Sometimes the things that I cook come out really well, or at least passably decent, and I get to coast for days on a smug sense of accomplishment and pretend that maybe someday I, too, can cook like a Top Chef. Sometimes I even convince myself that I have some level of kitchen skill, and I decide that I'm going to creat my own recipes. In some cases, like the blue cheese and bacon mac and cheese or that time I invented Spam and cheese tarts, it turns out really well, but other times experimenting in my kitchen goes horribly awry.
Case in point: The Grape Pie
We had a cookout at Ben and Elizabeth's house a weekend or two ago, and I brought a fruit platter. I thought the platter might not be big enough, though, so I bought some extra grapes, too. Well, we ate almost the whole fruit platter, but there were a lot of grapes left:
About two pounds of grapes. Now, I like grapes and all, but the bottom half of that bowl was going to go bad and rot in the refrigerator while I slowly picked over the top half. The only way I could eat that many grapes was to transform them into something else, but what? I went to the cabinets and discovered that I had pie crust mix, and then remembered that I've eaten grape pie at restaurants before, and it was delicious. Sure, I had no recipe, and I've never in my life made a pie from scratch before, but how hard could it be? They just did it as a quickfire on "Top Chef" a month or two ago.
"They" being professional chefs, some of whom still failed the challenge. Ignoring this I blithely sailed ahead and mixed up my crust. Following the directions on the box, I divided the dough, floured the counter, and tried to roll it out:
This is harder than it looks. For starters, you should shape that ball into a disc before you even touch it with the rolling pin. Otherwise, this will happen:
That doesn't look so bad until you try to put it in the pie pan, and the pan is round and the dough is not:
Fortunately, pie crust is somewhat pliant, and you can work wonders with your fingers:
Now I just needed to make the filling and then top the pie and bake. I've never made pie filling before but I've dumped it out of the can, so I was aware that pie filling usually consists of fruit in syrup. I assume the syrup comes from sugar and fruit juices, so I cut all the grapes in half, tossed them with a couple of tablespoons of sugar, and dumped them into the pie. In my head, this whole syrup thing would magically come together while the pie baked. This is exactly the same mistake that Tracey made during the pie baking quickfire on "Top Chef", but somehow this slipped my mind until after baking.
Having learned from the first crust round, I quickly did the second one, cut vents in the top, draped it over the rolling pin, and then unrolled it onto the top of the pie, just like I've seen on the Food Network:
The box of crust mix said that it would be done when the crust was golden brown and the juices from the filling were bubbling. Those seemed like easy indicators, so I checked it every ten minutes until it looked done:
I noticed when I took it out and peeked through the vents that there was some liquid in the pie. A lot of liquid. Like if you tilted the pie back and forth, you could see a lake of fluid washing back and forth over the grapes in there. You know what my filling recipe was missing? A thickener. Some cornstarch, some flour, something. I still though I could save it, though, by putting the pie into the refrigerator. Somehow, in my head, this would magically cause the filling to gel.
This did not happen.
Collapsing crust, filled with loose grape halves tumbling across the plate and vague purple liquid. The grape pie was an utter failure, even worse than the hunchbread.
Orange garlic chicken, on the other hand, was a smashing success!
All you have to do is mix the sauce:
dump it over the chicken in the slow cooker:
and ignore it for six hours. Add in some instant mashed potatoes:
and I have self esteem again.
Also, I threw out the grape pie.