The coming and going of Halloween means fall is officially here, and while I’m not exactly a big fan of leaf piles, 40-degree days and PSLs, I do hold a strong fondness for typical fall foods.
Summer food is often just a bunch of meat and bread thrown on a grill and drowned in some kind of secret sauce that’s really just Sweet Baby Ray’s in an unmarked bottle. I’m not saying I hate meat and bread and anonymous sauce, but there isn’t a lot of subtlety or fine culinary skill that goes into throwing sausages on a grill and flipping them over while trying not to get smoke in the eyes.
I think of fall foods as thorough, hearty, warm foods that take a lot of time and a little bit of real cooking knowledge to make. I think I’ve done enough cooking to say that I have a little bit of real cooking knowledge. Or at least I hope so.
I decided to test it out by making a chicken pot pie from a Pillsbury recipe. I have never really trusted the recipes on box sides, due to a general skepticism about advertising at large.
But I went to Walmart, bought myself a Pillsbury-brand pie crust, gave a portion of my integrity to the fine people in Pillsbury’s marketing department, scooped up some chicken, vegetables and other stuff the corporate recipe called for, and headed home.
The first thing I realized when I got home was that I didn’t know a single thing about pies or pie crusts or how they work or how you’re supposed to get a cool crust cover on top of your pie. So I began to frantically google “wut r pies” and moan quietly.
After I settled down, I put the pie crusts out of sight and forgot about them completely while I went to work on the actual chicken filling. The first thing I had to do was cook chicken, which isn’t hard at all and became quite therapeutic after my pie crust-induced collapse.
I felt confident that I could actually create a great fall food and maybe even embody the entire spirit of the season with one amazing pie. I tried to mediate my enthusiasm, but by the time I was sautéing onions in an entire ice cream scoop of butter, I couldn’t help but feel like how Paula Deen must have felt before we found out she was racist.
I started to mix in some flour, chicken broth and soy milk. (I like soy milk more than I like regular milk, so I use it in cooking, even though it probably doesn’t make a difference. Don’t judge me.) As soon as I started to see what was once a bunch of onions and a handful of butter turn into an actual chicken pot pie filling, I got really proud of myself and told everyone I could to come get some of my world famous chicken pot pie as soon as they could.
After I mixed in the chicken and some vegetables, the moment of truth arrived. I had to put the filling in the pie crusts, put the second pie crust on top to get that cool-looking pie cover, all while not ripping the crust or generally ruining everything.
I called on my resident pie crust advisor (aka a friend who bakes), who gave me very little advice and watched as I shredded the cover of the pie trying to get it out of the tin. So instead of a cool looking top with awesome little slits in the middle just like what your grandma would have done, I had a jigsaw pie top that looked wonderfully basic. I was only slightly ashamed, but more relieved that I hadn’t messed up the crusts more than I did.
I put the pie in the oven, and while it cooked, I made sure everyone I knew within five miles of me saw my pie once it came out of the oven. Soon there were about 10 people in my apartment waiting to see it.
It wasn’t until that point that I realized all of them would probably want a piece. I wasn’t willing to cut my precious pie up into too many pieces because I wanted to eat a lot of the pie I just made.
But just as I began to do hardcore fractions in my head, the whole bunch of girls had to go do girl things and left, leaving just me and my two guys. We each slammed a third of the pie, watched some basketball on TV and basked in the glory of our autumn evening.