These lovely little savoury pies are my favourite things to make at the moment. Filling ideas are endless but as we're in France I couldn't resist using duck confit and pigeon breast. The two ingredients so hard to find elsewhere.. well that's not entirely true but at least here duck confit can be bought all ready to go which saves hours of time..and we have a local pigeon farmer. Substitute quail breasts for pigeon for ease if you have trouble sourcing them and use a mix of minced veal and duck beast instead of duck leg confit.
The other thing worth noting is the pastry. Here too in France I can buy fresh puff (or any other kind for that matter) in the cold fridge in the supermarket. It's superior pastry and the cooked result is perfect but whatever you do buy puff pastry don't bother to make your own, it's far too time consuming for this.
Recipe is for 6 pithiviers:
Roll out your bought puff or sheet pastry and cut out twelve (12) 10cm circles with a fluted cutter. Place these circles onto baking paper on a large baking tray (or 2 small) and place in the fridge.
2-3 sheets of puff pastry
2 duck confit legs, shredded and blitzed briefly in a mini food processor
8 quail or pigeon breasts, finely diced into tiny tiny cubes
1 large carrot, streamed, diced into tiny tiny cubes
1 packet fresh spinach, wilted in boilng water for 1 second and dried out with paper towel
salt & pepper to taste
1 whole egg whisked
25g fresh breadcrumbs
a few fresh French tarragon leaves chopped (or use thyme if you like, instead)
To glaze: 4 egg yolks - NO whites, please
Oven to 230 C
Mix all the above ingredients together except the pastry and egg yolks. Remove the ready cut circles from the fridge and brush all twelve with egg yolk and place 60g of the mixture into the middle of 6 circles. Place the other 6 circles over the top but upside down so the egg side is facing down and over the ingredients. Squash out all the air and firm the sides of the circles with your fingers. Brush egg yolk all over and place in fridge for 15 minutes. Remove, brush again with more egg and place back in fridge for another 30 minutes or until you are ready to cook which might even be the next day. DO NOT cover the pithiviers at any stage of this procedure.
When you want to cook them take the next size cutter, 9cm, and recut them so the edges are neat discardng the rough edges.. Gently flute the edges at intervals wth a knife and lightly score the tops for presentation sake. Bake on the baking paper on the tray (s) in a very hot oven, 230C for exactly 15 minutes. Remove and rest for 5 minutes.
Serve with a madeira jus and a little oiled salad on the side or whatever takes your fancy.
Once you have mastered the technique required to make pithiviers use your imagnation to invent novel ideas to fill them. 1 pithivier (pronounced: pee thiv ee ay) is enough for each person as a starter with garnish or for lunch with perhaps a more substantial salad on the side.