3.141592653... gets written as 3/14/15 9:26:53. Super!
So in honor of Super Pi Day, I made a super pie: an Elizabethan deep dish chicken pie. Not only does the size make it super but the ingredients are not what we usually expect in a chicken pie. You cannot find any onions, carrots, potatoes, peas, or even mushrooms in it. Also the spices are different from the typical modern chicken pie.
My source was Gervase Markham's The English Housewife, originally published in 1596. The author wrote it for his young wife to instruct her on "the inward and outward virtues which ought to be in a complete woman..."
On page 100, recipe #116 tells us how "To bake a chicken pie."
To bake a chicken pie; after you have trussed your chickens, broken their legs and breast bones, and raised your crust of the best paste, you shall lay them in the coffin close together with their bodies full of butter. Then lay upon them, and underneath them, currants, great raisins, prunes, cinnamon, sugar, whole mace, and salt: then cover all with a great store of butter, and so bake it; after, pour into it the liquor you did in your marrow bone pie, with the yolks of two or three eggs beaten amongst it, and so serve it forth.I needed to explore the details of this recipe a little. What is the "crust of the best paste"?
On page 96, recipe #108, "Of the pastry and baked meats", he says,
...your chickens, calves' feet, olives, potatoes, quinces, fallow deer, and such like, which are most commonly eaten hot, would be in the finest, shortest and thinnest crust; therefore your fine wheat flour which is a little baked in the oven before it be kneaded is the best for that purpose.
And in recipe #109, "Of the mixture of pastes",
...your fine wheat crust must be kneaded with as much butter as water, and the paste made reasonable lithe and gentle, into which you must put three or four eggs or more according to the quantity you blend together, for they will give it a sufficient stiffening.My next quest was to note the "the liquor you did in your marrow bone pie," which is in recipe #115:
... and after it is baked pour into it as long as it will receive it white wine, rose-water, sugar, cinnamon, and vinegar, mixed together, ...My Redaction
From all of this I decided a regular pie crust would do. I decided not to use eggs in it because I was baking it in a deep dish ceramic pie pan instead of having the pie stand up on its own. It did not need "sufficient stiffening." I used a recipe from The Great Food Processor Cookbook, by Yvonne Young Tarr (ISBN 394-73284-7).
Pie Pastry (page 357)
(Yield: Enough pastry for 1 double-crust pie)
11 to 12 Tablespoons cold butter (1 1/2 sticks) and 2 tablespoons cold shortening (or, for a tart pastry that is less rich, 7 tablespoons each cold shortening and butter)
2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 Teaspoons salt
8 Tablespoons ice water
Arrange cold butter and/or shortening by tablespoons around bottom of container. Combine flour and salt and sift together over shortening.
Turn machine quickly on and off 3 or 4 times or until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add as much ice water as necessary, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough forms a ball. Chill for at least 15 minutes before rolling out.
I didn't take any pictures of the pastry being made since my focus was on the filling. I used 8 tablespoons of butter (one stick) and 6 tablespoons shortening. Both had been in the freezer.
Filling (before baking)
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup raisins
16 ounces prunes
<currants are unavailable in the stores at this time>
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, cold
Mix the sugar, spices, and salt together in a small bowl. Sprinkle a generous amount on the pie crust and then put about 1/3 of the raisins and prunes on top of that.
|First layer of fruits and spices is complete|
Sprinkle on the spice mixture, add the rest of the raisins and prunes, and then add on the rest of the spice mixture.
|The pie pan is stuffed full.|
|There was enough dough left over to make decorations.|
Liquor (after baking)
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon rose water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 egg yolks, beaten
I mixed everything but the yolks and tasted it. It had a slightly rosy scent, with the vinegar and sugar balanced well to shift the white wine flavor to a bit more piquant. Satisfied with the flavor, I mixed in the two egg yolks.
Once the pie was out of the oven, I carefully poured the liquor into the slits in the top crust. I made sure to pour some in each slit. I knew the pie had received as much as it could take when some of the liquor came out of the crust on the sides. The hot temperature of the filling appeared to cook the egg yolk.
|Some of the liquid missed the holes.|
I am pretty new to redacting recipes myself. So when I was preparing everything, I worried: I worried that it would be too sweet. And that the spices would be too strong. And that the liquor would taste weak or strong. That I added too much rose water (yes, I love the stuff but not everyone is accustomed to its floral taste). That the chicken wouldn't be cooked all the way through. That it would be too greasy from all the butter.
I should not have worried!
The pie was excellent. Fruity and spicy without being sweet or dessert-like. The chicken was cooked beautifully. The filling was not dry and not greasy. The rose water added a very subtle scent to the meat and fruit without being overwhelming.
The crust was one of the best I have ever made. Not as rich as a dessert pie but still flavorful and flaky.
I had several guest tasters. Some had it hot and some ate it cold. The general consensus was that it was very good; several wanted the recipe and all found it intriguingly different from what we usually think of when we consider chicken pie.
Many noticed the layers and were interested at the effect they had.
I was very pleased I used boneless, skinless thighs. I was able to press them down into the pan and fit nearly the entire three pounds. The half cup plus a little of the liquor was just right, too. The filling soaked up most of it right away. The rest was absorbed after some time in the refrigerator.
I would call this a resounding success! I would make it again, too, just as it is described here.