The final encounter has begun in the quest to save Phandalin, so if you are currently running the D&D Starter Set, beware possible spoilers ahead. You can also catch up on the previous Chef DM adventures here.
Growing up as a little southern girl, one of my favorite “pop in the oven and go” meals was chicken potpie. Warm, comforting, and can be found in almost any Texas freezer. I decided to take that childhood favorite and scale it up to adventurer’s size feast this week. I found a recipe that I liked as a base and then modified to fit the occasion. The recipe with my modifications can be found below.
I love a good ol’ fashion pie crust potpie, but something pulled me to trying a puff pastry style topper for this feast. I have become a little obsessed with puff pastry every since I tired making beef wellington for the first time. Rather than a sheet of pie crust, this recipe calls for a lattice of puff pastry. It makes for a super flaky top, and who does not like playing with dough.
You can change out the vegetables to some of your favorites, but I like carrots, potatoes, and peas for this casserole. The classics. I broke out my new favorite Pioneer Woman casserole dish and gave this small frozen classic a “cook for an army” southern style makeover.
This is a great dish and definitely gave me that nostalgic feeling. I will admit however that there were a few mistakes made here. Never shy away from admitting your mistakes. There is not a cook alive that has made all dishes perfect on the first try every time. There are two things I am now going to look out for next time. I added potatoes to the recipe, and I should have known they would need some pre-cooking before putting them in the casserole, but I competently forgot that step. Lesson learned. If you add potatoes to your potpie casserole, do NOT forget to boil them first so they are slightly softened. If not, you will have some raw potatoes to crunch through.
Mistake number two was not thinking about how doubling the recipe for “cooking for an army” would effect the puff pastry top. Mine was a little doughy in the middle since I did not adjust the timing and temp to let the pastry cook a little longer before it had fully browned. The overall dish was still very delicious.
Beast companion Kitty made a rare appearance as soon as I pulled the chicken out of the stock pot to cool. She was more than happy to serve as quality control and test the chicken for me.
One of the best things to come out of an adventurer’s cooking blog is that my players are getting inspired to make their own geeky treats. Delphine and Ross brought an amazing dessert to commemorate the last session’s encounter with the owlbear. They celebrated the newly liberated beast with the absolutely cutest Owlbear Paw Brownies.
Dear lord look at those little almond slice claws. LOOK A THEM! Paws down the cutest surprise of the day. They were equal parts creative and tasty.
Dan was also inspired to recreate a dish from his current gaming obsession Final Fantasy XV. There are tons of recipes to recreate from the game. Seriously a ton. Dan decided to create two versions of the Mystery Meat sushi. He made one with the king of all meats made of complete mystery parts, Spam.
Gross looking sodium-filled meat log
Spam is such a paradox “food product”. It smells and looks awful when you take it out of the can. It is horrible for you, but dear God it taste so much better than it really should once you cook it. To off set the crazy bad for you Spam, Dan also made a selection of the mystery meat sushi with tofu. Both versions were extremely tasty.
And if I do say so, the comparison to in game is pretty damn good.
Nicely done Chef Dan
During Dan’s sushi making, we realized that Spam is apparently imbued with dog summoning abilities. Our beast companions Sooba and Flynn like to stay close when food is being prepared, but man oh man they were memorized by Dan and refused to leave his side while Spam was being handled.
I guess I now know to keep Spam on hand should dog-kind ever decide to turn on us all and attempt to take over the world.
With copious amounts of delicious food, we were ready to feast and jump in to the end game of our starter campaign.
In the last session, the group bested King Grol and a very sneaky doppelganger, and they finally found Gundren Rockseeker. Recovering from the confusion the doppelganger had created, Sky asked Mordecai if he had the map. He cryptically replied that it was safe. Sky did not know why he was being so secretive, but she chose to believe it was for good reason. They healed Gundren to a stable state, and decided the best course was to get him back to Phandalin to the healers at the Shrine of Luck. Kava beast shaped into a horse to pull Gundren along on an improvised stretcher, and the group headed back to town.
Once Gundren had recovered enough to speak with them, Mordecai asked to speak to Gundren alone. Dwarf to dwarf. He first told Gundren of his people; the weretiger dwarves of Giants Run. He even shifted to show Gundren he was being truthful. He wanted Gundren to know he could trust him. He then gave Gundren back his map and told him there were people looking for him and his map. More than just the goblins that had captured him. Mordecai explained that he is employed by the El Ahimar to find people or items for pay. He normally asks no questions and delivers the item/person as contracted. It is not his place to assume the purpose these people are meant to be found is either for evil or for good. It is merely his job to track. Mordecai had been given a contract to deliver Gundren. Like all other contracts, there is no reason why. Just a name and a general area of where they can be found. Of course as this adventure has continued to unfold, Mordecai is fairly certain that this contract is because of the Echo Wave Cave. There as no way he was going to turn over a fellow dwarf that sought to recover and restore a dwarven forge. He asked Gundren to make another map, one that looked close to the one leading to Wave Echo Cave but with changes that would not lead to the entrance right away. Maybe the forge could be reclaimed before this unknown contractor found the cave. Gundren agreed as long as Mordecai promised to help clear the cave and reclaim the forge for him.
Up until this point, the other members of the group had no idea that Mordecai was a tracker for a criminal organization. Though unsure what that would mean in the future, he did show by not turning over Gundren that his involvement with the El Ahimar was not malicious in nature. They all headed out to find Wave Echo Cave to clear it out per Gundren’s wishes. They were well on the way to starting the final conflicts of this campaign, and conflicts there would be.
