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Chicken and Leek Pie and Its All-Butter Crust

Chicken and Leek Pie and Its All-Butter Crust

I made this Chicken and Leek Pie last night because I like to make pie. I added sweet currants and balsamic to this savory Chicken and Leek pie because I thought it would provide some balance. I didn’t give my pie much more thought than that. As I said I like to make pie and I generally don’t need too much motivation. Still, I gave the filling for this pie much more thought than I did to the crust. When making a savory pie I almost always use the all-butter crust I call the “Basic Pie Pastry” in my book Savory Pies. Especially when I don’t want to think too much.

I like my recipe. You’ll notice that it’s rather generous in proportion. That’s because I want to enjoy rolling the dough. I don’t want to worry if I’m doing it just right. My recipe should give the pie maker plenty of leeway to roll the rounds at least a couple of inches bigger than needed. This makes for neat, clean edges. Neat, clean edges make me feel like I know what I’m doing. Feeling confident is the very first step in making a great pie.

Still, the crust is pretty darn important. Too important for me to flippantly discount recipes that are new to me. Crisp, flaky and just salty enough. Creating a crust with “tooth” that melts instantly on your tongue is the key to any great pie. But differing opinions and confusing controversies abound. What combination or ratio is best? All-butter or all-shortening? Maybe lard is better? Then again, there’s the popular 70 percent butter to 30 percent shortening (or lard) version. Is that any good? Don’t get me started on solidified coconut oil. Well, I have tried them all. The all-butter crust remains my favorite for its rich, savory flavor. It has just 4 simple ingredients that are always on hand at my house. So in my opinion, this is the one to master. In fact, commit it to memory. I have.

Which means, when it comes to crust I don’t have to think about it too much.

Until this morning that is. In today’s Saturday section of the LA Times, Noelle Carter offers a primer on pies. Well, actually pie crusts. She totally blew my “don’t overthink it” thesis out of the water. She gets in deep with pie nerds and culinary experts to help develop the “perfect pie crust”.

Simple syrup (per Nicole Rucker), cider vinegar (a dubious trick of most people’s grannies), and a well-considered 2:1 ratio of butter to shortening. There’s so much thought in this crust that’s it’s hard for me to imagine that it could be anything but “perfect”.

What I’m grudgingly saying is this: I’m mightily impressed by Noelle’s recipe. But is that enough to get me to change my ways?

So today – not only do I have the recipe for the Chicken and Leek Pie with Currants and Balsamic I developed on the fly last night – I’ve also included my Basic Pie Pastry and Noelle’s Flaky Pie Dough. Feel free to discuss them quietly amongst yourselves. Maybe even try one or the other – or both. I plan to.

However, as Noelle states: “Passionate pie bakers tend to have a religious zeal…”

Myself included. And though I’m perfectly prepared for Noelle’s recipe to come out on top, I’m just not prepared to admit it quite yet. GREG

PS I’d be willing to admit defeat right now if it weren’t for that darn vinegar. The acid is supposed to inhibit the formation of glutens which creates a tender crust. In my opinion, you could never add enough vinegar to get the pH low enough to have any real effect on the glutens. So why bother?

Chicken and Leek Pie and Its All-Butter CrustChicken and Leek Pie and Its All-Butter Crust All-Butter Crust

Chicken and Leek Pie with Currants and Balsamic

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Published
Chicken and Leek Pie with Currants and Balsamic

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter (divided)
  • 2 ounce thinly sliced pancetta (roughly chopped)
  • 2 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • water (as needed)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, (as needed)
  • 4 leeks (white and pale-green parts only, washed and thinly sliced into rounds)
  • 2 teaspoon dried herbes de provence
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
  • ½ cup dried currants
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
  • 2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • pie dough (enough for a 9‑inch two crust pie)
  • 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water (for egg wash)

Directions

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook pancetta, stirring often, until crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl with a slotted spoon.

Raise the heat under the skillet to medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add a splash of water to skillet. Lower heat to medium again, cover and cook until chicken is cooked through about 12 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate.

Leaving all the liquid in the skillet add leeks, a pinch each salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Bring the heat to low, cover, and cook until leeks are very soft, about 6 minutes. Check the moisture several times. The leeks should be loose and moist but not soupy, but most of all not dry. Add a splash of water if necessary. Once cooked transfer the leeks to the large bowl with the pancetta.

Chop or shred chicken and add it to the bowl of leeks and pancetta along with herbes de Provence, parsley, and currants.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in ⅓ cup flour and cook, whisking constantly, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Whisk in broth, adding a little at a time, until smooth. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Mix the sauce into chicken and leek mixture; season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

The filling can be made up to 1 day ahead. In which case over and chill.

Meanwhile, on a floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the bottom crust 1/8 inch thick or so and large enough to cut a 12 to 13-inch circle (depending on pie pan). Transfer it to a 9 or 10-inch pie pan, letting it drape into place and over the sides evenly. Trim the edges to about ½‑inch overhang if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

When ready to bake place a parchment covered, rimmed baking sheet on lowest rack of the oven, then preheat to 425°F. Spoon filling into prepared pie pan, packing it in well. Use the back of the spoon to smooth the top.

