This was one of my favorites as a kid, one of the first meals I made on my own, and one that I’m constantly reinventing to make even better. It triggers so many happy food memories! From Cooking with Love by Carla Hall.
The key to my version is having crust on the top and bottom—and getting that bottom crust browned and crisp before it gets soaked with sauce. I bake the crust alone, then spoon the hot filling over one piece and top with another. I love the way the crust stays flaky (yum) and doesn’t have that gooey raw dough layer (blech). Plus, it makes it great for entertaining. You can bake the crust early, keep the filling simmering, and just combine them when you’re ready to serve.
Flaky Butter Crust
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water
3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
4 medium yellow onions, diced
1 pound carrots, cut in half lengthwise then into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons
6 celery ribs, cut in half lengthwise then into 1/2-inch-thick slices at an angle
6 fresh sage leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts Chicken Stock or store-bought unsalted chicken broth
Two 2-pound chickens, each cut into 8 pieces (2 wings, 2 legs, 2 breasts, 2 thighs)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
One 10-ounce package frozen baby peas (2 cups)
1. To make the pie crust: Divide the dough into 8 pieces, flatten each piece into a disk, and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes.
2. Place one oven rack near the top of the oven and one near the bottom. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
3. Roll each disk into an 1/8-inch-thick round. Transfer to parchment paper–lined half sheet pans. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the egg wash over all the dough rounds.
4. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes, switching the positions of the pans halfway through baking. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool completely.
5. To make the filling: In an extra-large Dutch oven or a stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, sage, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
6. Add all the chicken pieces, return to a boil, then lower to heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cover and cook until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes. Begin checking the chicken after 15 minutes; pull pieces out and transfer to a large platter as they’re finished. Smaller pieces, like the wings, will be done first.
7. Strain the stock through a sieve, reserving the vegetables and stock separately, but removing and discarding the herbs. Keep the broth hot.
8. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and bones and pull the meat into bite-size pieces.
9. In a very large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Whisk in the hot stock and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Continue cooking until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream, then stir in the heavy cream. Bring to a boil again, then stir in the chicken pieces and vegetables until well coated. When the filling is hot, stir in the peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
10. Break each pastry round to form two half-moons and place one in the bottom of each serving dish. Divide the chicken filling among the dishes and top with the other half of pastry. Serve immediately.
Cater Like Carla
To make these pies extra special, I turn the dough into cloches, the pretty French domes set over hot dishes. Simply ball up a sheet of aluminum foil the same diameter as the bowl of your serving dish, but no larger than 4 inches in diameter. Make eight balls. Arrange the balls on a half sheet pan, pressing them down slightly so they don’t roll around. Press a small sheet of parchment paper on top of each ball to cover. Line another half sheet pan with parchment paper.
Working with one disk of dough at a time, roll the dough into an 1/8-inch thick round. With a knife or large biscuit cutter, cut out a round 2 inches larger than your foil ball. Use some of the trimmings to form a marble-size ball. Reserve the remaining trimmings; these will go under the chicken filling as the bottom crust. Drape the dough round over a parchment-covered foil ball.
Gently press the small dough ball onto the top of the round. Repeat with the remaining dough and foil balls. Transfer the dough trimmings to the second parchment paper-lined pan. Brush all the dough with the egg wash. Bake both pans as above, then carefully remove the domes when they’re completely cooled. Place the baked dough trimmings on the bottom of the serving dishes and top with the chicken filling, then with the cloches.
For special occasions, I like to top the pies with pea salt. I get dehydrated peas, Just Peas, from a company called Just Tomatoes. In a spice grinder, I process 1/2 cup dehydrated peas with 1 tablespoon kosher salt until the mixture is finely ground and well blended. Sprinkle the pea salt all over the top crust and filling just before serving.
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