One time I was at my parents’ house on Boxing Day, and I used their Christmas leftovers to make a turkey pot pie. I shredded the turkey leg meat, combined it with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and gravy, then baked the mixture in a pie crust.
When we sat down for supper my dad said that his mom used to make “pot pie”, but that it wasn’t a pie.
“A pot pie that wasn’t a pie? What was it then?”
He thought for quite a while before saying, “It was chicken with dumplings.” He couldn’t tell me much more, except that the dumplings were roundish.
At this point I was pretty sure he was confused.
I more or less forgot about this exchange until a good while later when I was again confronted with a pot pie that was not a pie. I was flipping through a Time-Life book called American Cooking: The Eastern Heartland, and in the section on Pennsylvania Dutch food there was a dish of shredded chicken and square noodles called potpie (one word).
This renewed my interest in Grandma Suddaby’s pot pie. I was able to get some more details and eventually a couple recipes from my dad’s older sister Marge. Grandma’s preparation was identical to the American comfort classic “chicken and dumplings”, in which a chicken is poached in water till cooked, then dumplings with a biscuit-like texture are spooned into the resulting broth and simmered. Aunt Marge’s husband confirmed that his mother made the same dish with the same confusing name. Both families were from the Leeds and Grenville counties of eastern Ontario, and I’m super curious to know how widespread the nomenclature was, and if it had any connection to the Pennsylvania Dutch dish.
Family history notwithstanding I’ve taken to calling these pot dumplings. I’d love to call them pot pie, but it’s just too confusing.
Pot Dumplings as General Technique. The real beauty of the technique is that it works with much more than boiled chicken: any soup or stew or sufficiently liquidy braise can be the cooking medium. I’ve made them in this chicken stew, this goulash, and am excited to try a version in this vibrant borscht. You can make them in a pot on the stove or in a casserole in the oven. I prefer a casserole in the oven as it’s easier to brown the top of the dumplings by flipping on the broiler for a few minutes at the end of cooking.
- 8 oz all-purpose flour (you can substitute part of this with whole wheat or spelt flour or rye flour or something else interesting)
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 8 oz whole milk (you can also use some of the broth that the dumplings will be cooked in!)
- 4 oz egg
- Prepare your chosen soup, stew, or braise.
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
- In a second bowl whisk together milk (or other liquid) and egg.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
To Cook in an Oven
- Ensure the soup, stew, or braise is in a casserole at a gentle simmer in a hot oven.
- Remove the casserole from the oven. Carefully spoon the dumpling batter onto the surface of the liquid.
- Return the casserole to the oven and bake until the dumplings are set.
- Turn on the broiler and continue cooking until the tops of the dumplings are golden brown.
- Remove from the oven. Gently remove the dumplings from the surface with a slotted spoon and serve alongside the soup, stew, or braise.
To Cook on a Stovetop
- Ensure the soup, stew, or braise is in a pot at a gentle simmer on the stove.
- Carefully spoon the dumpling batter onto the surface of the liquid.
- Put a tight lid on the pot and gently simmer the liquid until the dumplings are fully set.
- Gently remove the dumplings from the surface with a slotted spoon and serve alongside the soup, stew, or braise.