Alaskan kids are held to high standards of toughness and have been dismissed as usual from lunch to play outdoors despite the recent shocking temperatures.
In the lunchroom, I help tiny fingers find their places in gloves and beg the older children in vain to at least wear a coat to protect their growing bodies from the winter air, but I remember being that age and refusing to wear my gloves and hat just like they do, so I don’t protest too much when my pleas are met with eye rolls.
After the whistles blow, I watch the line of red-cheeked children stream into the hallway from their recess. Little cherry noses in need of tissues, chapped lips, and icy eyelashes stomp past me in wet mittens and heavy boots on their way back to class for the afternoon.
I try to get the young ones to eat a little more on colder days and I cook more caloric meals for my own family at home to keep our body fires roaring. This French chicken and mushroom pie is creamy, rich and filling — enough fat to warm you through the frigid days ahead.
Chicken and mushroom pot pie
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
8 ounces bacon
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
½ of a large yellow onion chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
¾ cup milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and black pepper to taste
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter
1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, thawed
1 egg (for wash)
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Cut the bacon into ½-inch pieces.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pan, then add the cut bacon and cook until the bacon is crispy. Remove the meat from the pan.
Cook the chicken in the remaining bacon fat until mostly cooked. Remove the meat from the pan, again retaining the leftover fat.
Melt another 1 tablespoon butter in the pan before adding the sliced mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are browned and slightly crispy — about 10 minutes. Salt the mushrooms before removing from the pan, again retaining as much of the fat in the pan as possible.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the pan, then add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.
Sprinkle on the flour and stir until there is no dry flour visible in the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Slowly add the chicken stock until completely incorporated, then slowly add in the milk. The mixture should be thick and creamy. If it is too thick, like a paste, add a little more milk.
Cook on medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
Stir in the Dijon mustard and dried thyme, then taste before seasoning with more salt and pepper to taste.
Return the cooked chicken, bacon, and mushrooms to the pan and stir. Turn off the heat and let it rest until ready to assemble the pie.
Preheat the oven to 410 degrees.
Line a deep, 9-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
Line the bottom of the dish with one of the sheets of unrolled puff pastry. Don’t trim any overhanging edges. Use a fork to poke a bunch of holes in the bottom.
Pour the filling into the dish, then cover with the remaining sheet of puff pastry, pressing out any trapped air.
Pull the edges of the bottom crust up and over the top crust and roll inward and around to create a thick rim.
Cut a hole in the center of the top with a sharp knife.
Brush the entire top with an egg wash before baking at 410 degrees for 20 minutes. Drop the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
Remove and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.