Chicken and bacon pie for all seasons

When I still lived at home, there would be a default dish on Boxing Day, a Delia Smith classic of Creamed Turkey en Croûte. It was, and still is my favourite way to eat turkey (after the actual Christmas day affair) but since leaving home, I’ve never cooked an actual turkey for the simple reason that it’s an excessive amount of bird for 2 people…even when we have cats that would eat it for days too. The pie however, has made its way into our lives and I’ll make it whenever the mood strikes.

I first made it for Husband on our first Christmas together, in my flat in Harrogate. We’d had our friend C over for Christmas Day and I’d cooked a very large chicken in lieu of turkey for the actual main meal and as is the norm, there was left over chicken on Boxing Day. After C left, one of my brothers and his then girlfriend came over to see us and it only seemed right that the chicken became a version of the old Thomas favourite, Boxing Day Pie. Since then, it’s been made several times, evolving and changing into something of my own and it’s time to share the pie love with you all.

The beauty of the dish is that it uses a single pan and a single oven tray, cutting down on the washing up and maximising the time you have to spend doing other, far more useful things. The recipe feeds 4 generous portions and I tend to add a side (or several, depending on how many people I’m feeding) of veg. Carrots work well, but broccoli, braised red cabbage or green beans would also work very well. It also works well cold, for a picnic lunch or leftover lunch the day after. Make sure it is refrigerated when completely cool.

For those who are gluten free, you can substitute the plain flour for corn flour, or plain gluten free flour and use a gluten free puff pastry.

You will need:

  • 3 large chicken breasts, skin off
  • 1 pack of streaky smoked bacon (or a pack of smoked bacon lardons)
  • 3 small/2 large onions
  • big knob of butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 1 chicken stock cube & 14 fl oz water OR 14 fl oz of fresh chicken stock
  • single cream (approximated 4 fl oz)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • dried tarragon
  • a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Bring the stock to a boil and poach the chicken breasts until they are fully cooked – you may need to slice them length ways in half to check they are cooked. When cooked, remove from the stock and chop into bite size pieces. Keep the stock!
  2. Finely dice the onions and sweat off in a deep, wide frying pan until soft and translucent – do not allow them to brown.
  3. When the onions are cooked, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and then fry the bacon until cooked and return the onions, bringing everything back to a low sizzle.
  4. Add the flour to the onion and bacon mixture. You need the flour to absorb all the buttery, onion & bacon juices; it will look a bit messy and claggy, but don’t worry!
  5. Add the hot stock to the bacon pan little by little, stirring all the time until you’ve made a smooth, thick sauce.
  6. Add the chopped chicken and mix thoroughly, making sure you scrape the sides of the pan.
  7. Allow the mix to cool slightly and then add the cream, mixing well.
  8. Season with salt and pepper (to taste) and tarragon – I tend to sprinkle it in, little by little, tasting until I get the right taste. It’s a personal thing – if you don’t like tarragon, it can be substituted for parsley.
  9. Allow the filling to cool completely – hot filling in puff pastry makes a soggy pie.
  10. Heat the oven to 210C/400F or Gas Mark 6/7 and unroll the puff pastry onto a wide, high sided roasting tray.
  11. Pile the cold filling in the centre of the pastry, and brush the edges with beaten egg. Bring the four corners up to the centre and pinch, so they make a parcel. You may need to tear off some excess to patch the holes, this is normal!
  12. Brush the whole pie with beaten egg and bake for 45 mins or until the pastry is golden brown, well risen and the filling is starting to bubble through the joins.
  13. Serve with vegetables of choice and enjoy with friends.
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