This French version of one of England’s classic meat pies uses puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) instead of the savory pie crust favored across the Channel — and this makes it super easy if you buy the pastry ready-made. The filling combines chicken, mushrooms and leek or onion in a creamy Béchamel sauce lightly flavored with fresh thyme and white wine.
For best results, buy a high-quality, all-butter puff pastry — or, if you’d rather make it yourself (a time-consuming procedure), there are many recipes available online. Here’s one. For easy handling, keep the pastry in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
For the chicken, I used free-range breasts, but if you favor dark meat, that works equally well. And for the mushrooms, you can use standard white mushrooms or up the results a notch by using wild mushrooms such as porcinis or chanterelles in season.
In terms of equipment, you’ll need two skillets, a heavy-bottomed saucepan, a cake or pie pan about 8-9 inches (20-23 cm) in diameter and a pastry brush. I used a round cake tin, but you could also make the pie in a rectangular baking dish.
Serve the pie either at lunchtime or as a light supper dish, accompanied by a salad. It may also be served as the starter of a more elaborate meal. For wine, I’d suggest a crisp white such as Sancerre or Menetou Salon, or a smooth red like Côtes du Rhone.
The quantities below will serve 4 people.
1/2 pound (225 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1/2 pound (225 g) mushrooms
1 bulbous green onion, 3 scallions or 1/2 leek
1 clove garlic
3 tsp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. herbes de Provence or dried thyme
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. (15 g) plus 1 tsp. (5 g) butter
1 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
2 tbsp. crème fraîche or heavy cream
1 tbsp. white wine
freshly grated nutmeg
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 egg yolk plus 1 tsp. water
2 uncooked rounds of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée)
Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Wash the mushrooms, chop off the bottoms and slice thickly. Chop the onion or leek. Peel and halve the garlic clove.
In a medium skillet, heat 1 tsp. olive oil to sizzling. Add the chicken pieces. Stir until all of the pieces have turned white. Then turn down the heat so that the chicken cooks without browning. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and grind on some black pepper. Add the herbes de Provence or dried thyme. Add 1/4 cup water. Allow to simmer until the chicken is cooked through and most of the water has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. butter to sizzling. Add the mushrooms and garlic halves. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are soft. Discard the garlic. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and grind on some black pepper. Stir. Tip the mushrooms onto the chicken. Using the same large skillet, heat the final teaspoon of olive oil to sizzling. Add the chopped onion or leek. Cook until wilted. Tip onto the chicken-mushroom mix.
Now make the Béchamel. Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When bubbly, add the flour. Stir briefly. Cook over a low flame for one minute. Add the milk, turn up the heat and stir or whisk until the sauce thickens. Simmer for five minutes. Turn off the heat.
Stir the cream and wine into the sauce. Sprinkle lightly with salt, grind on some black pepper and grate in a little nutmeg. Strip the leaves from your sprig of thyme over the pot. Stir. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Stir in the chicken mixture.
You are now ready to assemble and bake the pie.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (350 F, 180 C).
Begin by mixing the egg yolk and water together in a little cup. This will be your glaze.
Unroll one sheet of puff pastry without removing the parchment paper. Invert your baking pan over the pastry. Use scissors to cut through the pastry (and its paper) to create a round that is one inch (2.5 cm) wider than the baking pan. Use the leftover pastry to cut out a few decorative shapes, for example diamonds. Set aside.
Unroll the second sheet of puff pastry over your pan. Press it firmly against the bottom and sides. Allow the extra to hang over the rim of the pan.
Ladle the chicken mixture into the baking pan. Lay the cut-out round of pastry on top.
Now pinch the edges of the two pastry sheets together, folding them inward from the rim as you go to create a ridge. Then flute the ridge. Place your decorative shapes on top.
Using a pastry brush, coat the top and rim of the pie with your egg wash. Cut a few slits into the crust to allow steam to escape.
Bake the pie for about 30 minutes, until it is golden.
Serve straight out of the oven, or reheat gently if serving later. Serves 4.
Tip: For pretty presentation, transfer the pie to a serving plate in a few quick steps. First run a knife around the edge. Then place a large plate upside down over the pie. Invert. Tap the bottom of the baking pan to loosen the pie. Gently remove the pan — your pie is now free but upside down. Place your serving platter over it and invert again. Voilà!