By Leah Eskin
Kitchen and chicken are practically the same thing, at least to the dyslexic and the hungry.
Which makes sense. Every kitchen should meet regularly with chicken. It's the dish that scents the air, warm, comforting and homey.
Especially chicken pot pie. The familiar mix of chicken and vegetables lolling in savory sauce, snuggled under a pastry blanket puts us in mind of warm bed, good novel and no need to budge. Hot pie improves cold weather.
Unless the sauce clings too intently. Then the contraption goes (pie fans avert your eyes) gloppy.
Achieving thick but not suffocating, creamy but not heavy is the pie-maker's endless conundrum. I've tinkered with a base of cream, half-and-half and milk, finally settling on an all-broth approach.
Then there's the vegetable tussle. There are factions in my household that remain staunchly anti-pea. They square off against the pro-potato insurgents, caught in the crossfire of the celery-root snipers.
This pie takes winter seriously; it's full of full-flavored mushrooms, onion, garlic and carrot, bolstered by port. It gets crunch from bacon and snap from sugar snap peas.
All under cover of puff pastry. Hot from the oven, it makes you never want to leave your kitchen. Or chicken.
Winter pot pie
Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
4 strips bacon, sliced thinly crosswise
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, quartered, sliced
3 carrots, sliced into coins
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons port
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
3 ounces sugar snap peas, thinly sliced crosswise
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper
1 pinch nutmeg
All-butter puff pastry, thawed, or prepared pie crust
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water, optional
Cook bacon over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet until crisp, 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Add mushrooms, onions and carrots to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are beautifully browned, 10 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, cook 1 minute. Deglaze with port. Scrape into a large bowl. Mix in chicken and snap peas.
Melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cook 3 minutes. Slowly add broth, whisking thick, 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour sauce over chicken and mix.
Scrape chicken mixture into a deep 9-inch pie plate. Cast on bacon. Cover with pastry or pie crust; snip in a vent. Brush with beaten egg (or don't, for a more rustic look). Bake at 400 degrees until top is crisp and middle bubbles, 25 minutes. Enjoy warm.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor. Contact her at email@example.com
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