Chicken and Asparagus Pie

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I have a new toy in my work kitchen. It’s an Instant Pot Duo electric pressure cooker and it is fabulous. I only had a few days to play with it before the family went on holiday so I haven’t made a lot of things in it yet – pulled pork, mashed potatoes and the filling for this pie. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can make the filling perfectly well in a normal pan, just simmer the chicken until tender and falling off the bones then continue.

This is a large pie – it feeds 8 people – you can easily halve the quantity to make a smaller version. I make my own pastry (because it really is easy, honest) but a good quality ready made one is fine if you hate making it or can’t be bothered.

Don’t be spooked by the fact that the chicken is cooked in milk. This makes the meat deliciously savoury and tender and then it is used to make the sauce for the pie. If you don’t like asparagus you could use small broccoli florets or fry up some sliced mushrooms instead. I used fresh tarragon here because I think it really works with chicken, if you dislike the flavour of tarragon use parsley.

Because it’s not recommended to stack the pressure cooker with several layers of meat, I did this in two batches. If you are doing it on the stove then by all means put everything in the pot at once.

Chicken and Asparagus Pie

serves 8

10 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed, put aside* and trim off any excess fat
2 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
dash of oil
2 bay leaves
Whole milk (to cover)
1 good quality (organic) chicken stock cube
2 bunches of asparagus, any woody ends removed
knob of butter
200g plain flour
50g butter, diced
50g lard, diced
seasoning
3 tbs softened butter
3 tbs plain flour
1 tbs tarragon leaves, chopped

If you are using an Instant Pot use the Sauté setting, heat the oil and soften the shallot and garlic for a couple of minutes. Nestle in 5 of the chicken thighs, cover with milk, crumble in the stock cube and add the bay leaves. Close the cooker, close the vent and set to high pressure for 6 minutes. Allow to release pressure naturally for 5 minutes then fast release.

Remove the chicken from the pot with a slotted spoon and put on a plate to cool.

Add the second lot of chicken into the pot and repeat.

While the chicken is cooling make the pastry. There are three ways you can make this:
Chuck everything into a food processor, blitz until the flour changes colour and has a sandy texture then drizzle iced water down the feeder tube until the pastry comes together and rolls around the spindle.

Put the flour in a roomy bowl and add the butter and lard. Then use a pastry blender to work the fat into the flour. Once you have the sandy texture drizzle over iced water whilst stirring with a kitchen knife. When the dough starts to form bring it together with your hands and knead lightly in the bowl until it comes together.

Do the same as above but use your thumbs and finger tips to scoop up the flour and fat and rub them together, letting everything fall back into the bowl. Eventually you will have that sandy texture and can add the iced water.

Once the pastry is made pat it into a flat cake, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest.

Now strip the chicken from the bones, removing any remaining fat and other wibbly bits, and put into a roasting tin or large shallow pyrex dish.

Spread the trimmed asparagus out in a wide shallow pan with 100ml of water and a knob of butter. Bring to a rapid boil and cook for two minutes. Drain into a sieve over a bowl (to catch the asparagus water) and then run the sieve under a cold tap until the asparagus is completely cool. Scatter the asparagus in and around the chicken.

Using a fork, mash together the softened butter and the extra flour on a small plate or saucer until you have a paste (this is called a beurre manié, it’s a very useful thing for thickening) then bring the cooking juices in the Instant Pot (on sauté) or in a saucepan on the stove up to the boil. Once the liquid is boiling whisk in a small lump (I was going to say nugget but it made me laugh too much. Ahem. Sorry) of the butter and flour paste at a time until it is all used up. If the sauce seems too thick let it down with some of the saved asparagus water. Add the tarragon. Simmer for 5 mins. Season. Remove the bay leaves. Then pour over the chicken and asparagus.

Roll out the pastry and drape over the filling. Trim neatly and then fancy pants it up as much or as little as you like.

Bake at 180ºc for 30 mins or until the pastry is pleasingly brown.

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*But Beeeee what do we do with the chicken skin???

Well. If you lay it out on oven trays and bake for a while, turning occasionally until golden and crispy then sprinkle with salt… you will end up with THIS:

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This is snack crack or chicken heroin.

One of the finest things in the universe. Make some. You will thank me.