Roll out the second disk of dough to 12” round. Moisten the edges of the bottom crust with water and place the top crust over the filling. Trim to about 1‑inch overhang. Fold and tuck the overhanging upper crust under the overhanging bottom crust and press down all around to seal. Decoratively crimp the border using a fork or your fingers then make 5 evenly spaced 2‑inch slashes starting about 1 inch from the center and radiating toward the edge.

Just before you put the pie in the oven brush the exposed pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper (optional). Set the pie directly on the parchment-lined baking sheet, lower the heat to 375°F and bake at least 55 minutes or until the crust is well browned and the sauce bubbles through the slashes. Use a ring of foil to protect the edges if they’re browning too quickly.

Remove from oven let cool at least 20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Basic Pie Pastry

Print This Recipe Total time Yield Two 8- to 10-inch pie crusts or one 8- to 10-inch double-crust pie shellSource Savory Pies by Greg HenryPublished

High-fat European-style butter is essential to a perfect pie crust. Which, along with chilling, helps keep the dough flaky and minimizes shrinking. Many people swear that the addition of ¼ teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice makes for a guaranteed flaky crust. I’m on the fence but you can add these if you want to.

Basic Pie Pastry

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cup all-purpose flou (or 312 grams, scooped & leveled, plus more as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 9 ounce very cold high-fat, European-style unsalted butter (cut into ½‑inch dice)
  • 2 ice cubes
  • ¼ cup ice cold water (plus 2 tablespoons optional)

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment pulse flour and salt 5 or 6 times until well combined. If there are additions such as spices, herbs, cheese, vinegar or lemon juice add these now (see specific recipes).

Add butter, and continue pulsing until the mixture is crumbly and coarse, with various-sized but obvious chunks of butter scattered throughout.

Place two ice cubes, broken up if necessary into the feed tube of the food processor. With machine running, pour ¼ cup cold water through the ice filled feed tube a tablespoon at a time until dough just comes together and begins to pull cleanly away from the sides of the bowl in jagged clumps. Don’t let the machine run too long and don’t worry if you don’t use all the water. Overworked dough and/or too much water are the main culprits in pastry that is tough or dense. However, in warm weather or dry climates you may need up to an additional 2 tablespoons more cold water. You’ll learn to know when it’s the right balance of wet and dry.

Move the dough to a lightly-floured work surface and gently knead 2 or 3 times. If the dough seems quite sticky or at all wet, sprinkle in another few teaspoons flour. Give dough another couple of quick, gentle kneads. Divide dough in half. Shape into two discs about 5‑inches round and 3/4‑inch thick, or as indicated in individual recipes. Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days) to distribute moisture evenly, or freeze up to 1 month.

Flaky Pie Dough

Print This Recipe Total time Yield Two 8- to 10-inch pie crusts or one 8- to 10-inch double-crust pie shellSource Noelle Carter, Los Angeles TimesPublished
Basic Pie Pastry

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 ¼ teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 2 ¼ cup bleached all-purpose flour (chilled)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (make it generous)
  • 4 tablespoon cold shortening or lard
  • ½ cup cold butter (cut into ½‑inch cubes)
  • ice water (if needed)
  • 1 egg white (for brushing a par- or blind-baked shell)

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the sugar with the water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved to form a simple syrup. Stir the cider vinegar in with the syrup. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled.

To make the dough using a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt until thoroughly combined. Add the shortening and pulse until incorporated (the dough will resemble moist sand). Add the butter and pulse just until the butter is reduced to pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the syrup over the mixture and pulse a few times until incorporated. Remove the crumbly mixture to a large bowl and very gently press or knead the mixture until it comes together to form a dough, adding additional ice water, a tablespoon at a time, if needed. Mold the dough into a disk roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover the disk tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

To make the dough by hand, whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the shortening and incorporate using a pastry cutter or fork (the dough will resemble moist sand). Cut in the butter just until it is reduced to pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the syrup over the mixture, and stir together just until incorporated. Gently press or knead the mixture until it comes together to form a dough, adding additional ice water, a tablespoon at a time, if needed. Mold the dough into a disk roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover the disk tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large round roughly 1/8‑inch thick. Place in the baking dish or pan, trimming any excess that extends more than 1 inch from the sides of the dish and crimping the edges as desired. (One trick I use is to roll out the dough onto floured parchment or wax paper, invert and center the pie dish over the dough and then flip the dough into the dish.) Use any extra dough to make a decorative border (brush the edges of the unbaked crust with water or egg white before pressing any cutouts or other decorations) or save it for later use: Form the dough into a disk, cover tightly and refrigerate until needed. Freeze the formed shell for 20 to 30 minutes before filling and baking.

If par-baking (or blind-baking) the crust, line the frozen shell with parchment and fill with pie weights. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove the weights and parchment, prick the sides and bottom a few times with a fork and bake until the crust bottom is dry and lightly colored, an additional 10 to 15 minutes (longer if fully baking the shell). To “waterproof” a par-baked crust, cool the crust for several minutes, then brush the bottom and sides of the crust with egg white before filling.

 

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