This is a continuation of my earlier post about the roots of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. Chicken and waffles; sauerkraut, and dumplings are all classic dishes that can still be found cooking in the kitchens of old-timers far off the beaten path deep in Pennsylvania Dutch country. William Woys Weaver founded the Keystone Center For The Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism to help preserve the unique culinary culture of the Pennsylvania Dutch.
Here are several recipes that Dr. Weaver selected as classic Pennsylvania Dutch. Enjoy!
Chicken Gravy and Ham Waffles
(Hinkel un Schunkefleesch Waffle)
This recipe follows fairly closely a similar recipe used at the Water Gate Inn in Washington, D.C. The restaurant served a house specialty called “Mennonite Chicken,” which was chicken stewed in sour cream; this often doubled as gravy for waffles. Marjorie Hendricks (the restaurant owner) was not reluctant to introduce wine into her recipes since her Normandy Farm restaurant in Rockville, Maryland, used the grape abundantly in her French-style dishes. She understood that the best of the old-time Dutch cooking, à la Kuechler’s Roost, also made use of local wines, and a good Pennsylvania wine is one of the defining features of this dish. The wine should be a little on the fruity side, such as a Gewürztraminer or a Riesling.Yield: Serves 4 to 6
1 ½ pounds (750g) frying chicken, preferably 2 boneless breasts
1 tablespoon (15g) unsalted butter
2 ounces (60g) country slab bacon, diced very small
1 cup (125g) diced cooked ham
1 cup (125g) chopped onion or leek
1 cup (75g) fresh morels or other wild mushrooms, sliced or quartered depending on size
2 tablespoons (15g) flour
1 cup (250ml) fruity white Pennsylvania wine
1 cup (250ml) sour cream
1 cup (250ml) hot milk or heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon each of minced parsley and minced fresh thyme as garnish
Remove the skin and fat from the chicken and set aside (see note). Divide the breasts into 3 or 4 pieces. Heat the butter and bacon in a large, heavy sauté pan. Once the bacon is rendered (about 3 minutes), add the chicken and brown evenly over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce to low heat and simmer 25 to 30 minutes or until the meat is thoroughly cooked. Remove the bacon and chicken. Add the bacon to the diced ham and chop the chicken into small, bean-size pieces. Combine with the ham and bacon and set aside.
Add to the pan the onion or leek as well as the mushrooms, dusting them with the flour. Cover and sweat for 2 minutes, then add the wine. Boil briskly to deglaze the pan, then reduce the heat. Add the chopped chicken mixture, then add the sour cream and milk. Stir to thicken. Adjust seasonings and add herbs. Serve immediately over hot waffles (recipe below). Add more milk or hot chicken stock if you want the gravy to be extra runny.
Note: The chicken fat and skin should not be wasted. Cook them in a small saucepan until fully rendered of the fat. Pour the fat through a fine strainer or sieve into a jar and set aside to cool. Once cool, cover with a tight lid and use like butter in cookery, especially where savory (meat) dishes are called for. The flavor is unique and tastes better than butter.
Make the waffles ahead of the chicken and keep them warm in the oven heated to 200°F (90°C). Serve with side dishes of red cabbage and stewed celery.
Yield: Approximately 14 to 16 small waffles
4 large eggs, separated
1 ½ cups (375ml) buttermilk
¼ cup (65ml) vegetable oil or olive oil
1 cup (100g) finely ground cooked ham
1 ¾ cups (220g) pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Beat the egg yolks until lemon color and frothy, then combine this with the buttermilk and vegetable oil. Fold in the ground ham.
In a separate work bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt twice, then sift this into the batter. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then fold them gently into the batter. Let the batter rest 5 minutes. While it is resting, heat the waffle iron.
Follow the instructions accompanying your waffle iron concerning how much batter will be required for each waffle. Once the waffle iron is ready, add the batter in half-cup increments, spreading it evenly with a spatula. Close the lid and cook until crisp and golden brown (5 to 6 minutes). Serve piping hot with the chicken gravy above.
Beer Cheese Soup (Bierkees Supp)
Milwaukee may lay claim to beer cheese soup, but the Pennsylvania Dutch were making it in hotel saloons and country taverns long before Milwaukee existed. Furthermore our beer cheese soup is quite different from its midwestern cousins, which today are loaded with so many ingredients that reading through a recipe is like picking one’s way through an Indian curry.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6 persons
1 pound (500g) Pennsylvania farmer’s cheese or an equivalent Swisstype cheese
2 tablespoons (15g) flour
½ cup (65g) unsalted butter
¼ cup (30g) flour
2 cups (500ml) beer, preferably a Pennsylvania lager
2 quarts (2 liters) hot pork or chicken stock
2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
Ham-and-cheese or onion-and-cheese dumplings (see recipe below)
Salt to taste
Crumbled fried bacon or a mixture of chopped chives and marjoram for garnish
Shred the cheese on the large holes of a vegetable grater and reserve this in a separate work bowl. Dust the shredded cheese with 2 tablespoons (15g) flour.
Melt the butter in a large stewing pan over medium-high heat until it foams. Add the flour and stir constantly until you attain a nutty roux about the same color as peanut butter. Add the beer and whisk vigorously until thick and creamy.
Gradually add the cheese, whisking at intervals to blend the cheese into the thickened beer. Add the hot stock and continue beating to create a smooth, creamy consistency. Once the stock is boiling hot, the cheese will curdle and gather into large clumps on the bottom. Remove the curds with a slotted spoon and while still warm combine with the dumpling mixture (see below).
Once the curds are removed from the soup, add the mustard. At this point you should have a thick, creamy, yellow, cheese-flavored stock. Add the dumplings and continue cooking no more than 10 minutes or until they float. Adjust seasonings, garnish with crumbled fried bacon or chopped herbs, and serve with warm soft pretzels, Zwiwwelkuche (page 232), pickled okra and summer sausage (page 239), or hot potato fingers (page 187).
(Gnepp fun Schunkefleesch-un-Kees)
These are fairly easy to make with a food processor. If you
prefer to use onions instead, just substitute the 4 ounces (125g) of cooked ham with 4 ounces (125g) of finely chopped onion that has
been sautéed in butter or with bits of slab bacon. Omit the 2 teaspoons of melted butter.
Yield: 28 mini-dumplings
4 ounces (125g) warm curds reserved from beer cheese soup (recipe above)
4 ounces (125g) cooked ham (or equivalent amount from a cooked ham hock), coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons melted butter
¼ cup (30g) bread crumbs
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper or to taste
Put the curds, chopped ham, butter, bread crumbs, and egg yolks into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is reduced to a smooth paste. Put the paste on a clean work surface lightly dusted with flour.
Divide the dumpling mixture into 28 equal pieces and roll into balls, each about the size and shape of a chestnut (they should weigh about 10g each). Let stand 30 minutes so that the dumplings dry and mature. Then cook them in the simmering soup stock for 10 minutes or until they float.
Serve immediately as directed in the soup recipe.
Note: The uncooked dumplings can be deep-fried for about 1 minute and served crisp and piping hot in the soup. The dumpling mixture can also be used as filling in half-moon pies, Dampfgnepp, and Mauldasche or put in casings to make sausage. Smoked beer cheese sausage is an excellent addition to the soup, especially when a little hot pepper is added to the sausage filling.