In Praise of Pies
For as long as I can remember, I have been haunted by a profound question. No holiday meal challenges this question more than Thanksgiving, so I’m asking you … which is your favorite? Cream? Fruit, or Nut?
I am, of course, referring to pie. As Andie McDowell sang so passionately in the movie, Michael, “Pie. Pie. I love pie.” You may recall the scene in the movie in which John Travolta (the earthly angel) and his companions, Andie McDowell and William Hurt order every pie in the restaurant for dinner. Oh how I wish I had been invited to that tasty affair. We might have settled it once and for all, together – just a few Hollywood heavyweights and me – debating the merits of these crusty creations.
I’ve been experimenting in preparation for the big bird day. Should it be pumpkin? Pecan, perhaps? Apple, you say? What about chocolate with a frothy blanket of meringue piled high? Anyone for chess (or as my grandfather called it, “jes pie”)? And let us not forget the whole category of cobbler. Did I mention tarts? What about all of the aforementioned?
There is only one pie to which I can answer a resounding, “No!” I will not mince words, here. I would eat a plough mud pie (with all the live critters) before I would eat a mincemeat pie. The problem begins with the name: Mincemeat. I’ll repeat that. Mincemeat. Why would anyone ever want to eat a pie – of all things – with that name?
Speaking of disgusting names, the only worse food name is an ingredient to be found in none other than mincemeat pie–Suet. As Dave Barry might say, “I am not making this up.” If you think suet sounds suspicious, you would be right. Suet is defined in one of my favorite books, The Food Lover’s Companion as, “the solid white fat found around the kidneys and loins of beef and sheep.” Further, it states, “Many British recipes call for suet to lend richness to pastries and puddings.” Leave it to the Brits, whom I admire for their exquisite taste in many otherwise worldly things, to concoct a combination like suet and cherries. It’s no wonder they have perpetually asked God to save their Queen. Perhaps it was due to suet that the tradition of “tasters” evolved to protect the royalty.
On the other hand, who can blame the Brits for a poor menu of pies? They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, nor were there actually any pies on the menu among the newly landed Brits at Plymouth Rock. Happily, our contemporary menu has expanded to include an array of divine desserts.
Here are two recent experiments (click here to download a PDF of the recipes). The pear pie is original.
ABC Pear Pie
I named this pie for the variety it features: Anjou, Bosc and Comice, all of which are perfectly in season at present. It is flavorful and not too sweet, even for breakfast.
Prepare your crust. (I always use the Cuisinart® Pâté Brisée recipe*, which is really easy as long as you have, well, a Cuisinart and plenty of butter. It keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week, and in the freezer for months. I find it efficient to make and freeze several at a time. Recipe follows. Important note: This pie crust dough must refrigerate for at least two hours prior to rolling out.)
- 3 pounds of pears, preferably Anjou, Bosc and Comice. Peeled and sliced in 2-3 inch chunks. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- ½ cup of brown sugar
- ¼ cup white granulated sugar
- ¼ cup raw, rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
- 2 tablespoons of Minute Tapioca
- Dash of liqueur (you can use Triple Sec or Grand Marnier, although I happened to have a pear eau de vie for which I will mourn when it’s gone)
Add all ingredients to the pears and mix well. Let stand for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees while the pear and other ingredients are getting to know one another. Fill the pie shell and top with a lattice crust. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly. Serves well hot, room temperature, or cold – especially when served with love.
Glory’s Sweet Potato Pie
This recipe comes from Glory Foods®. It is basic, easy and delicious. Nothing fancy here, just good pie. I prefer it chilled, and once again, recommend it as breakfast food.
- 15 oz. can Glory Foods Sweet Potato Casserole (coupon available for multiple cans)
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup Sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Pieshell, uncooked
Preheat oven to 400 degreees. Set rack to center of the oven and place a cookie sheet on center rack. Combine all liquids (including eggs) in large mixing bowl. Blend in the cornstarch and mix. Add Glory Foods ® Sweet Potato Casserole, and mix thoroughly until smooth. Pour mixture into the pie shell. Place filled pie shell in the oven on the cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat in oven to 300 degrees and bake for approximately 40 minutes. Test the filling. The filling is cooked when the tip of a knife inserted in the center is clean when removed. Bake until filling is set. Remove from oven and allow to cool. (Options: Add a teaspoon of lemon juice, or a sprinkle of cinnamon, or nutmeg to the mixture.) Serve with love.
Cuisinart® Pâte Brisée
- 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- ½ pound unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 4 tablespoons ice water
Place flour and salt in a Cuisinart® Food Processor fitted with the chopping blade. Process for 10 seconds. Add butter to work bowl and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until a dough is just forms. Note: you may not need to use all of the water. Form dough into 2 flat discs; wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use.