Chicken and leeks baked in a pie

Leeks are the most delicately flavored members of the onion family, but many people are unfamiliar with this useful winter vegetable. It can be baked, boiled, steamed, or braised.

This old Welsh recipe was sent to us by reader whose family has enjoyed it for years. It is versatile enough that ingredients can be added or deleted, depending on what you have on hand. Chicken and Leek Pie 1 small roasting chicken 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped 1 carrot, coarsely chopped 1 stalk celery with a few leaves, coarsely chopped 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 1 tablespoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 4 leeks 3 or 4 sprigs chopped parsley 1 recipe for pastry 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 to 1 cup cubed baked ham, optional 1/2 to 1 cup sliced mushrooms, optional 1 cup mixed carrots and peas, optional

You may add one of the optional ingredients or more as you wish. I have found it best to use only one so as not to mask the wonderful flavor of the chicken and leeks together.

Barely cover chicken with water, add next 6 ingredients and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Do not overcook chicken. If stock is not flavorful enough, remove chicken from bones and return bones to kettle, simmering another half hour or more as needed. Cut cooled chicken in bite-size pieces. Cut white part of leeks in 1/2-inch slices and place in boiling water. Boil not more than 1 minute. Drain and put in 9- or 10-inch pie pan with chicken, parsley, and optional ingredients. Pour on enough stock to barely reach top of filling.

Cover with puff pastry, plain pastry, or biscuit dough made with a mix. Be sure to slit pastry several inches down center and cover with a pastry leaf. Bake in 400 degree F. oven about 40 minutes. Just before serving and while pie is still very hot, remove pastry leaf, and pour in warmed cream through the slit.

Serve immediately. A hearty tossed spinach salad, crusty French bread, or rolls, and a dessert complete the menu.

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