Monday, 28 October 2013

Folded in Gold

Torta Salata di Pollo, Dragoncello, Finocchio, Pomodro, Miele & Senape in Pasta Filo
Chicken, Tarragon, Tomato, Fennel, Honey & Mustard Filo Pie

You know, I never did like chicken pie, it was always too bland for my liking and on the few times that I ate it, a little stringy and dry tasting. Despite it usually being drenched in gravy, it just always tasted rather dull. Surely I could do better, I thought this evening- and with a couple of yummy ingredients, indeed I did! With some wonderful, crunchy and flaky filo pastry, tangy Dijon mustard, aromatic Tarragon, juicy tomatoes and a little sweet honey to add a little more character, I whipped up this lovely little pie in next to no time- and of course I am right here, right now,  to share how I did it with all of you!

Of course the combination of chicken with tarragon is nothing new- neither is honey and mustard. But taking all of these things, combining them with a few extra ingredients and filling them into a light and crunchy filo pastry, was indeed new to me this evening... and I am happy to be here to tell you just how wonderful it was!

To make this lovely little individual pie, of course I needed some nice lean chicken- in this case 1 nice, plump breast was plenty. I chopped it into bite-sized pieces, dipped it into flour briefly  and sautéed it in just a small pat of butter. Whilst it was beginning to fry, I added a handful of fennel, cut into chunky bite-sized pieces too, then seasoned it with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg.

As soon as the chicken had turned from being pink to white, I added just a little crushed garlic, and a handful each of both finely chopped chives and coarsely chopped tarragon. Now that the chicken was beginning to brown-off a little, it was time to deglaze the pan with a nice splash of white wine. An extra half glass of wine for the chef is an optional, but recommended addition to ensure the dish works out nicely ;-)

As soon as the wine had loosened up all of the good flavors from the base of the frying pan, I added a heaped tablespoon of Dijon mustard and stirred this in well- as soon as that had happened, I added enough milk to dilute the now rather thick coating on the chicken into a smoother and lighter cream. There should be enough flour on the chicken to have caused the wine, juices and milk to thicken to a bechamel-like sauce, but if it DOES end up being a little too liquid, you can always add either a little cornstarch or flour diluted into milk in order to thicken it up again.

I checked the seasoning for salt and pepper and added more as necessary, and then turned off the heat. At this point, I added 4-5 cherry tomatoes which I cut in half and stirred into the mix. I didn't want to add them too early as I wanted them to remain intact and not to simply cook-in to the sauce and turn it pink, I wanted them to retain their juicy consistency and character. 

For the filo crust, I lightly greased my little baking dish with olive oil, simply using my fingers, then took 4 sheets of filo pastry and rubbed them over lightly with oil too. I wanted to have a slightly different flavor than the typical butter enriched crusts and found the olive oil to be a little richer. You can used a brush to do this if you prefer, but being as you are going to need to use your hands to do the rest... I just didn't see the point!

Into the dish the pastry went, carefully eased into place and pressed gently into the edges. And then in went the filling- the important thing being that it is nice and saucy but not too liquid- keep the consistency a little thicker so that the meat stays moist and delicious but it doesn't simply soak through the pastry. 

All that remained to be done now was to fold over the excess pastry and to seal the pie shut. I moistened my fingers again to do this and patted the pastry down flat- remember- the more folds you have, the crunchier and flakier the result will be!

I baked the pie in a pre-heated oven at 300°C for 10-15 minutes until the pastry was lightly brown and beginning to crisp-up, then took it out, added a light drizzle of honey for the glaze and popped it back in for a  further 2-3 minutes, including maybe a minute or so at the end under the broiler to take it right to the edge of deliciousness- yum! But keep your eye on it- that pastry is paper-thin after all and you wouldn't want it to burn!

And there you have it- a crispy and delicious little pie, with a honey-glazed pastry to compliment the mustardy, tarragon chicken inside- so tasty and so good! With with just a little flour and milk to thicken the sauce, not as heavy as a bechamel and the small amount of olive oil in the filo crust, also lighter than the usual butter... just a nice, lighter touch to a great, tasty meal! And one that I hope you will enjoy too!

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