This is a recipe that I’ve been slowly changing over the years. It started out as a basic chicken and leek pie from a long-lost recipe book, and gradually changed – with bacon, cheese, and white wine being added. It transformed from a large pie to individual pot pies somewhere along its journey through the years, too. There’s just so much you can do with this recipe, so feel free to experiment. It’s a light creamy sauce, ideally suited to poultry. Try duck or turkey, or even fish. You could also use up a pre-bought barbecue chook in this recipe. Leave the bacon in, take it out, replace it with diced ham or prosciutto for a slightly different flavour. You can add all sorts of vegetables to it besides the leek – carrots and peas would both work well. You could easily make a vegetarian version by replacing the meat with potato, and adding whatever else takes your fancy. Click through for my current version.
Chop up the chicken. I’ve used two chicken breasts here. We want fairly small pieces, since they’re going into little ramekins.
Trim the rinds off the bacon. Don’t give them to the cat just yet, though, we’ll use them first!
Slice the bacon up into bits.
You will need a pretty large saucepan. Now put it over a moderate heat, and drop the rinds in. We’re going to use the bacon fat to cook the rest of the meat before we start making the sauce, so don’t add any extra oil (yet. you may find you some more later on, but we’ll get to it in a second).
While the pan is heating up, and the rinds starting to cook, get started on the leeks. These act as a filler in the pie, so you can use a little or a lot. Feel free to play with the bacon:leek ratio. I’ve used four rashers of bacon and two leeks, and find that this works well for my tastes. Your mileage may vary 😉
To prepare the leeks, lop the bottoms off …
Remove the outside layer …
And slice them up. Keep it fairly fine, they’ll break up easier that way. Slice up all the white section, until you get to the green bits.
And so all the slicing and dicing is done. And I didn’t lose a single finger! Sometimes, I amaze even myself 😉
And here’s the rest of what we need … that perennial favourite, minced garlic (if you want to do it the hard way, use two crushed cloves), seeded mustard, white wine (just about any dry white will do – this is a cheap unwooded chardonnay), plain flour, some grated tasty cheese, and grated parmesan cheese (grate your own if you want, but there’s no restrictions here. You can use pretty much any hard tasty cheese, and I imagine a nice romano would work well in place of the parmesan), and some thyme (as per usual, fresh is best, but run with dried if that’s all you can get).
By now, your bacon rinds should be all crunchy and swimming in their own fat. Don’t worry if they’re a little overdone, it all adds flavour to the pan, and flavour is good! Pull the rinds out with some tongs, so that the fat is left in the pan. You might find it’s gotten a little too hot (bacon fat has a nasty habit of doing this, I’ve found), so just pull it off the hotplate for a little while. Pop the rinds on a paper towel to drain, and then either feed them to your children or the cat. My daughter is automatically drawn to the kitchen by the smell of bacon cooking, because she knows there’s likely to be bacon rinds on their way. Don’t stand between a hungry kindergartnener and her bacon rinds, let me tell you!
If you took the pan off the heat, slap it back on, and drop the bacon bits in. Swirl them around until they’re cooked, and then use your tongs (again, to preserve the fat) to pull them out.Put the bacon aside in a bowl while you get on with the chicken.
Cook the chicken in the bacon fat. Do it in batches, to avoid over crowding the pan (overcrowding results in stewed chicken, not browned. All together now: “ewwwwwww!”). See all the lovely brown bits we have on the bottom of the pan here? That’s bacony goodness, right there. Don’t cook the chicken too much, just enough to give it a little colour. Depending on how fatty your bacon was, you might need to add some extra oil throughout this process. Best to choose a light-flavoured oil, such as a vegetable or canola oil. My personal favourite is rice bran oil.
As you cook the batches of chicken, throw it into a bowl with the bacon. We’ll get back to it soon.
Now, throw the leeks into the hot pan with the garlic …
And give it all a good stir around. Cook it until the leek is soft. You might find it gets a bit dry, don’t be afraid to squirt in a little more oil if you need it, but try not to overdo it.
When the leek is done, or nearly done, throw in a dollop of butter, and a couple of spoonfuls of plain flour.
