Chicken, Leek, and Tarragon Pie

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Sometimes time eludes me. I feel slightly ridiculous writing that, as I have only one job, no children, the cleanest man ever, and am relatively young and so should have boundless energy and will to…well, just do things. But that seems to belong to some other person in some other universe, cause, geez, it’s not even Thanksgiving and I’m ready for a vacation. Maybe the change in weather and light makes it so, and I think I will adjust and begin to be more productive in the hours before it falls dark at, say, 4:30pm. This is all a terribly long-winded excuse for not posting more often. Bleh.

During a leisurely day a few weeks ago (yes, there is leisure, just not enough!), I came upon a new cookbook that looked more interesting than the giant wall of faces that seem to stare at you now when looking for books on food. What is that? I don’t think I’m buying books or cooking someone’s recipes because I am so deeply moved by their face or their personality. These days, I don’t even really open books written by the famous, all-knowing deities we’ve come to follow. I found this one because it was so obviously stating exactly what was within. Pie.

Pie by Angela Boggiano (published in paperback by Mitchell Beasley, 2009), is a crust bible. This woman devotes more loving detail to crust recipe and method than most people do their whole pie. The recipes are decidedly British (as is Ms. Boggiano), so that provided serious entertainment for Ryan and I as we flipped through. Game Pie, Curried Soccer Pie, Smoked Fish and Cider Pie. I think it was just so refreshing to read something other than recipes that were California-familiar. And then we stumbled upon a Lamb Shank Pie, which has the bones of the shank protruding through the golden crust like they should be pulled out of the stew and eaten with British abandon. Needless to say, we got the book.

Although I am sure we will soon try the more adventurous pies, those of you who know me are laughing at the above recipes for good reason. I am indeed a bit squeamish about meat, be it lamb, pork or beef. So we have settled on one pie we both knew we’d love without question, and here it is.

Chicken, Leek, and Tarragon Pie

from Angela Boggiano’s Pie

for the pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

Sift together the dry ingredients, and then cut  half the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the rest of the butter and mix until it is the size of small peas. Mix the egg with the lemon juice and the water.  Make a well in the center and pour in, a little at a time, mixing with a knife. Use only as much as you think you need to make it come together. I used it all but my dough was still very crumbly and messy, which spells out a great pie crust. Turn out your dough onto a floured board and knead gently just to incorporate the butter. Shape into a disk,wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

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layers of butter in the dough make for a flaky crust

For the filling:

  • 1 free-range chicken, around 3 lbs.
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 sprigs tarragon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Knob of butter (my favorite descriptor in the book)
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Place the chicken in a large saucepan with the carrot, celery, 1 of the onions and 3 tarragon sprigs. Season with a little salt and pepper and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to cool. Return the stock to the heat and simmer gently for a further 30 minutes until it is reduced by half.

Meanwhile heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan, add the leeks and the remaining onion and gently cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Turn up the heat to high, add the wine and simmer rapidly for 3–4 minutes until reduced by half. Stir in the flour and mix well in the pan for l minute. Pour in the cream, about  2/3 cup of the reduced chicken stock and the lemon zest. Season with a little salt and plenty of ground black pepper.

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making pie filling

Remove the meat from the cooled chicken carcass and chop or shred into small pieces. Add this and the remaining tarragon, chopped, to the leek and cream mixture and stir together. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a baking tray in the oven to heat.

Line the base of a 12 x  8 inch rectangular or 10½ inch round pie tin with two-thirds of the pastry and fill with the chicken mixture. Brush the pastry edges with beaten egg. Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid and lay over the filling, crimping the edges of the pastry with your fingertips to seal.

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cutting a few vents in the upper crust allows some moisture to cook out

Trim away any excess and brush with beaten egg to glaze. Place on the baking tray and bake for 30–35 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.

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dinner!

The amount of liquid this recipe calls for seems like a little too much, so the next  time I make this,  I would reduce the wine to 1/4 cup. We also felt like the wine flavored the dish too strongly so that’s why I’d chose to reduce that as opposed to the cream, which is just too good to ever reduce. Enjoy!

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