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Chicken and Mushroom Pie: Ultimate comfort food for Wintery nights

February 11, 2016

There's nothing quite like a bit of comfort food, especially on cold winter days (damn you Punxsutawney Phil...)

The first real food that I really started craving post saltine/rocket pop diet was chicken pie. I've been making variations of this pie for years, it's become a firm favourite in the Vine household, for residents and guests a like. Charlie and I have a friend, who now lives in Thailand, that Charlie delights in texting every time we have this pie after he declared it 'the best pie in the 'wurold' (...he's Scottish, that's my attempt at writing a Scots accent)


It's a one pot wonder which is why it gets made so often, in fact I've even made the filling in a slow cooker before, which is even less work.

It can be made super simply as one big family style pie, in individual dishes to fancy it up, or into foil dishes of any size to stock up your freezer.

I've made the pie with a full pastry case, I use shortcrust if I'm doing that, or with just a 'hat' of flakey pastry- which I know is kind of a cheat and some people will feel very strongly about it being a 'real' pie, but the 'hat' method means making this pie mid-week is totally doable. And who doesn't like midweek pie?


Ingredients:

About 1lb/450g of chicken breasts, I usually us three to four good sized breasts
1lb/450g of chestnut mushrooms, white are fine but chestnuts have a richer flavour
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1 glass of white wine
1 pint/470ml heavy/double cream
1 heaped tablespoon dried tarragon
Enough flakey pastry to cover you pie dish/dishes- use this recipe for easy puff pastry (or just buy it, no judgement)
1 egg or a few tablespoons of milk
Salt and pepper

Method:

Finely mince the garlic and slice the mushrooms, fry in the the butter on a low/medium heat with a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. I usually cook the pie mix in a dutch oven, but you can use a large frying/sauce pan that has a lid. I like to fry mushrooms really low and slow, it makes them so rich and concentrated. They will leach all of their water into the pan initially but don'r drain it away , just let the mushrooms cook on the low heat and they'll reabsorb the reduced liquid for a super intense, earthy flavour.

Give the mushrooms a good fifteen to twenty minutes to cook, on low they don't need constant watching so you can have them cooking whilst you make the pastry or other kitchen pottering. When they are a dark brown and have reabsorbed all of their juices, scrunch them over to one side of the pan. Trim the chicken breasts of any sinew, turn the heat up under the pan to medium/high, then lay the chicken breasts whole in the pan, in the space you've cleared of mushrooms. Cook on each side for 5-7 minutes, until the outside is opaque white and golden brown in places. 

Mix the mushrooms back over the chicken then splash in the white wine, it will bubble at first but them calm down. Turn the heat to medium/low, pop the lid on the pan and leave to cook for about 25 minutes. I find leaving the chicken breasts whole, and slicing them after they are cooked, the meat stays a lot juicer. 

Once the chicken is cooked, remove the breasts from the sauce and slice into bite sized pieces. The meat will tear and pull a little which add a nice mixture of textures to the finished sauce. Return the sliced chicken to the pan, add in the cream and tarragon and stir well. 

Allow to cook for another 10 minutes or so, test the seasoning an adjust to taste with more salt and pepper. I've found that American heavy cream doesn't always thicken as well as British double cream, if you want to thicken your sauce scoop a couple of table spoons of sauce from the pan into a mug and whisk in some flour with a fork. Pour the floured sauce back into the main pan a cook for a further few minutes until thickened.

Spoon your filling to your chosen pie dish, or dishes and cover with pastry. I'm always very generous and haphazard when it comes to pastry, I like it to be so big it scrunches at the edges and fold over the dish, giving plenty of crags for it to become extra crunchy and crispy. I'm also a bit f heathen as I think to lay the pastry on pretty thick so you get a sauce soaked 'soggy' layer underneath the golden, crispy top layer, it's like have dumplings AND pastry... I do love me a carb.

Brush the pastry with beaten egg, or milk if you're eggless, and bake in the oven at 360F/180c for 40-50 minutes (less time if you're making mini pies), until the pastry is golden brown and crisp.

If you're freezer stocking, lay on the pastry and brush with egg or milk, then freeze uncovered until the egg/milk wash is frozen. Then cover with foil or film and return the freezer until pie night.




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