Velvet Chicken Pie
To be honest, I was a little nervous about making my first “appearance” online with an experimental recipe but, I figured one should always jump in at the deep end with these sorts of things! It will hopefully appear on the wonderful blog, Food For Friends, Yeah!, before we see it on mine.
This recipe is a little vague as I made it up last night due to an excess of herbs in the pantry. I know what you’re thinking: “this doesn’t bode well”. But, the unctuous sauce and velvety chicken is not too rich and not too overpowering – yet manages to be lovely and cozy for a cold February evening.
In fact, I will probably never have a recipe that has clear-cut quantities as I would really like to see people play around with the basic idea. I also love trying new techniques and in this case it’s velveting meat. This is an Asian technique which creates the most wonderfully textured meat but don’t leave it in the oil too long or you’ll regret it, and that comes from experience!
My final thought on this dish: it’s imperative that you curl up in front of a fire/heating element/candle when you sit down to enjoy this steamy open pie!
- 2 or 3 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1 egg- separated
- flavourless oil, eg Vegetable
- drop or two of milk
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- lemon juice
- large handful of dill and chives, finely chopped
- very small handful of parsley, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sage leaves
- celeriac; cut into cubes, roughly the same size as the chicken
- ½ pint of chicken stock
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 big tablespoons of double cream
- puff pastry
- salt and pepper
Velveting the chicken
Mix the cornflour and egg white – just enough to mix. Don’t let it froth or you’ll end up with a batter! Add a bit of oil to make a gloop and coat the chicken. Set aside in the fridge for half an hour.
Heat up enough oil to submerge the chicken, which you will probably need to cook in batches. The oil needs to be relatively cool; it browns a cube of bread very slowly, but a piece of chicken should float instantly.
The idea here is to cook the chicken for about 30-60 seconds; long enough for the meat to turn white – you don’t want any colour or it will go hard and chewy. Drain it and it’s ready to get pied up.
In the meantime
Roll out and cut the puff pastry to make nice, round little pie tops. I don’t want to enter into the debate about “what a pie really is”, so think of this as something to soak up the sauce! Make an egg wash with the yolk and a little milk, and brush over the tops. Bake them as per the instructions on the pack (can’t believe I just wrote that!), so they are lovely, golden brown and all crispy and puffy.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan (I love Rapeseed oil for this, but any will do) and get it nice and hot. Add the chicken and crushed garlic, season and cook until the chicken starts to brown. At this point add half the dill and chives, a big squeeze of lemon and a knob of butter.
Allow the liquid to all-but evaporates so that it leaves a coating of herbs and lemon juice on the chicken. Remove from the pan.
In the same pan, add the celeriac with a touch more oil if necessary. On a medium heat, push it around to pick up all that’s left in the pan from the chicken. Once it’s starting to colour, add the chicken stock, sage and bay, then cover and cook until tender. Top up with more chicken stock if needed; you don’t want it to boil dry as it’s going to form the base of our sauce.
Bring it together
Return the chicken to the pan with the celeriac. Stir in the cream, the mustard, the rest of the herbs, and check for seasoning and thickness. The right sauce thickness is the key to any great pie!
The sauce should be light and herby, yet thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and leave a trail when you wipe it with a finger. If it’s too thick, add more stock. Too thin, try whisking in arrowroot or boiling it down depending on the quantity of liquid left.
Serve by piling some of the filling on a plate or in a one-person pie dish and ‘cover it’ with a pastry top. I like to serve this with boiled potatoes and green beans. Now, where is that open fire?
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