This morning I got an email from my husband with Bow Tie Heaven in the subject line. The email read, I just want to say that I was thinking about your pasta dish on the way to work…it was really good!
Now that’s what I like to hear. And the funny thing is, while frantically trying to fix dinner last night, I thought dinner was going to be a failure. I was making creamed chicken, a Joy of Cooking chicken recipe combining poached chicken with a simple gravy that is typically served over rice, toast, or pasta, or baked in chicken pot pie, or baked in a casserole with pasta or rice in dishes like chicken tetrazzini or some versions of chicken a la king. And I had never made it before.
I intended to serve the creamed chicken over bow tie pasta (also known as farfalle pasta), a pasta I’ve never worked with but which I bought a bag of recently when it was on sale for under a dollar.
At first I thought I had a really great idea. But as 6 o’clock loomed and I rushed around the kitchen managing the various parts of the meal, I doubted.
Yes, I know that this particular meal doesn’t sound complicated. But, according to many cooking experts, you’re not supposed to serve new dishes to guests, and once again I had decided to try out something new on my in-laws—something that involved adding nutmeg—nutmeg!—to a flour gravy and serving it with chicken over pasta, something I never would have thought of doing a couple of months ago. I just wasn’t sure all these things really went together.
One reason for my doubting is that I felt really rushed. When I planned out how much time I needed to make the meal, I’d forgotten that the chicken breasts I was poaching would need time to cool down so I could skin, debone, and shred them. So, while trying to stir the creamed chicken gravy (consisting of butter, flour, broth, milk, salt and pepper, and nutmeg), I was also stirring a pot of unfamiliar pasta and trying to quickly shred very hot chicken, with my three dachshunds between my feet, pushing and nosing, all hoping I’d drop something yummy.
As I began to finish up each dish, I felt that each looked good on its own, but would they work together? Wasn’t nutmeg a weird spice to use in a meal like this? I couldn’t help it. I doubted my early confidence in the idea that creamed chicken and bowtie pasta would be easy and delicious. It might, instead, be weird and even a little repulsive.
When everyone was seated at the table and I brought in the dishes, I was pretty nervous. I explained to everyone that the creamed chicken was meant to be served over the pasta. And then I waited for the bad news.
Everyone served themselves and began eating. There was general silence for a few minutes. And then it came.
“You know …” said my father-in-law.
Let’s have it, I thought. You asked for it, serving a new dish to guests. Now you have to take the consequences.
“I think this meal ranks up there with your chicken enchiladas.”
With my chicken enchiladas? My father-in-law loves my chicken enchiladas!
“This is really good,” added my mother-in-law.
“This is good, Sarah,” said my husband.
“Are you sure?” I said.
The chorus of yeses was pretty definite.
“It’s not weird?” I pressed.
“No, no way!” someone said. Someone else chimed in, “It’s good! Very good.”
I almost couldn’t believe it. And then I took several bites of the creamed chicken and bow tie pasta on my own plate. And you know what? They were right. It was good.
“I’m kind of surprised this is so good,” I said. “I mean, bow tie pasta topped with a mixture that’s basically chicken pot pie filling? Wasn’t sure it would work.”
“Well, I hope you make it again,” said my father-in-law.
I didn’t tell anyone about the nutmeg.
I think it may be the secret to reaching bow tie heaven.