Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chicken Pie As Made in England, or Christening my grandmother's skillet

This recipe was featured on Yum Goggle!

My grandmother a while ago asked me to get her a cast iron skillet on eBay because she wants one old enough that they machined out the inside. Part of me thinks she asked me and not my grandfather-- you know, her husband who is in the same house and not five hours away-- because she knew I'd compulsively strip and reseason whatever I ended up buying, especially since it's for family. And sure enough, when I saw the skillet in the mail, it went into a trash bag filled with oven cleaner and into my friend's yard. I actually kind of liked not having my own yard to leave it in- it meant we got to visit every couple of days while I was scouring and respraying the pan.
Would you like to see the before and after?

It's not the best re-seasoning job, but it'll (hopefully) do.

We at A Book of Cookrye decided to christen and test this pan, and needed a suitable recipe. Something adventurous and a little weird to us, but not scary or sure to end in regret. One of those things we'd never have thought of, but we're glad we tried it out. We found what we sought in this book.

Chicken Pie as made in England

2 tbsp butter
3½ tbsp flour
1 c chicken stock
2 oz (1 thick slice) ham
8 mushrooms*
1 generous tbsp rum, brandy, or sherry
2 c cooked chicken, diced (not too finely)
8 gherkins
3 anchovies
3 sprigs parsley
Seasonings to taste (suggestions: pepper and nutmeg)
2 pie crusts

Heat oven to 350°.
Line a pie pan with crust, prick with a fork, and let it bake as you make the filling. Be sure to remove it just as it turns golden. You may want to check for large bubbles a couple of minutes into the baking time- prick them with the fork to deflate.
Dice the ham and mushrooms, but don't cut them too finely. Set aside.
Slice the gherkins. Pick the bones out of the anchovies and mince them. Mince also the parsley. Set aside.
Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Remove from heat. Add the stock, a spoonful at a time, mixing each addition in thoroughly before adding the next. As the mixture thins, you can add it more freely, but if you dump it all in at once you'll just get lumps of flour swimming in broth.
Add the rum, mushrooms, and ham to the sauce. Put over medium heat (or slightly below medium). Cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir in the gherkins, anchovies, and parsley. Season to taste. Because there's already salt in the ham, anchovies, and stock, taste and check the saltiness before shaking any in.
Pour into the pie pan and cover with the remaining crust. Cut some vent slits in the top and bake 1 hour. Serve cold.

*If you feel like strictly sticking to the original, you'll want 4 mushrooms and 4 truffles.  

EDIT: I've been informed that calling for truffles makes more sense because before two world wars destroyed French farmland, truffles were not so prized, rare, and expensive as they are now.

- With a Saucepan Over the Sea, Adelaide Keen, 1902

With a Saucepan Over the Sea, Adelaide Keen, 1902

A Book of Selected Recipes, Mrs. George Thurn, 1934

This comes to us from Feeding America, the digitized cookbook collection at MSU. Once again, we have extremely specific serving instructions.  We aren't going shooting any time soon, and the Thames is too far away. Having a picnic in the laundry room and watching the water flow from the leaky washer to the floor drain seemed a poor approximation. We briefly considered going to a sports game, but if British TV is a good indicator, even the old ladies would be more enthusiastic than we.

Somebody get Miss Farnaby to a Phillies game.

When getting recipes out of old international cookbooks, I wonder if anyone in the countries the recipes come from would recognize them today. Do people see recipes like this and think "Oh, my mother/grandmother used to make something like that"? Or maybe it looks near-exactly like a modern recipe for the same thing? In a similar vein, I'd love to see what's inside a book of American recipes written by an outsider and published in some other country for those who who want to see what those people in the US are up to in their kitchens.

We at A Book of Cookrye would like to let you know that picking bones out of anchovies is maddeningly tedious. Also, the bones will stick to your fingers, leaving you thinking that you accidentally stuck them back onto the fish. Also, the meat falls apart in your hands, leaving you with lots of little anchovy pieces and unsure which ones you got the bones out of. Also, did you miss any which will make you choke and die? We would rather do as the Italians do and dissolve them.
There may be problems with your ingredients when your cutting board is injecting commentary.

Also, did you know gherkins are only cultivated for pickling? If you don't believe me, go out and try to find fresh gherkins anywhere besides a very specialized specialty store.
But now that we have two piles of chopped stuff plus most of a chicken, it is time to... er... sauce.

I guess people used to use white sauce to hold all their food together. It looks like glue at any rate.

Upon some consideration (stirring a sauce lets your mind go elsewhere), we decided there's probably a fairly straight line between this and the Upside-Down Chicken Pie we made for the Pieathlon. They're both chicken and mushrooms with some other things added for flavor and held together with white sauce. This pie may be what that unfortunate canned creation was trying to be.

All right, this is when all of the work starts to pay off. The mushrooms and ham made the kitchen smell like the best breakfast ever. Forget suspending them in sauce, we want a pan of mushrooms and ham!

At this point, scary canned-chicken flashbacks aside, the pie tasted really good and was ready to bake. I was most curious about Mrs. George Thurn's pie crust recipe with that newfangled baking powder in it.
Something doesn't belong here...

However, we first had to overcome my poor pie crust transferring ability and an overzealous refrigerator that turned the dough into a rock.

This isn't my first time doing a pie patch job. Heck, most of the crust was already in place this time.
Put some chicken-mushroom paste in there and no one will know.

Why does the filling looked like cafeteria slop in the pot but become pretty once it's in the pie?

We at A Book of Cookrye can't decide if we like or despise long cooking times. On the one hand, we tend to wait until we're already hungry to start supper. On the other, at least we can get everything washed up so we don't have dirty dishes and counters waiting for us the whole time we're eating.

Actually, you know what? While looking up how best to strip and re-season cast iron, we found that people love doing fancy shots of food in their skillets. Therefore, behold!
It is most unusual that I should be cooking during daylight.

This may be one of the sturdiest pies we at A Book of Cookrye have made. Rather than breaking, it fell out of the pan with a satisfying whomph!
We considered re-inverting it so it'd be rightside-up, but decided luck does not wish to be pushed.

And.... this is delicious. This is amazing. Even the pickles, which I was leery of adding, went really well in this. It fit so perfectly in the pan that I considered apologizing to my grandmother and keeping it just so I could make chicken pie again.
The long baking time melded all the flavors together really well. Oddly enough, a few days in the refrigerator un-melded them a bit and made the separate ingredients stand out more.
You should definitely try this. It also leaves you sated for a long time. It keeps for days in the refrigerator, which is most fortunate because it will also last a while.
I hereby declare this skillet christened!
If you have any banana recipes, feel free to send them to  for the dreadfully named Bananas About Bananas Recipe Contest! You could win this:

The contest deadline is February 28!

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