Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Waiter, there's something in my...PIE

It's my favourite P word. It makes everything taste better. Saying it puts a smile on your face. Yes dear friends I'm talking about P-I-E. Pie. The thought of it makes my mouth water. So how could I not want to partake in this month's Waiter, there's something in my... event. Deciding to take part was easy, deciding on a pie was a whole other story.

Should it be a sweet pie- apple pie, cherry pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie? Or something savoury- steak and ale pie, fish pie? After hemming and hawing, I remembered a recipe I'd been wanting to try in Gordon Ramsay's Secrets cookbook- Claridges chicken pie. I had thought about it for ages but stayed away as it seemed an rich and extravagant pie. In the end I decided that if I halved the recipe it wouldn't go straight to my hips.

How was it? Lush and creamy and oniony and bacony and chickeny. And yes it was very rich so I recommend serving with some undressed salad greens to cut the heaviness of it. Definitely not a chicken pie for everyday but it would be impressive for a wintery dinner party.


If you want a full pie round up, click here to see who else had pie in their eye.

Claridges chicken pie
from Gordon Ramsay's Secrets

Serves 4 as a main dish

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, about 120 g each
125 g baby onions
500 ml chicken stock (the book gives a recipe for the homemade stuff but for the sake of time I used a stock cube)
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
200 g pancetta or good smoked bacon, in one piece
100 g butter
250 g shemigi mushrooms, or baby button mushrooms
100 ml dry sherry
200 ml double cream
2 tsp chopped tarragon
1 tbsp chopped parsley
250 g puff pastry (again the book gives a recipe but I used store bought)
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the chicken into 2 cm chunks. Dip the onions in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skins, then remove and peel. Bring the stock to a boil in a shallow pan, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon.

Add the chicken, bay leaf and thyme to the stock. Return to a gentle simmer and poach for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and leave to cool in the liquid for a minute or two. Strain the stock into a jug, discard the herbs and season the chicken lightly; set aside.

Cut the pancetta in lardons (2 cm strips). Heat a quarter of the butter in a frying pan or wok and stir-fry the pancetta until crispy, about 3 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Wipe out the pan.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan. When it starts to foam, add the mushrooms and and stir-fry for about 7 minutes until softened, seasoning to taste.

Pour in the sherry and bubble until well reduced. Return the bacon and onions to the pan and pour in the reserved stock. Bring to the boil and cook until reduced by half. Add the cream and bubble until reduced by a third. Add the chopped herbs and set aside.

Heat the oven to 200C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut out four rounds, using a small saucer as a template. Carefully place the pastry rounds on a large non-stick baking sheet and score the surface in a diamond pattern, using the tip of a small sharp knife.

Brush the pastry with the egg yolk glaze and bake for about 10 minutes until risen and golden. Bake for a further 2 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar, to help crisp the pastry. Remove from the oven and slide on to a wire rack.

Meanwhile, add the mushrooms to the sauce and reheat until bubbling (Is it just me or did we not have to remove the mushrooms to start? Was I having a blond moment and missed something?), then add the chicken. As soon as the chicken is warmed through, check the seasoning and divide between warmed serving plates. Top with a pastry round and serve.