden last name and married last name) chimed in with:  “My mom always adds carrots potatoes celery onion and saffron.”

Sooooo.  Basically, what my Reliable Sources told me was…  “it’s whatever.”

I decided to take the Makeup Artist approach.  Start light, and build up.  I decided I would try bare bones chicken pot pie…no carrots, no saffron.  Keep it basic and simple and then tweak the recipe as needed in the future.  The recipe follows the photo (below), and at the end, there’s a link for you to download and print a .pdf of the recipe–for your convenience!

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Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie (Bott Boi)
(with homemade noodles)

CHICKEN/CHICKEN STOCK INGREDIENTS
3.5 or 4 lb. chicken (whole, cut up or chicken leg quarters)
one large onion and one small onion
2 or 3 stalks of celery
a few chicken bouillon cubes (optional)
3 or 4 medium potatoes (russet or yukon gold)
salt, pepper, and fresh or dried parsley

POT PIE NOODLE INGREDIENTS
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T. shortening or butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
extra flour for work surface

1.  Place chicken in medium stockpot and add water until chicken is submerged and the water comes up a few inches higher than the chicken.  Add coarsely chopped onion (large) and chopped celery (1 stalk). Add generous amounts of salt, pepper, a handful of parsley, and (optional) chicken bouillon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours (covered).

2.  Remove chicken, set aside to cool. Strain chicken stock through sieve and discard the bits and chunks of vegetables. Return stock to the pot.  Peel and dice potatoes and add them to the pot, along with the finely chopped (small) onion, 1-2 celery ribs, a handful of parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes (fork-check the potatoes, they should be soft.)

3. Debone the chicken, shred it, and set it aside.

4. To make the pot pie noodles: Mix 2 cups of flour and 1/2 tsp. salt in a bowl. Cut in 4 T. of shortening or butter. In a seperate bowl, mix 1 large egg with 1/2 c. milk. Pour liquid mixture into flour mixture and stir until blended.

5.  Generously flour your work surface and rolling pin, and divide the dough into 4-5 chunks. Roll a chunk of dough to about the thickness of a pie crust, no thicker than 1/4”. Use a pizza roller to cut squares-it doesn’t have to be neat. Anywhere between one inch to two inch squares.  Uniformity is a dead giveaway that your pot pie noodles are store bought, so don’t aim for perfection!

6.  A very important step:  Add your noodles to the pot ONE BY ONE so they don’t clump together! Stir them gently over a low boil for about 5-6 minutes.

7.  Add chicken, stir, and give it a taste test. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley as needed.

Download and print the recipe here.

Enjoy!  You’re going to love it.  And here’s a couple more bits of information for you:

It was great without carrots, but I’ve since been informed that YES, my Yiayia included carrots in hers.  And I really like carrots, so I will add them next time.

Do not be intimidated by making your own pot pie noodles.  It is simple and I cranked those babies out faster than I deboned the chicken.

You *CAN* use the store bought egg noodles, but I have to agree with Mrs. O’s opinion that they taste just the same as any other egg noodle.  They really do.  And I’ll take it one step further and say I have had “homemade chicken pot pie” with store bought noodles and it’s always been a disappointment.  What you end up with is more like chicken noodle soup, with square noodles.  The homemade noodles are what makes the pot pie so delicious.  And do not worry about the excess flour on your homemade noodles—that is going to thicken up the stock and give you the hearty stew-like consistency that puts this dish in the “comfort food” category.