That’s right! It’s a whole chicken wrapped in a pie crust.
I got the idea for this recipe years ago from Chef John from foodwishes.com, and always thought that with some extra spice and imagination, you could do a great Medieval style version. This showstopper recipe combines three great culinary passions of the European Middle Ages: 1) Lots of spices, 2) Baking everything into a pie, and 3) Cooking things that look like other things!
A couple important distinctions. While Medieval pie crusts, known at the time as coffins, were probably not designed to be edible, ours most certainly will be. And regarding my distaste for frivolous cooking techniques, a whole pie in the shape of the chicken contained within it does not feel so egregious to me as say… a roast meat made to look like a fruit or something. No jelly or wax involved here, and natural spices give it the meat yellow color . (Medieval cooks loved to dye and color their foods as well).
This recipe seems complex but is actually quite simple. We will be treating the chicken like any roasted bird, coated with salt and spice and stuffed with herbs and aromatic vegetables. We’re simply going to wrap a pastry crust around it too for some extra dimension. Almost like a primitive chicken pot pie.
FOR THE CHICKEN:
-1 whole chicken, about 3.5 lbs, wing tips removed
-1/2 yellow onion
-1 Fennel stem with fronds
-1 bunch each rosemary, thyme, and parsley
-Generous coating of Kosher salt
-Generous coating of spice mix
FOR THE SPICE MIX:
-1/2 cup ground turmeric
-2 tbsp. black pepper
-1 stick cinnamon
-1 tbsp. cloves
-3 star anise
-1 tbsp. coriander
FOR THE PASTRY CRUST:
-2 cups all purpose flour
-10 tbsp. butter, ice cold and cut into cubes
-1 tbsp. sugar (plus more for garnish)
-1 tbsp. salt
-6 tbsp. ice cold water
-1 egg (for eggwash)
Let’s make our crust first, because it needs a lot of time to chill. The secret to making great pie crust is to use very cold butter and water, and not to overknead.
Start by whisking together the flour, sugar,. and salt. Cut the butter into cubes and use a pastry masher to work it into the flour, until you have a coarse and mealy texture.
Add the ice water a little at a time, folding with your hand or a until the dough just barely comes together. Before rolling out, chill in the fridge for at least one hour, or overnight.
Now grind all your spices into a mix and then prepare the chicken. Pat it dry with towels and season very generously inside and out with salt and spice, rubbing it all over into the skin with your hands. The tumeric should give it a nice bright yellow hue.
Dice up all your vegetables and herbs into small pieces, tossing them with more salt and spice. Pack them into the open back cavity of the chicken until its very full. Now pop it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
After all that waiting and chilling, its finally time to assemble this monstrosity.
On a well floured surface, roll out the crust to about 1/8 of an inch thick. Anywhere there is oblong excess, trim off and save. Lay the chicken in the center breast side down, and place the piece of excess crust on the top, gathering up the sides of the dough on top of it and gently crimping to seal.
You might have to play with it a little, removing excess here, patching it there. Don’t worry about any cracks, they will bake away. Carefully flip the bird over so the breasts and smooth side of the crust is facing up, and as a fun final touch, gently press it against the skin to show the form of the chicken.
Brush liberally with eggwash, and season with coarse salt, more spice mix, and yes, some white sugar. Place on a tray and bake at 350F for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Isn’t that beautiful? Mine cracked a bit, of course, but not too much harm done. I think my crust needed a bit more moisture (I adjusted the recipe above to reflect this). Maybe less Instagram friendly, but no less delicious.
You need to let it rest at least 45 minutes before slicing up. In the meantime, Chef John suggests removing a small piece of the back crust, and scooping out the vegetables, frying them in a pan with wine and butter to make a nice pan sauce.
This is definitely a dish to unveil and let your guests marvel in its glory…then remove it somewhere private to carve up, as it’s hard to keep that an elegant affair. You might have to just open, cut pieces off, and kind of re-cover with crust pieces as you plate it.
A fun dish to show off with, worthy for a baron, duke, or even a king.