Chicken and Leek Pie on St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day was always important in my family when I was growing up. My father’s grandmother was from County Cork before she came to America, and my dad takes a lot of enjoyment from his Irish heritage. For a number of years I practiced Irish stepdancing, so March meant that my mom drove me around to numerous St. Patrick’s Day parties at Irish-American Clubs, pubs, museums, and churches where we were part of the St. Paddy’s Day show. My dad would play the Chieftains (well, we did that year-round) and mom made corned beef and cabbage. Corned beef and cabbage is an Irish-American dish that originated with Irish immigrants in New England and I, for one, love it! This year, however I wanted to try something different. I wanted to try something that might be more familiar to someone in Ireland. After a little searching around for a recipe, I landed on chicken and leek pie.

The preparation for this recipe was different than anything I had ever done, before, but I found that it smelled and tasted wonderful. I liked it even better cold the next day!

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Chicken and Leek Pie – adapted from Nigel Slater’s recipe

Serves 8

Ingredients
4 pieces bone-in chicken (thighs and legs)
8 peppercorns (or 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper)
1/2 onion, diced
1 bay leaf
milk (enough to cover chicken pieces in a pan)
6 slices of smoked streaky bacon, cut into postage stamp-size pieces*
1oz butter
2 leeks (white and light green parts), sliced into 1/2 inch discs**
3 Tablespoons plain flour
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 sheets of puff pastry (make sure you remove it from the freezer so it has time to thaw)
1 egg, beaten, for glazing
Parmesan, grated, for topping

Preheat oven to 400F

1) In a saucepan place the chicken, peppercorns, onion, and bay leaf.  Cover with milk. Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

2) Meanwhile, fry the bacon. Add the butter and sliced leeks and allow the leeks to soften.

3) Remove the cooked chicken from the milk and flake the chicken meat into the pan with the leeks, removing the bones. Remove the bay leaf from the milk.

4) Add the flour to the chicken, bacon, and leek mixture and cook through for 2 minutes before adding the milk. Add the mustard, as well and stir constantly to make a thick sauce.

5) Roll out the sheets of puff pastry and lay one sheet in a 9″ pie plate. Pour the filling in, then place the second puff pastry sheet on top. Trim and crimp the edges.

6) Brush the pie with a beaten egg and sprinkle the grated Parmesan over the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes in a 400F oven.

* knowing that across the pond, “bacon” refers to rashers of back bacon whereas stateside it refers to cured pork belly, I was not sure at first what to use in this recipe. Through reading around a bit it seems “streaky bacon” refers to American-style bacon, so that is what I used.

** I had never cleaned leeks before. It turns out it is difficult to get all the dirt and grit out of their leaves. So I looked up a how-to that you can find here.

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