This recipe is a Christmas cracker. If you are cooking for smaller numbers and don’t want the full-on turkey extravaganza, it’s a very attractive centrepiece to the festive meal. If, on the other hand, you have ordered a colossal bird for the big day and are expecting leftovers, it’s a great way to use some up.
I used poached chicken here but roasted chicken or turkey work just as well. If you don’t want to make rough puff you can use pre-made puff pastry. In that case you’re better off with a block than pre-rolled sheets, because of the size you need to roll it out to.
Vegetarians might like to replace the chicken or turkey with roasted squash or sweet potato, when cranberry sauce on the side would help to cut the overall sweetness. My sister-in-law Sarah makes a simple uncooked version for us every year, which I believe originated from Joy of Cooking.
It’s basically a package of cranberries (about 300g), fresh or frozen, one large orange and a cup of sugar. Peel the orange, discarding the pith but retaining the peel, de-seed it and dump both flesh and chopped peel in a food processor with the other ingredients. Whizz to a slightly chunky puree, check the sugar content, cover and leave to sit in the fridge overnight for the flavours to meld.
Joy of joys (cue Christmas carols), you can make the pithivier the day before, too, just whacking it into a hot oven shortly before you want to eat.
Chicken and Chestnut Pithivier
300g cooked chicken or turkey, cut into large dice
2 tbsp oil (I used extra virgin rapeseed oil)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 stick of celery, trimmed and chopped
80g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
10g dried porcini mushrooms
180g cooked, peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
2 level tbsp plain flour
300ml chicken stock/mushroom soaking water
Salt and pepper
About 750g rough puff or puff pastry
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
Soak the dried mushrooms in enough hot water to cover and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onion and celery, sprinkled with a little salt, until soft and golden. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further five minutes.
Strain the dried mushrooms, retaining the soaking water, and chop them. Put the mushroom water in a jug and add chicken stock to a total volume of 300 ml.
Add the chopped dried mushrooms to the pan and saute for a few minutes. Stir in the flour and cook off gently for a few minutes more. Now slowly add the chicken and mushroom stock, stirring continuously, until the roux has thickened.
Add the chicken and chestnuts, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for a few minutes more to amalgamate the flavours. Remove from the heat, cover and cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
Roll out your pastry 4 mm thick and cut two circles, one of approximately 27cm for the base and one slightly larger, around 30cm, for the top.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper and place the smaller circle on it. Mound the filling in the middle, leaving a 2cm border. Paint the border with beaten egg.
Place the larger piece of pastry on the top and crimp the edges between thumb and forefinger then knock up from out the outer edge between the pleats with the blunt end of a knife to get a scalloped effect.
Using a sharp knife, score a radiating sunbeam pattern on the top of the pithivier, starting at the centre and curving out towards the edge, taking care not to cut right through the pastry. Paint the pie with egg wash and cut a small hole in the centre for the steam to escape.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden and the filling is piping hot.
Rest for 10 minutes before serving with cranberry sauce (see above) and your choice of vegetables. It’s also very good with a sharply dressed green salad and just as tasty cold as hot, if you have any leftovers.