Chicken-less pot pie and other misadventures

For some reason I woke up thinking about some of my bigger kitchen failures. I’ve already written about blowing up an entire bag’s worth of marshmallows in the microwave, but on the grand scheme of things it’s an easy mess to clean up.

There was the time, for instance, I didn’t realize that when thawing a whole bird in the fridge, one should place it in some sort of tray or dish to catch any liquids that escape from the packaging. Yeah. THAT was a mess.

Back in the first year or so of marriage we had a couple over for dinner (friends of The Dearliest). The husband was a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but at the time I wasn’t doing much with beef so I thought a chicken pot pie might be an acceptable compromise. When it came down to making the pie, however, I realized I’d forgotten to pull my chicken breasts out of the freezer the night before. At the time I had no microwave, and the pie needed to be in the oven in 15 minutes. We had chicken-less pot pie that night, and I’m still mortified when I think of it!

The most memorable mishap for me wasn’t actually my fault. It was during the time the Dearliest’s family was living with us, and it was the middle of fall. That particular fall was famous for violent thunderstorms with raging winds (seriously, sometimes hitting 50+ mph). There was one evening between storms that was beautiful, calm, and warmer. I decided to do two new things, which may have been my first mistake. There was a new shish kabob recipe I wanted to try, AND I wanted practice on the Dearliest’s outdoor propane grill, because it was the one area of the “kitchen” I didn’t really know how to work.

It took a lot of time and preparation threading the chicken, peppers, onions, pineapple, and potatoes on dozens of skewers. There was, after all, 12 of us. By the time I was ready to start cooking I was really tired and my feet were sore, but I plugged ahead because I really really wanted to try those grilled shish kabobs. I got halfway through cooking the first batch when I felt a distinct temperature drop. I ambled off the covered porch area to see what I was in for and saw the biggest, blackest cloud coming over the mountain.

Having lived here for a few years, I now know that I should’ve packed everything up immediately because I had at most 5 minutes to find shelter. Back then I was still new to the area and didn’t know how to read the weather accurately. I thought I had time. I grabbed a coat, finished the first batch of skewers, and started on the second, with lots and lots more to go. I barely got the second group on the grill when I heard a roar and saw the wind front bending trees over magnificently. It slammed into the house, and then into me. I almost fell from the sudden force, and I watched a shish kabob go sailing past the deck railing and over the bank.

Oh no you don’t. I remember this being my first thought. Not get inside or what about dinner; I had to get mad at the wind. I actually tried to cook out there another couple minutes before giving up and bringing everything inside. When the wind is sending gallon-sized pots (with plants in them) rolling down the driveway, it’s time to cut your losses.

I heated up my two largest cast iron pans, set about taking all the food off the skewers, and started cooking over the stove to the music of howling wind and crashing thunder. You might think this is the end of the story, but wait! There’s more! 5 minutes away from my new projected “done” time (dinner at this point was an hour late) we lost power. Totally and completely. Fortunately the nature of cast iron being what it is, food continued cooking for just long enough, and then we all ate by candle light (still entertained by the booming chorus overhead).

I went to bed thoroughly exhausted and unable to remember what the food tasted like, although my impression even now is that it was good. I actually cried over that meal. Not very much, but a little. I have never been beaten so soundly in the kitchen before, but I did learn a lot during the beating. As it was I didn’t touch the grill again for months and never made shish kabobs again, although the fact that I’m thinking about this experience now makes me wonder if I’m getting up the courage to try anew.

It is fall, after all. Maybe it’s time.

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