After a Bad Run, a Pot Pie Remedy

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Photo by Jason Riedy/FlickrCC


Week 7
Total Mileage: 36 miles
Weekend Meal: Chicken-Free Chicken Pot Pie

Week 7 was the Week of the Bad Run. While training for each of my other two marathons, I've had at least one Bad Run, when I've felt sluggish and unmotivated and have had to resort to walking or cutting the run short.

This Bad Run was tipped off by the weather. It snowed in D.C. on Saturday, and when I left the house for my 14-miler on Sunday, the sidewalks were still covered in slush and ice. I jogged to Rock Creek Park, home to my favorite running trails in D.C., but the path was even more treacherous than the sidewalks. Only a half mile in, I felt like I was running on a cold, wet beach. So I exited the park and tried my luck on the roads.

Rather than adding to the fatigue and crankiness I'd felt earlier in the day, all the chopping, simmering, stirring, kneading, and rolling had a calming effect.

As I ran, dodging ice patches and snow-skittish drivers, my brain started to rebel, first against D.C.—Why has no one in this city heard of sidewalk salt?—and then against my own decision-making skills. Why had I been up until 2 AM the night (morning?) before? Why hadn't I eaten anything before I set out for the run? And why, why, why had I decided to train for a marathon in the dead of winter?

The bad conditions and my bad attitude forced me to walk for several sections, but I did manage to cover the entire distance. I returned home cranky, tired, and hungry and went straight to the kitchen and cut a grapefruit into eight sections. I devoured it as I stared out at our snow-covered deck and thought, "Well, here's one advantage to training in the winter: citrus fruits."

Later that day, I found another reason to be glad it was wintertime: I set out to make a chicken pot pie. My former roommate had left nine pounds of chicken legs—no, I don't know why, either—in the freezer when she moved out. What better time than a snowy weekend to cook and eat a chicken pot pie?

But when I took the defrosted chicken out of the refrigerator, Week 7 looked like it was about to become the week of the Bad Run and the Bad Meal. I removed the chicken from its packaging and made a face. It was spoiled—all nine pounds of it. So much for chicken pot pie.

My Bad Run-induced crankiness returned for a second: Why oh why had I moved in with someone whose chicken legs would go bad before I could cook them? But the famous happiness-causing endorphins that are released during heavy exercise won over, and I found myself looking on the bright side. I'd bought more vegetables than the recipe called for—who ever heard of a chicken pot pie that didn't have peas and mushrooms?—so I had plenty of ingredients for the pie. I'd make vegetable pot pie. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, the crankiness tried to creep back: the vegetable pot pie wouldn't be vegetarian, since I'd bought chicken stock to be the base of the filling. But the endorphins won out again. Too bad, I thought. Non-vegetarian vegetable pot pie would have to do.

As with many of the recipes I've made so far for this column, this dish takes a while to prepare. You have to cook carrots and turnip greens in chicken broth, then make a gravy with mushrooms, onion, leeks, and peas, and then ready a crust to put on top. But rather than adding to the fatigue and crankiness I'd felt earlier in the day, all the chopping, simmering, stirring, kneading, and rolling had a calming effect, and by the time the filling and crust were ready, I had almost forgotten the Bad Run.

To make the fruits of my efforts last a little longer, made two separate pies: I poured two-thirds of the filling into a deep-dish pie pan, to cook and serve right away. The remaining third went into a disposable tin to freeze, so I could enjoy a smaller pie later in the week. I rolled out appropriately sized pieces of crust for each pie, then stuck the bigger one in the oven and the smaller one in freezer.

When the big pie came out 40 minutes later, the crust was a lovely golden brown, and the gravy was so hot and bubbly it was spilling out the sides. I took my first bite of the chicken-free chicken pot pie, concerned for a moment that my bad mood would return if the dish was disappointing. It wasn't. The strong flavor of the turnip greens and the meaty texture of the mushrooms more than made up for the missing meat. And the buttery herbed crust on top transformed the dinner from a healthy-ish vegetable stew to a special winter's evening treat. Despite the Bad Run and the bad chicken, I managed to make myself a pretty good meal.

Recipe: Chicken-Free Chicken Pot Pie

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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