Tuesday, 21 August 2012
True confession here . . . we like chicken in this house. It is what we eat the most of when it comes right down to it. We only very rarely eat anything else. We may have fish of some sort once a week, and occasionally a chop or some such . . . but frequently, it's chicken.
I admit freely . . . Ibuy only free range chicken. Organic is not so important to me . . . but free range is. I like to eat happy chickens. The Toddster used to work on a battery farm a long time ago, and I worked in one grading eggs many years ago. We both found it very disturbing and neither one of us stuck with the jobs for very long . . . I know that free range costs more . . . but I would rather support an industry which is humane, than one that isn't. If it means we don't eat chicken as often because of the cost . . . so be it.
I can make a little bit of chicken go a very long way. Just ask Todd. I usually buy whole chickens and cut them up myself. After cutting, I separate the parts and place them individually into freezer bags. Nothing is wasted. I freeze the backs for soups and stocks. The wings get bagged up, frozen and used for scrummy appetizers . . . and sometimes soup too. I leave some of the legs as whole quarter portions, with the thigh and drumstick together, and then I cut some of them into thighs only and drumsticks only. The breasts also get portioned, wrapped and frozen. I like to freeze them individually so that I can take out as many or as little as I want. I place them in their wrapping on a baking tray and freeze. Then I pop them into freezer containers which I have clearly marked with dates etc.
Occasionally I will treat us to a whole roast chicken . . . that is a rare treat. I usually buy a large one and it becomes an occasion . . . rubbed with lots of butter and olive oil, stuffed with garlic and lemons and thyme . . . scattered with sea salt and cracked black pepper, and roasted until it is moreishly succulent and hard to resist . . . but even that I squeeze like a penny to get the most out of it . . .
The roast on the day . . . perhaps sandwiches or a tasty casserole the day after . . . and a delicious soup on the next . . . you do what you have to do in today's economy . . . but with a conscience. It is possible . . .
The Toddster loves pie. He doesn't care . . . sweet or savoury . . . he just loves pie. Today I baked him a delicious chicken pot pie as a treat. He was in seventh heaven.
I used chicken breasts for the meat and poached them in the microwave. The method I use keeps them really moist and fills them with lots of flavour. Don't worry about the cayenne pepper. It may seem like a lot, but it isn't. You will find the meat will be perfectly spiced, and veeee-rrrry tender.
You may be asking yourself what is a rapscallion. Well . . . essentially it's an overgrown spring onion, to simplify the descreption. You can eat the tops raw or cooked. The bottom bulb is delicious and not quite as strong as a regular onion, although in truth, if you don't or can't get these delicious rapscallions . . . feel free to substitute leeks or regular onions, bearing in mind that they will have somewhat of a stronger flavour.
In truth . . . I had never heard of rapscallions before I received some in my vegetable box this week . . . and I couldn't find out much about them online either. The only information I had about them was on a little card that came in the veggie box. That's one thing I like about veggie boxes . . . you are always given plenty of opportunity to try out new things . . . like flat nectarines. This week there was a punnet of flat nectarines in ours. I have found a new love.
Back to the pie . . . if you are fond of moist chunks of chicken meat, in a gravy well flavoured with rapscallions, tarragon and lemon . . . along with peas and carrots and laying beneath a blanket of savoury short crust pastry . . . then this pie is for you.
Tarragon, lemon and chicken . . . a truly beautiful marriage of exquisite flavours . . .
*Chicken Pot Pie with Rapscallions, Tarragon and Lemon*
Delicious Pot pie with a rich gravy, tender chicken breast meat and a trio of interesting flavours.
For the Poached Chicken:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup white wine
2 cups of chicken stock
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 celery stalk, with the leaves
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp peppercorns, cracked
For the Pie:
1 rapscallion, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 TBS butter
3 TBS plain flour
500ml of chicken stock (2 cups)
125ml of dry white wine (1/2 cup)
1 TBS chopped fresh tarragon leaves
the finely grated zest of 1/2 unwaxed lemon
the juice of 1/2 lemon
125 ml of double cream (1/2 cup)
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a large mug full of frozen petit pois
1 carrot, peeled, cut into half moons and cooked until tender
enough short crust pastry to cover your dish
flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper to dust
First poach the chicken. Place the chicken breasts into a deep microwave safe casserole dish which has a lid. Place them in the dish so that the thicker edge of the chicken breasts are on the outside and the thin end on the inside.. Add the sliced onion, celery stalk, broken in half, the seasonings, the water and the wine. Cover and place in the microwave. Cook on high for 15 minutes. Remove from the microwave and allow the chicken to cool completely in the dish, without draining. Once cooled down enough to handle, remove and shred or cut into cubes. Set aside.
Melt your butter in a large saucepan. When it begins to foam, add the raspcallions. Cook, stirring occasionally until the rapscallions have softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for about a minute longer. Whisk in the flour and cook for one minute. Stir in the chicken stock, wine, lemon juice, tarragon and lemon zest. Bring to the boil, then whisk in the cream. Reduce to a quick simmer and allow to cook for about 5 minutes or so until thickened. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the peas, carrots and chopped chicken breasts and combine well. Pour this mixture into a deep pie dish, or into 4 individual dishes.
Preheat your oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.
Roll out your pastry into a round large enough to cover the dish. Wet the edge of your pie dish and apply the pastry top, pressing it gently to adhere. Cut a vent in the middle in order to allow steam to escape. Brush with some milk and dust the top of the pie with some flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
Note: You will probably want to place this pie on a baking sheet to bake as the gravy will most likely bubble out a bit. It's all good.