The last time we flew to England, Matt and I binge watched Heston Blumenthal's show Heston's Great British Food on the plane. He is an amazing Michelin-starred English chef who is like a mad scientist in the kitchen. He has wacky ideas like reimagining fish and chips into a dessert using green frozen yogurt instead of mushy peas and chocolate pieces cut to look like real chips. He once sent a potato into space to see if he could change the flavor.
In one episode, he explained the history of pies. Originally, the crust of a pie was not edible, it was more like a paper mache made of flour and water. The crust was only used as a portable vessel for meat and the juices to stay fresh. You could think of the crust acting like a modern day plastic lidded container. Many years later, fat was added to the flour and water mixture and pastry was born. You can find savory pies everywhere in England and they come with hundreds of different fillings. Chicken and mushroom pie happens to be one of Matt's favorites.
I had never eaten a chicken and mushroom pie but I assumed it was somewhat like a chicken pot pie. I used creme fraiche instead of milk which makes this pie sinfully rich. I also used puff pastry instead of pie dough for some crunch to contrast the creamy filling. You can make one big pie or four 8oz ramekins. I prefer the ramekins so we each get a nice piece of the crispy top :)
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 medium sized carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- 8 green onions
- 1 head of garlic
- 20 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 2tbsp chopped parsley
- 8oz of button mushrooms
- 1/4 of a whole nutmeg, microplaned
- 8oz of creme fraiche
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 tbsp flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 box of frozen puff pastry
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg
Take your puff pastry out of the freezer and allow to defrost for about 45 minutes. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil into a heavy bottom pan. Sear the pieces of chicken for 5 minutes, but do not cook them all the way through. Take them out of the pan and set aside. Dice celery, carrots, and green onion and toss them in pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the leaves from the thyme sprigs and minced rosemary. Coarsely chop the garlic and parsley and add to the mixture once the vegetables are mostly cooked but still have a little bite to them. Add the chicken back into the mixture, sliced mushrooms, creme fraiche, chicken stock, 2 tbsp of flour and allow it to reduce. If your mixture looks too thick, add a splash more chicken stock and let it cook on medium low. If your mixture is too thin, add 1/2 tablespoon of flour and cook for a few minutes. Repeat until your desired thickness.
Once the puff pastry has thawed, roll it out and gently place it in the pie pan. Trim the edges. Line it with parchment paper and then add rice or lentils to weigh the pastry down while you blind bake it for 10 minutes at 400 degrees in the oven. The lentils/rice will keep the pastry from puffing, and the blind baking will keep the crust on the bottom from being under cooked or soggy later.
Remove the pie shell from the oven. Carefully add the chicken and mushroom filling to the pie pan. Roll out the top layer for the crust and place it on top of the filling. Seal the edges of the raw dough with the edge of the pie dish with a fork. Brush the top of the pie with an egg wash. Make sure your pie has a little slit in the top crust as a vent. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed to perfection.