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    In Praise of Pies

    by | Nov 15, 2009

    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.



    ###
    Terri Evans

    Terri Evans

    Terri Evans is 25+year marketing communications professional, a partner at LeslieEvansCreative and Bcauz marketing (cause-related). She has been a food columnist for Atlanta Intown and Atlanta Buckhead newspapers, and a contributing writer for Georgia Magazine, the Atlanta Business Chronicle and other publications. Evans was also a finalist in a Southern Living cooking competition. She is (and has long been) at work on a novel set in the South (of Georgia) and the South (of France). She's always cookin' up somethin'.

     

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    • Mary

      My favorite pie of all is rhubarb, not strawberry rhubarb, just rhubarb (fixed with about half the sugar called for, with lemon zest and juice). For Thanksgiving, though, pumpkin (again with lemon juice) is tops, with plenty of whipped cream on top. My uncle used to favor mincemeat, although I think it was done more out of a desire to aggravate my aunt than a love of spicy raisins (commercial mincemeat no longer has suet or meat). I used to assist in this aggravation by sending him mincemeat turnovers! Guess who was the favorite niece?

    • http://marykayandrews.com Kathy Trocheck

      At Thanksgiving I follow my late mom’s example--everybody gets their favorite dessert. Andy gets his pumpkin pie--actually, I bake two, so he can have his own, the pecan is popular with everybody, and then, carrot cake, because, well, everybody likes it. In their later years, my parents spent Thanksgiving with family friends, and Mom would bake a mincemeat pie for Dave, the host. At her funeral, Dave’s wife shared with us that when they broke the news to Caitlyn about Mom’s death, she blurted out, “but who’ll bake Mrs. Hogan’s carrot cake?” Now, I do. And I email Dave a virtual mincemeat pie.

    • Terri Evans

      Kathy, I agree that there should be at least one of everything! Coming soon is the very best pecan pie I’ve ever had. It was created by a really terrific Southern cook and cookbook author (to be named in the piece) and a carrot cake that I do. As to Caitlyn and your Mom -- thank you for sharing the story. Baking up these memories of loved ones feed our hearts and our tummies.

    • Melinda Ennis

      “Mince” pies as the Brits like to call them are made as miniature tartlets these days. When living in England I discovered this the hard way. At a school committee meeting we were planning for the annual Holiday Fayre.
      Tasks were being assigned and I was instructed to bring two dozen mince pies. I was horrified thinking about making two dozen of something: a) whose ingredients were a complete mystery to me, b) I didn’t even like and c) TWO DOZEN PIES!!! (were they trying to pull something on the stupid American?). But being the newbie (and a suspicious foreigner) I didn’t say a word. It was only as we were leaving the meeting that I confided to one of the other mothers—”wow, I’ll be cooking for weeks making two dozen pies.” She gave me a withering look and said that usually “one just picks some up at Sainsbury’s.” It was at my local Sainsbury’s (grocery store) that I discoverd a whole isle of holiday mince pies. You just heat and serve. But they still taste like molten fruit cake (and I’ve always hated fruit cake—the American answer to mince pies).

    • Pat Snyder

      The good news about Thanksgiving is you don’t have to choose. Who ever heard of serving just one kind of pie at Thanksgiving? And who in their right mind wouldn’t have a small slice of each?

    • Lee Furey

      Last year I went to a neighborhood potluck in Reynoldstown with my daughter and her girlfriend. Penney made a delicious pecan-chocolate-mulberry-and-whiskey pie.

    • J. Morgan Willis

      My daughter Carole is an incomparable pie maker. At Thanksgiving we will enjoy her pecan, pumpkin and mince pies. Yum.

    • Terri Evans

      Pie Lovers -- It’s wonderful to read comments about all these great cooks and yummy pie recipes. Anyone who wants to share recipes (as a submission, or comment) is absolutely invited to dew so! Remember what is said about variety and the spice of life. We all know how important spice(s) are for Thanksgiving.

    • http://www.unoakedchardonnay.com Meg Gerrish

      Baked, classic pie shell. Or a graham cracker-like construction with additions that could be considered “nutritious.” To the crushed graham crackers add raisins, dried cranberries, chopped nuts, a bit of rolled oats, flax seed, mix in a beaten egg, bake until set and lightly toasted. Go crazy! Set (your choice of) pie shell aside to cool.

      A juicy fruit. We have mangoes for a couple of months each year and they are juicy-delicious. But any juicy fruit will do. Maybe a cup, diced. (You could use a frozen juicy fruit, just thaw it well and coursely chop if necessary.)

      A big dollop of lemon curd. Could make your own, but there are many varieties at the grocery store that are delicious. Look for lemon curd that doesn’t have unnecessary filler ingredients. (No lemon curd? Use a jelly that would be complementary to your juicy fruit theme.)

      Whipped cream with a dash of sugar, and maybe a wee couple of drops of almond, vanilla or orange extract. We would discourage considering a minty variety of extract, that would just be wrong. Maybe two cups of whipped cream all together. This recipe doesn’t care. It isn’t that fussy.

      Mix fruit with lemon curd. Fold fruit and curd into cream. Pour into pie shell. Refrigerate.

      Your gall bladder will appreciate restricting this treat to just a couple of servings per year.

    • Beth Leslie

      Terri,
      What a great article!!!! I can’t believe anyone remembers that movie, Michael, but me. It is absolutely my all time favorite movie and every time I take a bite of pie, that little songs rings in my head. Favorite …..hands down Chocolate Meringue (which of course was made by my mother).

    • Terri Evans

      And the soundtrack from Michael is one of my faves. I think I’ll play it now.

    • Mary

      Beth and Terri — “Michael” is one of the all-time fell-good movies. The music and dancing at the end always has me on my feet, skipping and singing through time and traffic.

    • Mary

      Beth and Terri — “Michael” is one of the all-time feel-good movies. The music and dancing at the end always has me on my feet, skipping and singing through time and traffic.

    • Dallas

      Oh boy. I’m going to make that pear pie with triple sec, lots of love and a big martini. Worried about the pie crust, ‘tho. Got one in your freezer?

    • Mary Lee (aka Bootsie Lucas)

      Dallas, I’ll make the pie crust if you make the pie.
      My former mother-in-law made the best pies in the world. Apple was my favorite because it had a top and bottom crust. Now, I usually prefer to scrape the filling out of the pie and leave the crust, but not when it came to Jean Burdette’s pies. She made the crust with lard, which still freaks me out. But omigosh, light, flaky, yummy. I think I’ll call her right this minute and get that recipe. Can you still get lard at the grocery store? It used to be right next to the suet.

    • Terri Evans

      I should have known the pear pie would tempt the pair of Dallas and Mary! As to the lard, yes, yes, I know, but really? Hope you’ll also consider Crescent’s pecan — definitely one that you can just enjoy the “middle.”

    • http://elisson1.blogspot.com Elisson

      I love pies. Looooove ‘em.

      And I’m not the only one.

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