The cream cheese that has been in the fridge for a while was the inspiration for these little pies. The pastry that uses part cream cheese and part butter is very tender and flaky, and easy to make. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and took the opportunity to use up another one of the spice rubs that were in the spice drawer.
Make the pastry first to allow time for it to rest and chill before rolling it out.
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine:
4 ounces of cream cheese
10 ounces of butter
Mix with the paddle attachment until they are well combined.
2 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix until just starting to form a dough.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and gently press it together.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, press into discs and wrap well.
Chill for at least 2 hours before rolling the dough out.
To make the filling:
Sprinkle the rub onto the chicken thighs, and massage into the meat.
You will need about 2 tablespoons of rub for 6 chicken thighs.
Brown the chicken in a hot pan, using a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.
When both sides of the chicken are well browned, add:
1 cup chicken stock.
When the stock comes to a boil, turn the heat down and cover the pan. Simmer until the chicken is tender and starting to fall apart easily.
Remove the chicken from the pan, and allow it to cool completely, before shredding it. Reserve the liquid and the pan.
Heat the pan, and add a drizzle of olive oil.
1 large onion, diced
Salt and pepper
Cook until the onion starts to soften and colour.
3 medium carrots, diced
Cook until the onions are caramelized and the carrots start to colour.
Add enough flour to coat the vegetables when stirred in, 1 - 2 tablespoons.
After you have cooked the flour for a couple of minutes, add the reserved liquid to the pan, and stirring, bring it to a boil.
Turn the heat down and simmer until the carrots are tender.
Taste and adjust seasoning.
Return the shredded chicken to the pan, and add 3/4 cup frozen peas.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
Now it's time to make the hand pies...
Heat the oven to 425F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each disc of pastry out to between 1/4" and 1/8" thickness.
Using a bowl or plate, cut an 8" circle from each one.
Continue until all 8 pieces of dough have been rolled and trimmed.
Divide the cooled filling between the 8 dough circles, placing it in the centre.
Brush the edge of each circle with egg wash.
Bring the edges together over the filling and pinch closed in the centre.
Working from the centre to the sides, fold and crimp the edges together.
Place each pie onto the baking sheets, and brush with the remaining eggwash.
Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375F and continue to bake until the pastry is golden and the filling is heated through, about 25 - 30 minutes altogether. I served the pies with a side salad of romaine lettuce, candied almonds, strawberries and blue cheese.
- The pies are an alternative to pot pie, which was my original plan. These are a bit more fun to eat.
- Any leftover cooked meat can be used instead of braising chicken thighs...roast chicken, pork or beef; diced ham; cooked fish such as salmon or cod.
- For a basic rub combine equal parts of paprika, brown sugar, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Cumin or chili powder can be added, and the black and cayenne peppers can be adjusted to your personal heat tolerance. If stored in a well sealed container the rub will keep for a few weeks.
- The rub provides all the necessary seasoning, it just needs adjusting with a bit of salt and/or pepper. Adding the flour to the vegetables absorbs any residual fat and allows the reserved liquid to thicken when it boils, making a yummy gravy.
- Use vegetables that are available. Try celery, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms.
- Add cheese to the filling just before filling the pies if you want, for a gooey richness. Any cheese will work, but I tend to choose stronger cheese such as blue, aged cheddar, asiago or smoked cheese.
- It is important that the filling is completely cold when it is added to the pastry. Any heat in the filling will start to melt the fat in the dough, and cause it to collapse before it goes into the oven.
- Fresh chopped herbs can be added to the pastry; make sure they are finely chopped so that they don't cause the dough to tear when it is being rolled out.
- The dough can be made a few days ahead and kept in the fridge; it can also be frozen.
- The pies can be filled and frozen, to be taken out and baked at a later date.
- Use a sweet filling such as apples baked with brown sugar and cinnamon; cream cheese combined with honey, vanilla and chopped nuts; bananas, chocolate chunks and mascarpone cheese.
- The dough can be left as one large piece, and rolled out to line a pie plate; or used as the pastry for a pot pie.
- Leftover pies make a great lunch for work the next day.