Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking
Old church cookbooks intrigue me. Mine have seen better days—and although they are coverless, smudged with fingerprints, and a bit tattered, they hold the timeless recipes of the Pennsylvania Dutch cooking culture. Noodles, used to thicken many of their dishes, is a culinary contribution of these descendants of German heritage.
The contributing cooks to this particular cookbook are from Queen, Pennsylvania, a tiny village in the south-central part of the state that is nestled into the foothills of Blue Knob mountain. This is the community where my father grew up, and the names inside the book are those of his aunts, cousins, and friends.
As I thumbed through the pages, I paused to read some of my own scribbled notes. They are little reminders of the success of a particular recipe or something that I was thinking about adding to improve the flavor or increase the dish's popularity with one of my adolescent picky eaters.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
1 hour 10 min
- 2 cups chopped broccoli, cooked
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 3 1/2 cups skim milk
- 2 cups cheese, cubed
- 2 cups ham, cubed
- 4 cups egg noodles, cooked
- Frozen vegetables: If using frozen vegetables, cook according to package directions and drain before layering in the baking dish.
- Milk: I use skim milk to reduce the fat content in this recipe, but 2% percent or whole milk can be used as well.
- Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Cook the frozen or fresh broccoli until it is tender-crisp.
- Place the broccoli in the bottom of a greased 2-quart baking dish.
- In a skillet, saute the onions in butter until tender.
- Slowly blend in the flour and pepper.
- Gradually add milk, stirring until thickened.
- Add the cheese and stir until melted.
- Mix in the ham, noodles, and parsley.
- Pour the cheesy mixture over the broccoli.
- Top with bread crumbs.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
When I was growing up, fast food meant Mom was serving up whatever was leftover in the refrigerator. My only memory of eating in a restaurant as a child was a dinner for my parents' anniversary one year. I had spaghetti.
Nothing much has changed for me since those days. I still cook every day—and although we frequent restaurants a bit more, I am conscious of the leftovers in the refrigerator that are waiting to be made into delicious new meals. It's rare that food in our home makes it to the trash can.
I practice making a recipe before I add it to my growing collection of Pennsylvania Dutch–based foods. The final test is to share it. If someone other than myself finds it to be second helping worthy, only then do I claim it as a success.
A few nights ago, I put this hot cheesy dish together and then messaged my neighbors to see if they were interested in having dinner made, hot, and ready.
Within minutes, it was being handed over the side fence to an appreciative friend who was wondering what he was going to eat for dinner before he jumped into his truck and headed for his hunting camp. He had decided on fast food, readily available just around the corner but was happy to take the hot casserole off our hands.
The review he sent back was raving. The combination of cheesy noodles, ham, and broccoli had set his taste buds alive and we had one very happy, thankful neighbor.
© 2022 Patty Poet