Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie

Savory pies. Meat pies. Pot pies. Perfect British comfort for an overcast and dreary day. What is so alluring about a flaky crust enveloping saucy and hearty fillings? Perhaps only Mrs. Lovett knows...

The Ingredients:
3 skinless chicken breast fillets
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 small onion, quartered
6 black peppercorns
1 bouquet garni
1 lb short crust pastry dough (double pie crust)
1/4 cup butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp cornflower
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
beaten egg, to glaze
salt and ground black pepper
mixed green salad leaves, to serve
The Process:
Put the chicken, carrot, onion, peppercorns and bouquet garni in a shallow pan, add water and bring to just a boil. Lower the heat and poach gently, for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Leave to cool in the liquid, then drain and cut into strips.

Preheat the oven to 400. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Use the larger piece to line an 11 x 7 inch baking pan. Prick the base, bake for 15 minutes, then leave to cool.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes, until soft. Stir in the cheeses and parsley.

Spread half of the leek mixture over the pastry base, cover with the chicken strips, then top with the remaining leek mixture. Mix together the mustard, cornflour and cream in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and pour into the pie.

Moisten the pastry base edges. Use the remaining pastry to cover the pie. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and crisp. Serve with salad.

My Modifications:
A shortage of flour and butter (Travesty! How could I possibly be low on such staples of the pantry!) required me to rely on pre-made Pillsbury pie crusts. Unfortunately, not everything can be scratch all the time.

I also lacked the fresh herbs to form a bouquet garni. Thankfully, 2 tsp of a dried mixture from Penzey Spices, wrapped in a coffee filter and tied off with a fresh sprig of parsley filled in the role.

I also turned to my trusty 9" Pyrex pie dish, in lieu of a rectangular baking pan. The recipe's quantity fills a 9" pie plate beautifully.

The Review:
I must confess, Pillsbury makes a mighty fine crust...particularly when I'm not in the mood to roll out my own. The chicken was incredibly tender. I had been skeptical that poaching the breasts with the bouquet garni and veggies would have any impact; but that little pouch of herbs packed quite a punch in the end.

The leek flavor was overshadowed by the mustard, and the gravy/sauce was a bit runny, but overall the flavors were well balanced (even for the mustard-phobic among us).

A touch more parsley, slightly smaller cuts of chicken and a hint less mustard would make this a savory meat pie worth coming back to.

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