Stir it all up until the butter is melted, and the whole mixture has started to get thick. My daughter is mixing in this photo and, boy, is she speedy!
Here it is, a lovely leeky roux. Which is probably better than a leaky roo. And tastier … 😉
Measure out half a cup of wine (no need to be overly fussy about measurements, of course, but if you overdo the liquids, it ends up a little runny. And when it comes to wine, I’m good at sloshing in a bit, then a bit more …!).
Now add a cup of milk to the wine (again … ew! But it’ll taste good in the pie, take my word for it!)
Slop about half of the milk-n-wine mixture in, and give it a good stir around.
Add the rest in, give it a stir, and then let it simmer for a while and thicken up a bit. Make sure you keep stirring it though, or you’ll get milky-burny bits on the bottom (and they’re not nearly as good as bacony-burny bits!).
It was really hard to get a good shot of this (hampered by the fact that I’m no photographer!), but it’s thickened up a fair bit here. If yours is still pretty runny, don’t stress. Wait until the end, and if you’re still unsure about it, mix a good spoonful of cornflour with some cold water and throw it in. Mix it around over a low heat until it thickens. Rinse and repeat until you get the desired texture.
Throw in the cheeses – about a third to a half cup of each – a small spoonful of seedy mustard, and the thyme. With thyme, it has a very woody stalk, so don’t go just cutting it up with scissors. You will need to strip each stalk, which is pretty easy to do with your fingers. The good part is that the leaves are quite small, so they can go in whole. As for the mustard, this comes down to taste – if you don’t like a mustardy flavour, use a very small amount, or leave it out entirely. It can be very overpowering in this dish, so be sparing with it. You can always add some more later on, but it’s quite a lot harder to take it out.
Wow – what an orange photo! Anyway, find your chicken and bacon, and add it in to the mix.
Here’s a non-orange photo of the whole wonderful mix … looks good? Yes, I think so 🙂 Turn the heat right down to low, and pop the lid on, to finish cooking the chicken. Don’t worry too much about it though, because it’ll get a little more cooking in the oven as well, and you don’t want to overdo it or it will go chewy.
Find your ramekins, or some other suitable dish. These have around about a cup and a half capacity, and are probably a little on the smallish side for this purpose. Use whatever you have. Check the size now, before you put anything in them, and find something you can use to cut the pastry circles to go on the top. My wine glasses are the perfect size for these dishes, but you can use any cup, mug, bowl, or biscuit cutter. Or go all out, measure them, and do them freestyle! Once you’ve done that, grab whatever oil you have in a spray, and give them a good thorough spray all over, and right up the edges.
Dish the filling out into the ramekins. Try not to overfill them, or they’ll overflow in the oven, which can be messy.
Pre-packaged puff pastry is a wonderful thing. You’ll only need a couple of sheets for the lids of the pies, but never fear! There’ll be a recipe appearing on this very blog shortly that will help you decide what to do with the leftovers. I get the reduced fat variety, but to be honest, I can’t tell the difference between it and the normal stuff. I figure that since I brush it with melted butter anyway, being reduced fat is probably pretty negligable, but it does make me feel a little better about it all. Somehow.
This is my daughter using the wine glass to cut out circles for the tops of the pies (and a shadow of me taking a photo of it … *sigh*).
Slip the circles onto the tops of the pies.
And then melt a little bit of butter to brush on top.
We got a little excited, and cut out some stars to go on top as well. Just plop them on top of the butter – no need to brush them as well.
OK, so then we got really excited, and instead of pricking vent holes in the top, I poked sprigs of thyme in instead. Actually, vent holes aren’t particularly important in pot pies, because they tend to vent around the edges, anyway. But I thought the little trees looked cute! Put them in the oven at around 200 degrees, for about half an hour.
All done! You will need to serve them inside a bowl or on a plate, because the dishes will (obviously) be very hot. If you have some left over, they will reheat alright, but the pastry might not be the thing of beauty it once was. Try to eat them all on the day. It shouldn’t be hard!
Images can also be found in the Chicken Leek and Bacon Pie Picasa album