Discussing respective xmas dinners late last year, I mentioned to Cath our now ritualistic chicken pie. She asked for the recipe so this is what I typed out while not eating one fasting day at werk. I am going to assume two things here: 1, that you will buy the best chicken you can afford and 2, that you will read the recipe through at least a couple of times before beginning. This pie is work, there is no other way of describing it, so save it for special occasions or when you have all day to potter about in the fug of your kitchen. Please note that a pie bird, despite the illustration above, isn't actually required, in fact the pie is not deep enough to warrant one, but I dunno, there's something rather charming about a bird bursting through a pastry crust.
Poach a whole chook very gently with:
The green top of a leek, a peeled carrot, a stick of celery, some parsley and a splosh of white wine (optional). About an hour should do it - don't let it boil, let it putter away instead.
When cool enough to handle, remove the bird from the poaching liquor (but retain this) and tear flesh into long shreds, working with the grain. Spoon a little of the poaching liquor over chook and refrigerate while you make a stock with the bones and skin and remaining liquor. You want a rich, reduced stock of which you'll use but little, however leftover stock both freezes well and makes a nice starter. Strain and reserve when ready.
To make pie:
Dice 1-2 carrots (peeled), a couple of stalks of celery; the white of a leek. Steam these until tender.
Mix chook flesh with steamed vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste as well as at least 1/2 a cup of double cream and enough reduced chicken stock to bind things together - you want a loose but not a runny mixture. You will learn to feel your way along with this bit. Think pie filling and you'll know what I mean.
Spread mixture in the base of a ceramic gratin dish. You can pop the whole thing in the fridge at this stage, a 'make ahead' shortcut I rather like, a sheet of cling wrap smooshed right on top of the filling (a skin on anything other than a gratin dauphinoise make me gag). Top with a sheet of puff pastry you've cut to fit the dish. Make it pretty with leaves, etc, cut from the remaining pastry. Go all out here; I use Careme because it is, without doubt, the most luxurious (and puffy and buttery). Brush pastry with a beaten egg and bake at 180C for about 30 minutes - pastry should be puffed and deeply golden.
Super-nice with peas tossed in lemon and butter (thank you, Nigel Slater, for that genius idea).