Lemon & Herb Chicken Hand Pies

A twist on hand pies and chicken pot pie, with an added little boost of flavor from the lemon and rosemary.

You know how in all of the period movies the rich, fancy people go out for picnics in their airy, beautiful clothes in a perfect green field with a fancy picnic basket full of champagne,  and eat un-picnic like delicacies while great personal dramas and romances unfold?  I feel like these would fit into that kind of scene beautifully while being eaten on bone china with gold plated cutlery.

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We took these out on a picnic when I made them.  But ours looked more like sitting on a cement picnic bench in the trees by the lake, and the most monumental drama we dealt with was the swarms of gnats and a three year old who repeatedly and fervently told he was not hungry and did not want to eat.  Instead of bone china, we ate them out of foil packets with plastic water bottles and baby carrots on the side while sweat ran down our backs.  

Practically the same scenario, right?

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But no matter how you eat them, indoors at your table or al fresco con insectos, these are definitely some of the best hand pies you will encounter.  The filling is a bit more interesting than your standard chicken pot pie fare, and the puff pastry is a fun twist on the standard pie crust.

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And for the record, the 3 year old did like them... once we actually convinced him to eat.  

Toddlers. Sigh.

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Lemon & Herb Chicken Hand Pies

Recipe by Rebecca Neidhart
Serves 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes || Cook time: 45-55 minutes

  • 1/2 cup of white onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • Zest and Juice (about 2 Tbsp.) of one fresh lemon
  • 1 pound chicken (see notes)
  • 3/4 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 6 Tbsp. grated (not powdered) parmesan cheese
  • 2 10"x15" sheets of puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten

In a large pan, heat the butter and olive oil together over medium heat, and when the butter is melted completely add in the onion and carrot.  Saute until the onion is transluscent and the carrot is soft, about 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic in and cook for another minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant.

Dump the flour in a little bit at a time, stirring after each addition to make a thick roux.  It will be a thick, lumpy mixture, but don't worry!  The lumps will all smooth out.  Slowly pour the chicken stock in, beating quickly with the other hand to smooth out the mixture.  Pour in the milk and stir until the mixture is smooth, then add the salt, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, and lemon zest and juice.  Stir and continue to cook until the mixture has thickened to about the consistency of canned cream soup.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken and peas.  Preheat the oven to 425° and line a large baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper.

To prepare the pastry, cut both sheets into 5" squares by cutting it in half horizontally and then thirds vertically-- you should have 12 squares.  Place about 1/3 cup of the chicken filling and a Tbsp. of parmesan cheese in the center of a square, leaving at least 1/2" on each side.  Using a pastry brush, brush egg around the edge of the pastry, then lay another piece of dough on top of the filling and pinch the two squares of pastry dough together.  You may need to stretch the upper dough slightly, or you can roll it out to be slightly larger.  Then use a fork to press along the edges and seal them well.  If the fork is sticking to the dough, you can dip the tines in flour.  Repeat with the other squares of dough to make six hand pies.

Place the hand pies on the prepared baking sheet.  If the pastry dough is warm from sitting out and being handled, you should place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes to allow the butter in the pastry to re-harden.  When they are ready to bake, brush the top of each with more of the beaten egg, then use the tip of a sharp knife to score the pastry.  You can do it in any pattern you like, but be sure to not cut all the way through the dough so that it doesn't burst and leak out the top.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the dough has puffed, no longer looks doughy, and has begun to turn slightly golden.  Turn down the oven to 350° and continue to bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the tops are a deep golden brown, and lift with a spatula to make sure that the bottoms are a deep brown.  

Remove from the oven and serve immediately.  If you had leftover filling, you may wish to serve it on the side to eat with the edges of thicker pastry.

Cook's Notes: I like use chicken breast that has been roasted with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, but you can use any form of pre-cooked chicken that you like.

Puff pastry should be kept as cool as possible during handling to achieve the maximum amount of puff.  That said, if working with it is new for you, don't stress!  Even if it doesn't puff as much as you like, buttery pastry never tastes bad.  And there's always next time to do it better.