Claridge’s Hotel has been providing luxury accommodation in the heart of Mayfair since the 1850s; Martyn Nail, the executive chef of Claridge’s, has been overseeing the kitchens for more than 30 years. There is something very comforting about the longevity of Claridges, its staff, and in particular, the Chicken Pie, a signature dish on The Foyer & Reading Room menu forever. A previous executive chef attempted to retire the dish and replace it with something more “current”; he was informed by the powers that be that it was him or the pie. The chicken pie remained on the menu.
The recipe below has been streamlined and adjusted to include readily available ingredients (the quails’ eggs have been omitted, for instance). The original recipe can be found in Claridge’s: The Cookbook, and in the free sampler available on Kindle. I’m eagerly awaiting my hard copy of the full book, and look forward to a future visit to Claridge’s to taste the original version of the Chicken Pie.
The sauce is plenty rich and flavourful enough to support using leftover cooked chicken or turkey in place of the raw meat called for in the recipe. We had unthinkingly picked up our staple roasted chicken from the grocery store right before Christmas. Having already dispatched the turkey carcass as stock and made 6 quarts of turkey stew with the remains of the meat, I was eyeing the chicken dubiously. Behold the solution: Chicken Pot Pies.
Tender pieces of chicken breast and thigh nestle in a chicken stock base, enriched with cream and lightly infused with thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Sauteed mushrooms, carrots, celery and red onion, petite green peas, crisp bacon lardons, and chopped fresh Italian parsley await the puff pastry topping. I used Lodge cast iron 14 oz round mini pans. There is also an oval 18 oz version available. They’re not as elegant as the ceramic oval baking dishes used at Claridge’s, but this recipe is for home cooks.
An extra ribbon of puff pastry adheres to the edge of each casserole dish with a touch of egg wash. This serves to support the lid of each pie and gives an extra bit of luxurious crunch when the pies are baked.
Creamy mashed potatoes and a bundle of French green beans accompany this decadent meal.
For the crust
- 2 lbs puff pastry, cold (Rough Puff or 2 packages of Tenderflake or Pepperidge Farm, frozen and defrosted)
- 2 eggs, beaten with a little water (for the egg wash)
For the filling
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1″ cubes
- 120 g (4 oz) side bacon, cut into 1/4″ strips (lardons)
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) small white or cremini mushrooms, quartered
- 120 g (4 oz) red onion, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1/2 a large onion)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2” pieces
- 2 stalks celery, chopped into 1/2” pieces
- 80 g (1/2 c) petite green peas
- 10 g (1/4 oz) flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
For the sauce
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and left whole
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 300 ml or 10 oz white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- 450 ml (15 oz) chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 300 ml (10 oz) whipping cream
- 30 g (1 oz) butter
- 30 g (1 oz) all-purpose flour
Make the sauce
- Heat the oil In a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and mushrooms and sauté until the shallots are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the white wine, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme and cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half (about 6 minutes). Add the stock and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook over medium heat until the roux is smooth and bubbling (about 3 minutes). Turn off the heat.
- Position a fine-mesh sieve over the saucepan with the roux. Drain the stock mixture through the sieve into the saucepan. Discard the contents of the sieve. Return the saucepan to medium heat, and whisking constantly, to reach a gentle simmer. Add the cream and bring to a simmer, reducing the sauce until it coats the back of a spoon (about 15 minutes). Season to taste, cover and set aside.
Make the filling
- In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Sauté the chicken meat until slightly browned (about 5 minutes). Transfer the chicken to the saucepan with the sauce (reserve the skillet). Bring the sauce to a light boil, then simmer the chicken over medium heat (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- While the chicken is simmering, sauté the bacon until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
- Drain all but 2 tbsp of the bacon fat. Sauté the onions, celery, carrots and mushrooms until tender, adding a touch more bacon fat if needed. Set aside in another bowl.
- Using a slotted spoon, divide the pieces of chicken equally into the shallow casseroles. Then add divided portions of the vegetable mixture, petit peas, bacon and parsley. Divide the sauce between the dishes, filling each dish about 3/4 full. Refrigerate the dishes until completely cool (about 2 hours).
Add the pastry
- Preheat the oven to 425°F or 400°F Convection.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a rectangle about 30 x 60 cm (12 x 24″) and 3 mm (1/8″) thick. Starting in the upper corner, cut out enough lids to fit the shape of your shallow casseroles (place an empty dish on the pastry to guide you, leaving 3/4″ all around for overhang). Use a 2 cm (3/4″) straight round cutter to cut out a steam “chimney” in the centre of each lid.
- Using a 2″ fluted cutter, cut the same number of rounds of pastry as you have lids. Use the small, straight round cutter to cut a hole in the centre of each. These are the decorative rings for the chimneys. Brush a bit of egg wash around the edge of each chimney and place one decorative ring around each. Pat gently to seal.
- Cut strips of pastry, 3/4″ wide from the remaining pastry.
- Brush the rim of each dish with egg wash. Centre strips of pastry along the edges of each dish, pushing down gently to help it adhere to the rim, egg washing any pieces together until the entire rim is covered. Eggwash the entire strip and carefully drape the pastry lids atop each dish, allowing for 3/4″ overhang around all the edges. Press down gently on the edge, and flute it with your fingers. Brush each lid with egg wash.
- Place the pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling in the centre.
- Cool for 3 minutes before serving with a dish of mashed potatoes and a bundle of green beans.
You can substitute cooked chicken or turkey when making the filling. Simply add the chopped, cooked meat to the sauce and reduce the simmering time to 5 minutes.