Chicken, Leek and Fennel Pie with Cream Cheese Pastry

July 5, 2011

Have craving. Need pie.

At this point, the thought of spending a boring Saturday baking didn’t sound so bonkers. But about three odd hours later, I was thinking screw this pie, I need a beer and my couch! That being said, in the end all the faffing about was worth it because it was one helluva dinner.

Now I know it ain’t pretty but it’s totally my fault. I got really lazy with the pastry and I didn’t let the chicken, leek and fennel filling cool down enough. Eep, my bad. Oh and I forgot to brush on the egg wash before baking so the pastry, while cooked beautifully, didn’t brown all pretty. For my final act, I didn’t really thicken my filling enough so things got a little oozy when I cut it into individual slices. So much drama for one humble pie!

BUT it tasted awesome. I mean that cream cheese pastry? Heaven! It was incredibly tender, flaky and buttery and worked beautifully with the comforting chicken, herb and white wine filling. And because I’m so obsessed in love with this dish, I just had to serve it with my favourite braised balsamic red cabbage (hands down, my favourite vegetable accompaniment to any meat dish). This pie definitely deserves a repeat performance especially while winter is still raging. If only for that kick-ass pie crust.

I never thought I could be so enamoured with cabbage!



Chicken, Leek and Fennel Pie with Cream Cheese Pastry


[Filling]

1kg of chicken thighs (about 3-4)
50g butter
Olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 leek, white part only
1 fennel bulb
250ml white wine
50g plain flour (just over 1/4 cup)
375ml chicken stock
1.5 Tbl thyme leaves, finely chopped
1.5 Tbl marjoram leaves, finely chopped

[Cream Cheese Pastry]

250g plain flour
pinch of salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
200g cold unsalted butter, chopped
115g cream cheese (120ml approx.)


Method

Prepare ingredients for the filling:

• Debone chicken and trim excess fat. Dice into 1.5cm chunks.
• Wash the white part of the leek, halve lengthways and slice into thin half-crescents.
• Remove stalks and fronds from fennel and dice into 1cm cubes.

In a pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter until it’s nutty brown. Add a splash of olive oil and season the chicken with sea salt. Brown the chicken in batches until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Tip the garlic, leek and fennel into the pot, reduce the heat to low and cook vegetables for 5 minutes until softened (stirring occasionally).

Increase the heat and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced to half (about 5-10 minutes).

Shower the flour over and stir to combine. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the browned chicken, thyme and marjoram, stir through and simmer for about 6-8 minutes or until the filling has thickened. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely (best thing is to chill overnight in fridge because warm filling + pastry equals disaster).


[To make pastry]

Whizz the flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor for a second. Add the cold chopped butter and process until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the cream cheese and process until the dough comes together. Tip out the dough, gently knead into a rectangle, wrap with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 240°C (or 220° fan forced) and lightly grease one large pie tin with olive oil spray.

Divide dough into two portions (2/3 for the base and 1/3 for the lid). Roll out the larger portion into a circle about 3-4mm thick and line your pie tin, cutting off the excess. This is a pastry that will shrink a bit so leave a little pastry overhang from the edge.

Fill the pie with the cold chicken filling and spread evenly.

Roll out the smaller portion of the dough into a circle about 3-4mm thick. Brush the edges of your pie base with a little of the beaten egg and seal it with the ‘lid’. Press or crimp your pie edges to seal.

Use a knife to poke the top of the pie to make a slit. Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash (don’t forget this step like I always do lol). Chill pie for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Bake at 240°C for 5 minutes then reduce heat to 220°C and bake for another 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Remove and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes in tin.


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Recipe adapted from Maggi Beer’s Chicken, Grape and Champagne Pie (from the cookbook Maggi’s Kitchen and online).