This is not your everyday meal, but rather a very special occasion one. If you have invited dearest friends for dinner or perhaps you’d like to spoil your family with a great dish, this is what you need to cook! It is complicated and time consuming, but it is worth every minute of your time.
It has taken me total of two days, including preparation of broth and two fillings on a first day, and then putting a pie together and baking on a second day. You can probably be done in one day, if you don’t need to photograph every step of the recipe-)) It may take about 3- 4 hours, including homemade broth and everything else. Of course you are not going to cook this every day, but it is such a grand dish, very delicious and aesthetically beautiful. I hope you enjoy my post today, I put a lot of effort to bring this to you. Bon appetite!
For more Russian recipes, visit Russian Cuisine page.
Chicken pie (“kurnick” in Russian) is the most famous of Russian pies, the king of pies, peak of national culinary arts. It is known from historical documents of the time, chicken pie was served during times of Ivan the Terrible as a feast dish for the tsar’s table. Also, “kurnik” has been a must have dish on every wedding reception table. It was multi-layered, tall and decorated by figures made out of dough. Traditionally, both sides were baking “kurnik” for each other – in the bride’s house for the family of the groom and in the house of the groom for the bride’s family. Groom’s pie was decorated by the two figures baked from dough representing strength of the future family and the bride’s pie was decorated by flowers – symbol of femininity, beauty and purity.
Naturally, mandatory ingredient of the chicken pie is chicken meat and in the old times it was typical to stuff pie with large pieces, occasionally even pieces on a bone. The wealth of the family could be easily judged by the stuffing for their “kurnik” –well to do families always tried to stuff more meat, while poorer families sometimes could only afford stuffing of mushrooms, buckwheat and turnips. Later buckwheat started to be substituted with rice. Every ingredient of “kurnik” had an additional symbolic meaning. Flour represented life sustenance, grains – harmony and prosperity, chicken and eggs – fertility and procreation. To this day “kurnik” is a mandatory major dish on the wedding festive table in many regions of Russia where old traditions are kept and respected.
This is a fairly time-consuming recipe. You could prepare all the elements a day in advance and do the assembly and the baking just before serving. Let’s start with the chicken broth.
Ingredients for the chicken broth: Use the organic ingredients if possible
- 2-3 lb. fresh chicken
- 1 yellow onion, peeled, coarsely chopped
- 1 stalk celery with leaves
- 1 large turnip, peeled, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 fresh fennel (the bulb, stalk, and feathery fronds)
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and peppercorns
To make the broth: Place the all ingredients into stockpot or large saucepan. Add water to cover the ingredients by about 1 inch; more water could dilute the flavor of the broth. Turn the heat to high. As soon as you see bubbles forming, reduce the heat to low. Skim off any foam from the surface with a large slotted spoon or skimmer. Let the broth simmer, regularly skimming any foam from surface, until it is full flavored, 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Carefully pour the broth through a sieve lined with damp cheesecloth into a large tempered glass or stainless-steel bowl and discard the solids. Save the chicken, you are going to use it for one of the fillings in chicken pie.
Now we are ready to make two stuffings for our pie.
Ingredients for the chicken, mushroom and onion filling:
- 3 cups cooked chicken, diced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 lb mushrooms, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- salt and pepper to taste
To make the chicken filling: In a large fry pan over medium heat, heat the oil and melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cooked chicken, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
Pause: What do you think of my new cutting board?-)
Ingredients for the kasha (buckwheat), eggs and fresh dill filling:
- 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups cooked kasha (also you may use rice, quinoa, or cooked potatoes
- fresh dill, chopped (to taste)
- salt and pepper to taste
To make the kasha filling: In a large bowl mix together all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth if filling/stuffing a little dry.
Ingredients for the crêpes: (6-8 crêpes)
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp olive oil
- butter for frying
To make the crêpes: In a blender, combine all ingredients (except butter) and blend until smooth. In a crepe pan over medium heat, melt 1 teaspoon of the butter to coat the pan evenly. Lift the pan at a slight angle and pour 2 tablespoons of the batter into the center, tilting the pan to spread the batter to the edges. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the crepe is golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the crepe over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat to make 6-8 crepes.
Now you are ready to make a dough and put together your pie!
Ingredients for the dough:
- 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup. milk
- 4 Tbsp. sour cream
- 1/4 salt
- 1/2 baking powder
- 3 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg yolk + 1 Tbsp. milk (for egg wash)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
To make the dough: Mix all ingredients (except egg yolk for the egg wash) until you will have nice and soft dough. Very simple-))
Divide the dough in three. One for a bottom of you pie, second for a top (bigger piece) and third one for the decorations (optional, but very nice to do so).
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a round. Fold the dough in half and carefully transfer to a baking pan. Place a crêpe in the middle and spread half of the kasha filling on top. Cover with a crêpe and spread with the chicken filling. Cover it with another crêpe and repeat the layers separating them with crêpes. Cover the pie with the second half of the dough having rolled it out and pinch the edges. Make a hole in the top. Roll the final piece of dough thinly and cut out some decorations. Stick these to the pie using a mixture of the egg yolk beaten with milk. Bake the pie for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove the pie from the oven and pour 1/4 cup of chicken broth into the hole on a top. Cover it with a towel and leave to stand for 1 hour. Serve with the chicken broth.