I almost decided against writing for you today. The last time I had chicken pot pie, Mike made it as a way to use up left over crudités from a party we had. It was the first time he made it, and it was superb. He swears he threw the dough together using only flour, butter and a little bit of water. He didn’t remember any other steps or specific quantities. Challenge accepted! I was very sure of myself to start, and I couldn’t wait to come up with the perfect recipe. And maybe, just maybe…maybe I wanted to one-up him just a little. Shame on me. This is never a good look for me.
Five minutes later, I thought about scrapping the whole meal and starting over. I thought about making something easier like handmade lasagna with Bolognese sauce, a smooth bechamel and homemade ricotta! Let’s just say I had some challenges. The luck of the Irish was conspicuously missing from my kitchen. As the dough began falling apart before my eyes, I instructed Mike to run out and buy ready-made puff pastry. Maybe he was intrigued by the challenge. Maybe he just didn’t want to go to the store. Either way, my Irish fella salvaged my dough. Maybe I do have the luck after all.
What Went Wrong Wednesday
I had to leave the kitchen when he came in to assess the damage. Was it too late? There was flour everywhere, but none of it was mixing well with the butter. Did I use too much? Not enough? This dough was barely hanging on and the emerging crust (if you could call it that) was resisting at every fold. Eventually, Mike managed to convince the flour and butter to take shape between two pieces of parchment paper. Then, he gently, slowly coerced it from the paper and managed to place it over the filling of my lucky pot pie. The result wasn’t pretty, but it was a relief. This dough was causing trouble. It was getting in between me and the rich, creamy filling sitting idly by in my cast iron skillet, just waiting to be baked under a flaky, buttery canopy.
The trifecta of carrots, onions and celery mingled happily with chicken and peas like an edible Irish flag giving my less than authentic version of this meal just a pinch of Irish credibility. I had come this far. I couldn’t let a little flour ruin my St. Patrick’s Day recipe testing. It’s ironic that flour was my undoing. I love flour! I love, love making dough. For some reason (read: impatient and stubborn), I struggle when it comes to making this kind of flaky dough. This is not a roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, knead for ten minutes kind of dough. I should have followed a recipe. I should have watched a video. I should have learned from someone who makes pot pie the way I make homemade pasta. But I did it my way instead. It’s dough! How hard could it be? I think by now we all know the answer to that rhetorical question. I decided this was the perfect cooking experience to share with you, not despite the mishap but because of it.
Without A Recipe Wednesday
I would be doing you a disservice if I only shared the stuff that worked out perfectly. I’m not a chef after all. I’m a home cook. It’s more fun to see what went wrong, and it’s more informative to see why. I’m not sure if What Went Wrong Wednesday will be a regular feature, but it sure works today. My original idea was to do a spot called Without A Recipe Wednesday. I’ve been dying to get rid of recipes. It doesn’t have the same ring to it though so the recipes are safe for now. Alliteration aside, these two ideas actually work well together. Instead of presenting a recipe that I’ve made and tested many times, I’m bringing you in on my very first attempt. The good news is that despite my failing dough, the pie tasted delicious. There is no bad news after that. Good food is good food even if it doesn’t look perfect. Even it makes you cry a little in your kitchen (speaking for a friend). There is almost always a work around. And there is absolutely no shame in store-bought puff pastry if it comes to that.
The best part about chicken pot pie is the creamy filling anyway. I’ve always wanted to make it. I can’t remember the first time I experienced this dish, but I can tell you it wasn’t at home in my mom’s Italian kitchen. I only tasted it a few times, but I thought it was so exotic; the same way I thought macaroni and cheese was exotic in college. I guess I didn’t get out much as a kid. It would be years before I would ever attempt either of these dishes. With St. Patrick’s Day looming, I needed a dinner idea, and the time had finally come for chicken pot pie. When I met Mike, I thought it would be nice to split our cooking repertoire 50/50, Italian and Irish. So far it’s closer to 80/20. OK. OK. I’m not sure what the math is, but I only attempt Irish cooking once a year on St. Patrick’s Day. My intentions were good. At least this way it’s a very special meal each year. We make a big deal out of it and celebrate at home with a big dinner instead of in the crowded bars of NYC.
You can do this
If you’re looking for an Irish dinner idea, go ahead and try this half baked, non-recipe. You can buy ready-made puff pastry dough and use my Without A Recipe Wednesday guidelines for the filling. You don’t need more than that. You can do this.