- For the pastry:
- 240 g cake flour
- ¼ t salt
- 125 g very cold butter
- ½ cup sour cream
- For the filling:
- 500 g small French shallots
- 5 T butter
- 2 T olive oil
- 8 (1.2–1.4 kg) free-range chicken thigh portions
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cloves, crushed garlic
- 1 cup verjuice
- 1 cup chicken stock
- A few sprigs thyme
- 4 T cake flour
- 6 T breadcrumbs
- Watercress, to garnish
To make the pastry, sift together the flour and salt. Grate the butter into the flour mixture and process in a food processor until crumbly. Add the cream and mix to form a soft dough. Flatten between 2 sheets of baking paper and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll out into an oblong shape between 2 sheets of baking paper, then fold in half. Half turn, then roll out into an oblong shape again, then fold in half once more. Repeat the process once more. If the pastry feels a little sticky, dust very lightly with a little flour.
Chill for 30 minutes before using. If made in advance, the pastry may need to stand at room temperature just long enough to make it easy to roll out. It should still be cold to the touch.
To make the filling, pour boiling water over the shallots. Slice off the ends and slip off the skins. If you couldn’t get small shallots, slice them in half lengthways.
In a suitable pan, heat 2 T butter and the oil. Brown the chicken, in batches if necessary. Remove from the pan and season to taste.
Add the shallots to the same pan and sauté until nicely browned. Remove and season lightly. Pour off the fat and stir in the garlic. Return the chicken and shallots to the pan and pour in the verjuice and stock. Add the thyme. Cover and simmer for 30–40 minutes, or until tender.
Remove the chicken and shallots from the pan Allow to cool. Strain the cooking liquid and set aside 1½ cups for the sauce.
Rub the remaining butter with the flour to form a paste. Gradually add a little cooking liquid and whisk until smooth. Heat the reserved cooking liquid, then gradually whisk the butter-and-flour mixture into the heated cooking liquid. Keep whisking and simmer for about 5 minutes until smooth and thick.
Skin and debone the chicken (freeze the bones for broth). Coarsely shred the meat, then mix with the shallots and sauce. Check the seasoning.
To assemble, roll the pastry into a large round between 2 sheets of baking paper – about 32 cm in diameter. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle the middle of the pastry – about a 20 cm circle – with a thin layer of breadcrumbs – about 4 T.
Pile the chicken mixture on top of the crumbs. Pull out some of the shallots to top the chicken.
Fold the pastry over the filling to make a border. Sprinkle the centre with the remaining breadcrumbs. Brush the pastry with the egg. Bake at 190°C for 40 minutes, or until golden.
Garnish with watercress.
Chef's note: Don't be intimidated by the prospect of making pastry. Relax and follow the instructions. It can be made a day or two before or even earlier and frozen. Leeks are always good in a chicken pie but French shallots make a nice change. You can prepare the filling ahead of baking the pie. Refrigerate if needed but bring back to room temperature before baking.