Warming heart and hearth

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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.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor.


Winter pot pie

Prep: 45 minutes

Bake: 25 minutes

Makes: 6 servings

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)

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