Friday, November 24, 2006

Just a Pie

As Mr. Sgazzetti has pointed out on several occasions, and I liberally paraphrase this, "The only thing better than a pie is many pies".
Mathematically, that's reducible to "Pie are Squared". As weightedly hinted at by Whisky Prajer, here's my (not wholly plagiarized) recipe for a Rum Pecan Pie.

This version of Pecan Pie is a touch different. Heavily borrowed from Mark Bittman’s excellent How to Cook Everything, the procedure and ingredients are as follows.

For the pie crust, simply follow Mr. Bittman’s recipe to the letter. I used his Pre-baked Flaky Pie Crust directions found on pp 685-686 of the hardcover version.

I've used other versions of a pecan pie recipe and found the following works out the best for me. Usually. It requires a minimum of corn syrup (FYI, Mr. Bittman uses none) as a tip of the hat to Southern style versions of pecan pie. It also asks for a leap of faith. More on that a bit later.

For the filling, you’ll need:
2 ¼ cups of shelled pecans
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
( I like to use Trader Joe’s Evaporated Cane Sugar which has a better aftertaste than refined sugar and seems to have a lighter touch of sweetness. All of this could, of course, be imagined and evidence that I’ve been completely duped by the ivory toned whiteness of the sugar.)
¼ cup of brown sugar (You could use the Evaporated Cane Sugar and just cut out the brown sugar)
2 tablespoons of Dark Corn Syrup
A pinch of salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter, melted
2 heaping tablespoons of Myers Dark Rum
(I can’t vouch for other dark rums. Any time a recipe calls for rum, I reach out for Myers. It’s a bit more expensive but it has no nasty back taste and there’s a deep fullness to the taste. What’s heaping? Hold the tablespoon over the filling. Start pouring, filling the tablespoon at a moderate clip, flipping the tablespoon, and refilling the tablespoon one more time. After you’ve filled the tablespoon the second time, you stop pouring. That would be 2 heaping tablespoon. What is one heaping teaspoon? Only a Buddhist could answer that question.)
1 Tablespoon of pure Vanilla Extract
A pinch for the cook.   Indications of love go a long way when you're in the confines of a hot kitchen.

What to do with all of this stuff:

1) After you’ve baked the crust as per the instructions above, spread out all of the pecans onto a large enough baking sheet. Put it into the still hot oven (425 degrees) and leave them there for about 4-6 minutes. Occasionally (o.k., after 3 minutes) pull out the sheet and stir the pecans around so both sides are roasted. After the pecans are hot to the touch, pull out the sheet. Take half of the nuts (or more, if you prefer small size to large) and mince them up. If you’re a real nutcase about pecans, take half of the un-minced nuts and put them through into a thoroughly cleaned coffee grinder. Grind until you have a powdery consistency, but before you’ve ground the pecans into a paste. Leave the different-sized pecans off to the side.

2) Beat the eggs well. Very well; your wrist should be screaming for Bengay. When the eggs are very foamy, add the sugars, salt, corn syrup, and melted butter. Stir a few times to combine the ingredients.

3) Pour this concoction into a non-stick frying pan (I use a small non-stick wok-ish type pan for this) and place on low-medium heat, stirring continuously. The mixture will start getting thicker, almost taking on the consistency of scrambled eggs. Since you have 5 eggs in that mixture, it will start smelling eggy as well. This is where the mentioned leap of fate is required. You may think you’re making an omelet at this point...and you will be if you don’t stop at the correct point. When the mixture is hot to the touch and it’s still coagulating, take it off of the burner immediately. If the mixture has started to boil, you’re past the point of pie and well into omelet. A very, very sweet omelot, but an omelot nonetheless.

4) If the mixture is not an omelet, add the dark rum, vanilla, and all of the pecan permutations and stir well. You should be looking at a thick pool of brown, once you’re finished.

5) Pour the mixture into the still-hot pie crust and bake for 30-35-minutes. The mixture should still be moist and, if you lightly shake the pie, some wobbling should be on display. If there’s no wobble, you may have over-baked the pie. Not to worry! Eating it requires just a bit more milk or vanilla ice cream generously heaped on the Rum Pecan Pie. Besides, once the pie is served, folks are well into that "I have eaten and I am full." part of the dinner, so an appearance of pie, in any level of doneness, will usually be accompanied by an initial groan.  Calm the growing groans by offering coffee, tea, or some single malt.   Behold how the liquids soothe the roils of Eater's Anguish.

6) Let the pie rest on a cooling rack for 20-30 minutes before serving.  Ignore all of the Siren's Pleas, even though some folks love to put a dollop of ice cream on top and slice a piece of scalding hot pie so as to burn their tongue and simultaneoulsy cool it. This serving methodology is not recommended, though it makes for great dinner theatre, something you may want to consider if family stories, having been unfastened by the single malt, are too freely being let loose.

As Mark Bittman points out, the main difference between this pecan pie recipe and most others is the minimal use of corn syrup. In his own recipe, Mr. Bittman does not use any corn syrup at all. The concoction that you are making is more custard-like than the usual super-sweet corn syrup version. It tastes different. I will not say it’s better. As with most things food, it’ll be your own taste buds that’ll make the decision for you. The one thing that I can say for sure is that this recipe won’t leave that sweet & harsh corn syrup in the back of your throat. Now, if that’s what you’re after than you can go here.

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A pinch for the cook...

Is that a pinch of love? Or a "pinch" of the heaping tablespoon of Myer's Rum (all good Croatians know what a heaping tablespoon of the rum looks like)? Or God forbid, a pinch of the vanilla (this, we only drink when we run out of the rum)?
Thank you! As usual, you throw in some interesting links. I especially liked, "Why cook Pecan Pie?", which must have a zen-like koan in response. Something like that one heaping teaspoon you mention.
That's my kind of recipe -- not meaning in terms of result (although that pie does sound damn good) but in description. An M.F.K. Fisherlike erudition, anthropological as much as it is a how-to. Thanks.

If I may, can I also recommend a foray into Gosling's Black Seal Bermuda Rum? I'm a big Myers fan, too, but Goslings is worth a look. It's a must-have for the Dark and Stormy, without which there would be no Christmas in my family.
As regards A pinch for the cook..., every kitchen has its customs, best seen and not discussed.

Mr. WP, Well, it's about time I actually provided a recipe for you. I'd been a remora on your site, as far as recipes are concerned.

Mr. Sgazzetti,
That link you left is might scary, specifically that recipe for Navy Grog. That would get anyone start talking in Piratese.
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