Friday, December 14, 2007
mini pie revolution: chicken, fig, and mushroom pies
I liked the dish in theory, but it didn't quite come together in practice. The fig and mushroom stuffing turned out beautifully, all dark and rich with hints of sweetness. Unfortunately, there was too much chicken, and it didn't quite work with the pastry. It needed more tinkering, so I went back to the drawing board.
I thought about puff pastry instead of plain butter pastry. I thought about pounding out the chicken thighs and rolling them with the fig and mushroom mixture. I thought about ditching the pastry entirely, and just making plain roast chicken with fig and mushroom sauce. And then I stopped thinking, and the answer presented itself.
The dish didn't want to be pastry-wrapped stuffed chicken. It wanted to be chicken, fig, and mushroom pie, and it wanted to be baked for the Mini Pie Revolution. I obliged, of course. Who am I to argue with my food, particularly when it's having an identity crisis?
(Matt gets credit for the photos, and my gratitude for sparing me another fight with the damn digital camera.)
Chicken, Fig, and Mushroom Pie
I'm providing the recipe for just the filling, because pie pastry is one of those things I am not going to attempt to give a recipe or directions for. I use a basic butter pastry recipe. I have no brilliant secrets. The Joy of Cooking will give you better instructions than I can. You can also find helpful advice at the Mini Pie Revolution Headquarters.
(Fills six single-serving pies baked in jumbo muffin pans. You can also skip the pastry, and serve this over rice.)
Melt a generous slice of butter in a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. Add a bunch of finely chopped scallions (dark green parts discarded - use them for scallion pancakes), and stir until softened and fragrant. Finely chop a container of baby bella mushrooms, add them to the pan, and turn up the heat. Scatter with dried thyme. Add a splash of sherry or dry white vermouth. Add a large handful of finely chopped figs, and bring the mixture to a bare simmer.
Cut four boneless chicken thighs into bite-size pieces and brown them in batches in a large pan over medium heat. When all the chicken has been browned, transfer it back into the pan, add the fig and mushroom mixture, and cover with chicken stock. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil, then turn the heat down to a steady simmer. Reduce until the chicken is bathed in a light sauce. If necessary, add salt to taste. Let the mixture cool. Fill your pies, and bake until the pastry is golden. These go nicely with sautéed spinach or poached leeks.