In some restaurants and diners in Pennsylvania Dutch country, you will find a dish much more obscure than the well-known PA Dutch pot pie or scrapple. Alongside “Dutchie” classics like ham and string beans and “our” version of chicken and waffles lurks the lesser known cousin of these favorites — boova shenkle (also known as bova shankel or some other spelling variations). “Boova shenkle” translates to “boys’ legs” or “boys’ calves” in the PA Dutch dialect.
Looking at boova shenkle, one might see where this name comes from as the pockets of dough resemble chubby boys legs. They also closely resemble Polish pierogi only boova shenkle are larger than traditional pierogi. As with traditional pierogi, boova shenkle fillings can vary. Some cooks stuff the rounds of dough with a potato mixture similar to PA Dutch potato filling. That is my favorite version and the filling featured in this recipe — I look forward to having potato filling left over to use for my boova shenkle after holiday dinners. Other recipes call for meat in the filling mixture like the boova shenkle served at Walp’s Restaurant, a landmark in Allentown, PA for generations until the restaurant closed in 1998.
Some cook boova shenkle in broth in which meat has been stewed and serve the meat on the side. Toppings for boova shenkle vary, too. Some like their boova shenkle with gravy, others prefer bread cubes in browned butter or a milk sauce.
However it is filled or topped, boova shenkle starts with a hearty pot pie dough which is rolled thin, cut into circles (or squares), topped with filling, folded over and sealed. These pockets are then cooked in broth (or water) until the dough is tender. The boova shenkle are often then pan-fried in butter and topped as desired by the cook in the ways I have already mentioned.
If there ever was a food that lends itself to the PA Dutch saying, “eat yourself full”, boova shenkle is it. A complete meal in itself, this delightful stuffed dough concoction welcomes personalization by the cook and satisfies the love of all things “dough-y” by the Pennsylvania Dutch.
Pennsylvania Dutch Boova ShenkelCourse: Main DishesCuisine: PA Dutch, GermanDifficulty: Intermediate
The PA Dutch version of stuffed dumplings, larger than traditional pierogi.
- Pot Pie Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons shortening or room temperature butter
1 whole egg, beaten
Approximately 1/2 cup water
4 large all-purpose potatoes, cubed and boiled in salted water until tender. Reserve some of the cooking water for later use if needed.
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
2 whole large eggs, beaten
1 slice white bread, crumbled
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
- Optional Butter/Milk Sauce
3 Tablespoons butter or bacon fat
1 cup white, dry bread, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup whole milk
- In a frying pan, melt the 2 Tablespoons butter. Saute the onions and celery until tender. In a bowl, mash the potatoes and add the sauteed vegetables and remaining filling ingredients, mix together well. Use some reserved potato water to moisten the mixture if needed but do not make filling too soft. Set aside to cool.
- Pot Pie Dough
- Place the 2 cups all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Add the shortening or butter and cut it into the dry ingredients until it is crumbled. Add the beaten egg and toss with the dry ingredients. Slowly add the water, tossing, until a dough that can be rolled forms.
- Flour your work surface generously. Roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 6 inch circles or squares. Place a generous mound of filling on one side of the dough pieces but not so much it spreads to the edges. Moisten edges of the circles or squares lightly with water, carefully fold dough over the filling meeting edges and crimp to seal using the tines of a fork. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water or broth to boil. Drop the boova shenkle into the boiling water or broth. Boil gently, covered, for about 20 – 30 minutes or until the dough is cooked through. Remove from cooking liquid with a slotted spoon. At this time, the boova shenkle may be browned in butter and served with the optional sauce included in this recipe or served with browned bread cubes in butter or gravy as you desire.