Ingredients (for 4 people who eat lots or 6 people who are able to demonstrate more restraint)
A pack of 8 chicken thighs (chicken breasts are more conventional so that’s just fine too)
150g chestnut mushrooms
1 sheet of jus roll puff pastry
2 heaped dessert spoons of crème fraiche
Chicken stock—fresh, frozen or cubes…it’s all good.
25g butter (for a roux)
2 tablespoons of flour (for a roux)
When it’s getting dark a little earlier, and things are becoming a bit drizzly and cold, it’s time to make a pie. I suppose that pie-making is a good way of embracing hibernation rather than berating the end of summer.
Before I start this (otherwise very easy) recipe, I have to admit that I’ve over-complicated it for myself by going off chicken breast altogether. I love the tender, brown thigh meat—it’s so much jucier…and cheaper.
So, I’m boycotting chicken breast…which means that I’m going to get a lot better at butchery as my chicken-based cookery now involves half an hour of carving thigh meat off the bone if I’m using it as a breast substitute in a recipe (quite satisfying…though done in total trepidation that any second I might forget what I’m doing and lick my fingers!)
If you don’t fancy a bit of home-butchery, then use chicken breasts—1 per person will make an enormous pie—though you can easily get away with three breasts for a four person pie because there’s so much else padding it out.
Before you start, slice the leek, chop the mushrooms and cut up the meat into 2cm cubes.
Fry the leeks and mushrooms in a little oil, and then tip them into the pie dish you’re planning on using.
Next, fry the chicken pieces in the same pan—you don’t need to cook them all through, but keep them moving in the pan until all the outsides are white. This shouldn’t take any longer than five minutes. Once they’re done, pop them in the pie dish with the leek and mushrooms.
Give the pan a quick wipe, then start to make the roux. Gently melt the butter in the bottom of the pan and then add a couple of table spoons of flour and mix it into a paste. Cook the paste for a minute or so until it turns a golden-straw colour.
If you’re using stock cubes, mix them with boiling water and start to pour it into the pan little by little, stirring furiously the whole time.
If, like me, you’re going through a bought of furious homeliness and you happen to have frozen stock, then add them to the pan one by one, stirring the whole time, until the sauce reaches the consistency of a thin custard (not Ambrosia!)
Add a generous couple of table spoons of crème fraiche to the sauce—this gives it a lovely creaminess without it being a double cream-based, too-rich sauce. Now pour that into the pie dish with the chicken, leek and mushroom and gently stir everything together.
Pop a lid on the pie and use a fork to scrimp down the edges. Create an air hole for the steam to get out, and them put it in a super-hot oven (200C) for around 25 minutes. Generally speaking, when the puff pastry has puffed, then the chicken will have cooked through (though do check it before devouring a plateful!)
Voila. A super, mid-season pie. Serve with some tasty greens—broccoli, cabbage, mange touts…