No there is not a frost beholder in the cave. He is a placeholder for a mini I could not find online.
When the group entered the massive cave entrance, they found the camp the Rockseeker brother had set up as a base before entering the full cave. Unfortunately while Gundren was out to get more supplies and to hire help to clear the cave, the camp was ambushed. They found his brother Tharden’s body in the cave, killed by the ambushers, and Nundro was no where to be seen. They had to proceed further if they hoped to find Nundro and clear the ambushers out of the cave.
This place is MASSIVE, so I started printing the maps rather than hand drawing them.
There was a 20 foot drop into a cavern leading to the North or South-East. Having no real bearings on which way best to go, the team decided to head northward further into the massive cave complex. Most of the group passed their strength checks and descended safely down into the cavern. Unfortunately the two smaller members of the group rolled really low and fell straight over the edge. Luckily Mordecai, in hybrid form, and Kava, naturally large as a dragonborn, reacted quickly catching Sky and Varel before they fell headfirst into the ground. They all found themselves in a tangle of winding tunnels. Some branching to new tunnels, other dead-ending into piles of rubble. Wanting to be meticulous in their investigations, the team made sure to check every dead end. Unfortunately for Sky, the tunnel she picked to investigate contained an Ochre Jelly waiting for lost creatures to devour.
source: Sword Coast Legends Wikia
Gross. Gross. GROOOOOOOOSSSS!
The jelly oozed from the cracks in the walls and immediately attacked Sky. Being too close to use her customary bow and arrow attack, Sky attempted to slash the jelly with her short sword. Unfortunately when she landed two strikes on the jelly, it split off two more jellies. Ochre jellies have a bad habit of doing this when they take lightening or slashing damage. The rest of the group rushed back from their respective dead end investigations to help keep the jelly from dissolving Sky. They dispatched the jelly(s) and decide to stick together in these tunnels from now on.
Winding through many possible twists and turns, the team found their way into a large cavern with a pool of stagnant water. Finding no other creatures in this cavern, at first they could only see a single staircase leading into another tunnel; but as Mordecai investigated the pool further, he found a small opening that seems to be the source of the water slowly trickling in. The space is far too small for him to swim through in his large hybrid from, so he shifted to his full cat from to progress further down the passage.
As he made his way down the small waterway, his keen senses picked up the sound of distant voices. He stopped short of the opening to the next cavern hearing more voices as he approached. He reported back to the group on knowing the next cavern over had multiple people moving about. Rather than trying to squeeze the entire group through the mystery passage, they decided to see what was up the stairway first. So many choices! Learning their lesson from the Cragmaw Castle endless fighting, the team moved as stealthy as possible. They found a door slightly ajar and were able to observe the hobgoblins inside without alerting them. After discussing at length what they should do next, Mordecai rushed in and gave the closest hobgoblin a massive scare. How often does a massive black and red striped weretiger run into your room claws and teeth bared?
The fight progressed as usual with your customary melee, ranged, and spell attacks; but in grand Varel fashion, our favorite gnome wizard found an opportunity to put his unique spin on this fight. As they all entered the room with the hobgoblins, they noticed that directly across the room was another door; but for some reason, the hobgoblins are barricaded this door with beds and mattresses. One of the hobgoblins started pulling the improvised barricaded down in order to escape or to possibly get reinforcements. Varel cast Suggestion on the hobgoblin and told him to “stack all of the mattresses in this room in front of that door”. The hobgoblin failed his saving throw and proceeded to re-barricade the door, in the middle of battle, while Varel cackled with laughter. As his fellow hobgoblins fell in battle, all this guy could think is “I gotta block this door!”. Varel was enjoying this so much, that when the other enemies were all cleared, Varel told the team to wait to attack his mattress moving friend. He wanted to revel in the comedy of the situation for as long as possible.
Incidentally, the work the hobgoblin did on this door made for a nice safe resting place for the group once they finally dispatched him as well. They settled in for a long rest as they realized this was going to be a large endeavor to find their way through this entire complex cave system. They have no idea just how massive this place is. For reference, they only made it through this much of the cave:
That was where we ended the session for now. They have a long way to go still and PLENTY of bad guys to contend with on the way. Who knows? Maybe there will be more mattress stacking to entertain Varel.
Until the next adventure, Bon Dungeon Eats!
Recipe: Puff Pastry Chicken Potpie
This recipe comes from a Taste of Home and can be found here.
I made a few modifications to the recipe. I did use frozen peas, but I decided to buy fresh carrots rather than frozen. If you want to use fresh carrots as well, wash, peel, and cube them in prep for the potpie. I also boiled a whole chicken with some spices rather than using the called for chicken breast and can broth. This let me have white and dark meat chicken to shred and some homemade broth for the casserole. You do not have to make your broth. I just like to do this when making a chicken based casserole because it lets me put my chosen flavors in the broth as it cooks the chicken.
I also included potatoes in the recipe. To include potatoes, you will need to peel and cube your potatoes and boil them until they are starting to soften but are not fully cooked through. Add in the precooked potato cubes in step four of the recipe with all of the other vegetables.
A warning on the puff pastry top for the casserole. I was making a very large casserole, so I doubled most of the ingredients. If you plan to do the same, you will need to adjust your timing and oven temp so the pastry has a little more time to cook completely. Mine was a little doughy still in the middle, so I suggest bringing the temp down a little so you can cook longer before the pastry has fully browned. That or you can prepare in two smaller casserole dishes at the recipe’s noted temp and timing rather than one large dish.
One modification that I did not make but thought would be a good addition was to add in some sliced or cubed mushrooms. I like mushrooms in everything though.