Wednesday, 13 October 2010

In The Bag - Chicken and Chestnut Pie with Leeks, Mushrooms and Tarragon

This October sees the return of 'In The Bag' the seasonal food blogging event run by Julia from A Slice of Cherry Pie and Scott from The Real Epicurean. The challenge is to cook a dish which includes three seasonal ingredients which are chosen for us. The ingredients this month were mushrooms, herbs and nuts, I couldn't have been happier with that selection, it's almost as if they were chosen just for me.Aside from any Blumenthalesque concoctions sweet dishes were obviously out of the question, on the savoury side however the possibilities were almost endless. October really is a great month to be in the kitchen, the sheer vastness of the fresh, seasonal food available to me right now meant I really was spoilt for choice. I toyed with idea of doing a pasta dish -pine nuts, wild mushrooms, mixed herbs and maybe a creamy sauce- or maybe making a stuffing with the nuts and the herbs to fill some chicken breasts. In the end it was the weather that decided it for me, it's got quite a bit colder here in the past week and what I needed, what I really wanted, was pie.
The inspiration for my pie came from a recipe I saw a while back for a beef and chestnut pie, I thought that while the beef pie sounded really good chestnuts would probably go better with chicken, so that's what I did.

Chicken thighs are much more succulent and flavoursome than chicken breast which can easily dry out and can taste a bit bland. For the meat in my pie I first roasted chicken thighs on the bone until they were golden brown then shredded the meat off the bone ready to add to the filling. For the base of the pie I gently softened sweet young leeks and mild onions in butter so they cooked without colour, they add a sweetness and a delicious background flavour to the pie that perfectly compliments the chicken.To the base I added chopped chestnut mushrooms which are a bit chunkier and meatier than the usual white ones, I would have loved to use wild mushrooms if only I had had some. For the herbs I used a mixture of parsley and chickens best friend, tarragon. The parsley was more for colour than flavour but the tarragon has an amazing aniseed flavour that I just love and works fantastically well with chicken.

The final ingredient was the chestnuts, I used ready cooked and peeled chestnuts, the ready prepared are usually excellent quality but you could use fresh ones if you can get them. The chestnuts added a much needed texture contrast, without them it would all have been a bit too soft, they also add a wonderfully autumny nuttiness to the whole dish. I'm always sad to see the summer slipping away but it's delicious treats like chestnuts that remind me that there are still good things to look forward to, it won't be long before I'm drinking mulled wine and roasting fresh chestnuts over the fire.....

Chicken and chestnut pie (serves 6-8)

For the pastry:
  • 125g cold butter, diced
  • 250g plain white flour
  • Salt
  • Water
For the filling:
  • 6 Large chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • 2-3 Leeks
  • 3 Medium white onions
  • 250g Chestnut mushrooms
  • 2 Handfuls of finely chopped parsley
  • The leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of tarragon
  • 200g cooked and peeled chestnuts
  • 6 large heaped spoonfuls of creme fraiche
  • Salt and black pepper
  • An egg for glazing the pastry
For the pastry:
  • First make the pastry. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt, rub in the butter cubes using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of water and bring the mixture together with your hands. If it doesn't form into a ball add a little more water.
  • Once you have a smooth ball of dough place it back in the bowl, cover it and leave it in the fridge while you start on the filling.
For the filling:
  • First you need to cook the chicken thighs, season them well with salt then place them in a roasting tin and cook in a medium oven until golden brown. Once cooked leave them to cool then remove the skin and tear the meat from the bones. Set the meat aside and discard the skin and bones. (or do as I did and feed the skin to your cat).
  • Now clean the leeks by slicing them lengthwise from the base leaving the root intact, wash them well to remove any grit or soil them slice into smallish pieces along with the onions.
  • In a large heavy frying pan melt a good chunk of butter and a splash of olive oil, add the leeks and onions and cook slowly and gently so they are soft but not coloured.
  • Slice the chestnut mushrooms leaving them quite chunky and add them to the leeks and onions, stir them well in and leave them to cook.
  • Finely chop the parsley and tarragon and add it to the pan, tarragon is quite strong so you won't need a lot, taste the mixture and add more tarragon if it needs it.
  • As soon as the mushrooms have cooked stir in the shredded chicken, chestnuts and creme fraiche, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning to taste.
  • Spoon the mixture into an oven proof pie dish then roll our your pastry.
  • Lay the pastry over the top of the pie filling, pushing it well down onto the edge of the dish so it has sealed. Trim off any excess pastry and brush the top with a little beaten egg, cut a few holes in the top to allow steam to escape the bake at about gas 5/190c/375f for 30-45 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and golden brown.


Scott at Real Epicurean said...

MMMnnnn, pie!

Hopie said...

Oh I agree - how can one regret summer with all the fall bounty coming our way. This looks delicious!

Alicia Foodycat said...

That looks like the perfect food for a grey day like today!

Anonymous said...

Oh, yum! Chicken pie is one of the most comforting meals around, and chestnuts are certainly a good reason to be happy about fall! I love the photo of the sliced leeks!

pigpigscorner said...

Looks so comforting! Yeap, I agree, it's time for some pies!

dining room table said...

This is a perfect dinner! I love the surprise inside. I find it very nice to make something like that.

Beth (jamandcream) said...

This sounds wonderful Sam - I am seriously thinknig about doing this for Christmas Eve supper - yummy

gastroanthropologist said...

I always have chestnut stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner...since we are away from home this year, it just dinner for two. So not roasting a turkey this year, but this might be just the thing. Might have it with a bit of cranberry sauce. Looks delicious and imagine the chestnuts make it very hearty and tasty.

The Caked Crusader said...

Chicken and chestnut sounds an awesome combination - love it!

Unknown said...

Are those un-peeled chestnuts inside the pie? how are you supposed to eat them?

Otherwise, fantastic recipe!


Abitofafoodie said...

Great combination for a pie. Oh how I love a good pie! Annoyingly I seem to have developed some kind of mushroom allergy which is deeply upsetting as I love them so much... But I reckon this would still be good without them. Chestnuts are so perfect for the season too.

Sam said...

Gastroanthropologist: It would have been wonderful with cranberries, I wish I'd thought of that!

Elle Pee: They're cooked and peeled chesnuts that you can buy ready prepared in the supermarket, they come in a can or vac packed.

Antonia: What a shame about the mushrooms, I would miss them so much.

Unknown said...

Thanks for clarifying, Sam... it must be one of the mushrooms in the picture of the open pie... it looked just like an un-peeled chestnut! I thought you were starting a new fad!!!