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Warm comfort food for the springtime: Traditional pot pie


By Murray Schulman

Spring has sprung and we are adjusting to warmer weather through what and how we are preparing meals. With that said, I thought that it would be fun to go hefty and hearty one last time before we move outdoors to the grill and smoker.

All of you have experienced those occasional cold snaps that sneak up on us around this time of year. We’ve had a couple of them this season.

On that first cold day, I started out by looking at what I had on hand in the freezer and in the pantry. My search turned up ingredients that would work together to produce an American favorite: Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie.

Traditional pot pies are thought to have originated in the Neolithic age around 9500 B.C., according to Wikipedia. The Greeks cooked meat and other ingredients in pastry shells. This cooking style was passed on to the Romans and as they say, “the rest is history.” Pot pies were introduced in the eastern United States around the early 19th century.

So, was it chicken or beef that was in the original American pot pie? Surprisingly, the original protein used in the American version was robin. Robin was so plentiful in eastern part of the country that it became a staple in stews, casseroles and yes, pot pies.

The most recognized version of the beloved pot pie is a meat and vegetable stew baked into a flakey crust. Chicken is the most common protein used in this dish today. But, the entire premise of this dish is the use of leftovers combined to make an additional hearty meal. You will find chicken, beef, turkey or even seafood used in this way.

In our region, Pennsylvania Dutch-style pot pie reigns supreme. This dish, called “bot boi” by the Pennsylvania Dutch, may or may not have a crust. What it does have are those thick doughy square noodles that make this dish irresistible to nearly all of us.

Chicken is the primary ingredient used in Pennsylvania Dutch-style pot pie. Chicken (usually leftover) is combined with carrots, celery, onions, maybe some frozen vegetables and possibly potatoes in a rich broth. All of this is mixed with those amazing noodles that thicken the broth and turn this simple stew into a hearty and satisfying meal.

There really is no right or wrong way to make pot pie. The magic is in the color, texture and flavor. Yet, there is more to it. Pot pie is American comfort food. It warms you from the inside out and it is filling and satisfying. The best thing about pot pie is that it will put a smile on your face.

Chicken pot pie
3 pounds cut up chicken breast or thighs (boneless)
4 cups chicken stock (broth)
2 sweet onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic.
Leave the peeled cloves whole for removal later in the process.
2-3 pounds peeled course
cut potatoes (optional)
24-ounce bag of frozen peas and carrots, or mixed vegetables
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
(for the stew)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground sage or poultry seasoning as preferred.
Pinch of chopped curly parsley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 16-ounce bag of Amish-style pot pie noodles

In a large pasta pot, bring 4-6 quarts of water to a rapid boil.
• Add 2 tablespoons of Kosher or sea salt to the boiling water.
• Add the noodles, stirring as you go. Stir the noodles often to avoid sticking.
• Cook noodles about 10-12 minutes until
al dente.
• Immediately shock them cold in ice water.
• When cold, drain off the water and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and toss to coat. Set the noodles aside for later.
• Coat a large deep pan or rondeau with oil and heat the pan over medium heat.
• Add the butter and let it melt.
• Add the chopped onion, celery and garlic to sweat. (Do not brown this mixture).
• Add the cut up raw chicken stirring it into the vegetables and butter to coat.
• Season the chicken with salt, pepper and sage or poultry seasoning.
• Saute’ the seasoned chicken until it just begins to brown. (If using leftover cooked chicken in this recipe, follow the same method, but only heat the chicken to temp.)
• When the chicken is close to being cooked, sprinkle with flour and stir to fully coat. (Add the flour slowly while stirring so as to not coat too heavily)
• Continue sauteing the mixture to just slightly color the flour. If using potatoes in your version (I do not use potatoes in my recipe) add them now.
• Gradually add the stock while stirring to avoid lumping and to fully blend the ingredients.
• Cook for about 15 minutes until the stew begins to thicken. Add more stock as needed to avoid over thickening.
• The stew will be bubbly. Add noodles at this point continuing to stir to avoid sticking.
• Add the frozen vegetables gradually to avoid stopping the cooking process while continuing to stir the stew.
You can always adjust the thickness of the stew by adding stock.
• Lower heat to a low simmer and allow to cook for about 10-15 more minutes.

Serve with a hunk of sourdough bread or a hearty roll. This stew is even better when reheated the next day. Just add some stock before reheating.

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