Chicken, Grape and Champagne Pies

Serves 4

Note: Verjus is the juice of unripe grapes. Find it near the vinegar at specialty grocers.

Filling:

2 tablespoons butter

Extra-virgin olive oil

3-4 large, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Sea salt

2 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup Champagne

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped thyme

1/2 preserved lemon, flesh removed, rind rinsed and finely chopped

2 tablespoons verjus

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup green seedless grapes, halved if large

Pie pastry:

2 cups flour

1 3/4 sticks butter

4 ounces sour cream

Olive oil

1 beaten egg

1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large pan over high heat until nut-brown, then add a splash of olive oil. Season chicken with salt, then saute in batches until lightly colored. Remove from pan.

2. Add leeks and garlic to pan; cook over low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to high, deglaze pan with wine, and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes or until wine has reduced by half. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine, then add stock and bring to a simmer. Add chicken, tarragon, thyme and preserved lemon, stirring gently to combine. Cook 4-5 minutes. Add verjus, and simmer 2-3 minutes more. Season to taste. Add grapes, then let mixture cool completely.


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3. For the pastry: Combine flour and butter in a food processor, and pulse until mixture resembles course crumbs. With processor running, add 3 ounces sour cream. Add up to an ounce more, just until the pastry comes together and forms a ball. Chill for 20 minutes.

4. Grease four 4-inch pie tins with olive oil. Roll out pastry to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut four 7-inch and four 4 1/2-inch rounds. Line each tin with a 7-inch round. Divide the cooled chicken mixture among the tins. Wet pastry edges with a little water, then top with lids. Press edges together to seal, trimming away excess. Pierce a small hole in the center of each top, then brush pastry with a little beaten egg.

5. Chill pies for at least 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until pastry is golden. Cool slightly before serving.

-- Adapted from Maggie Beer, "Maggie's Kitchen" (Penguin, 2008)