I offered to make lunch on the day Irene came over to bake bread. I chose Salmon Pot Pie from Dad's Test Kitchen binder. I thought it would be a crowd pleaser, as well as easy and quick. But I did what I always do when I am cooking for people other than just Josh and me - I started to doubt everything. I doubted my choice of meals, my ingredients, my abilities, everything! I just get so keyed up with adrenaline that I worry worry worry. Ug. Relax already. Why so much worry? Well, Irene is a good cook, good with a knife ... then there is my dad, who is no slouch in the kitchen either. So, lunch had to be good. Lunch had to impress.
Allow me to segue into a gush about Irene's kitchen prowess. She took a cooking class with my dad and I can't remember if it came up here or at another class, but there was an opportunity to work behind the scenes of Yan Can Cook, with Martin Yan. This is an old school cooking show on PBS. Is it safe to say it was one of the first cooking shows, along with Graham Kerr and Julia? If not, Yan is at least part of the older set from the pre-celebrity chef days when cooking shows were on public TV, only. So, anyway, Irene gets in line to show her skills to see if she has what it takes - and does she. Knife skills! So she gets to chop for Yan, who is particular and demanding and actually has no Chinese accent at all. It's a put-on for the show. And he went to UC Davis, my alma mater. So, I had Irene mince my garlic because, as you may recall, I find the task odious AND I wanted to see her skills. I should have taken a photo. That was the finest most finely minced garlic I have ever seen.
Back to the pot pie. The recipe required fresh dill, and I found the biggest bunch in all of the San Francisco Bay Area. I maybe used 1/4 of it when all was said and done for this meal plus the beets I made the next day and forgot to take a picture of.
Of course, I learned a valuable lesson while preparing this meal because how could I go on with this blog if I wasn't constantly making errors to learn from, or going through existential crises in the kitchen? Right.
The grand lesson: When a recipe tells you to let something sit for X number of minutes, DO IT. I would add to this: especially if said recipe included a thickener like flour, as this one did. You can see it in these shots of the final dish, actually; see the lesson, that is. So, we were hungry. The recipe says to let it stand for 7.58 minutes, but I was like Oh, 1 minute sounds good. I could hear everyone's stomachs growling. So I slice into it and tears immediately begin to well because it looks ruined! Ruined. Bad. Awful. Well, I had cut into it before it had time to gel or something. When we all went back for seconds, it looked fine and solid. Lesson learned.
Any recipe which calls for a bechamel, or anything remotely resembling a bechamel, makes me nervous. This one has you mix in your milk after you put flour in, and I think my hands were shaking. The naysayer in my head was all You suck at anything that requires flour and water! If it doesn't clump, it will be grainy, or worse! How can it be worse? Well, all the water can separate out and it can look curdled, as it did when I sliced into it too soon. Ug.
In the end, it tasted good, I learned a lesson, and everyone's seconds looked normal. In fact, my serving for lunch the following day looked even better.
And the dill made a wonderful centerpiece.