Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Word from the King

Editor’s note: The Queen has been busy. REAL busy. There’s been all sorts of activity at the castle which the Editor won’t go into except to mention that the Royal Pooch had surgery, which requires that the Queen be at her side at all times because if there’s anything the Queen loves more than pies it’s the Royal Pooch. And the King and the Princes of course, but not necessarily in any order that the Editor feels it would be prudent to mention. Bottom line, the King is filling in this week.


People come up to me all the time and they say to me, “King, what’s it like being married to the Queen of Pies?” And I guess maybe I should lie a little because I hate to make people feel bad, but usually I tell them the truth, which is that it’s great. I mean, what’s not to like, right? A fresh homemade pie every single week. Sometimes two pies. It doesn’t suck.

Also I always think of that song from the 80s: “I Know What Boys Like.” The Waitresses, right? From when MTV was young (and so were the King and Queen). Because the Queen knows what boys like. Boys like pie.

So anyhoo, there were a bunch of guys over to the castle the other night for a meeting of the Let’s Play Music and Drink Beer and Call It a Charity committee. Also there were a couple of very nice upstanding women present at this meeting, but largely it was a guy thing. And so, the Queen – knowing as she does what boys like – baked a couple of pies and left them for us while she quite wisely took cover in the comfort of a local bistro with a few of the wives.


The specific pies in question were: a) Blueberry, and b) something called Florida Pie.

I admit that I do not have the skill with words that the Queen has when it comes to describing pies, so I won’t even try. I will just say that they were both delicious, although truth be known I was particularly partial to the Florida Pie because of the fact that it contained coconut. And I don’t want to speak for all of the guys who were there, but judging from the enthusiasm with which they consumed the pies I would say that they found them delicious also.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. Check out the photos of some of the very guys I’m talking about, eating the very pies in question. They look pretty happy, right? The dude with the silver hair there is Steve – a very talented musician who has written a song about the Queen and her pies that we hope to have up and playing on this blog soon. Stay tuned.


In closing, and considering that I may never have an opportunity to address you again, I would like to ask you to please request that the Queen post more blog entries about coconut cream pies. There must be hundreds of recipes for coconut cream pie, right? Why limit yourself to just one a year?

Because one boy in particular really really likes coconut cream pie, and the Queen knows it.


Florida Pie
Adapted from Baking, From My Home To Yours

9 –inch graham cracker crust, baked and cooled
(Use a store-bought crust or make your own)

1 1/3 c. heavy cream
1 ½ c. shredded sweetened coconut
4 eggs, separated
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
½ c. lime juice (about 4 limes)
¼ c. sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Mix cream and 1 c. coconut in saucepan and boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until mixture is slightly thickened and reduced by half. Pour into bowl and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, beat egg yolks with mixer on high speed until pale and thick. Reduce mixer to low and stir in condensed milk. Add half of lime juice, mix well, and add remaining lime juice. Spread coconut cream mixture into bottom of pie crust, spoon lime filling over top. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool on rack for 15 minutes, then freeze pie for at least 1 hour.
Later, put 4 egg whites and sugar in a saucepan and heat briefly, whisking until the whites are hot. Transfer them to a mixer and beat at high speed until they reach room temperature and hold firm peaks. Fold in the remaining coconut into the meringue. Spread meringue over chilled pie and heat under the broiler until the top is golden brown. Freeze for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 hours.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Easy Does It

Thanks to a loyal reader (and a great sister-in-law) the Queen has been alerted to an important discovery in the form of the New Orleans fried pie.

Who knew? Well, New Orleanians, I guess. Apparently Hubig’s is A Really Big Deal down in Louisiana: a regional concern that’s been turning out this specialty since the 1920’s. After Hurricane Katrina, production was suspended for four months; when the distinctive glassine-wrapped friedpackages finally appeared on grocery shelves again, there was much celebrating among the locals.


As you can see, the package is adorned with the patron saint of fried pies, the ever-cheery Savory Simon, whose many flavor selections include pineapple, sweet potato, and chocolate.

I confess that my previous visits to the Crescent City had not clued me in to the Hubig’s phenomenon. While I hold plenty of fond New Orleans food and drink memories (Café du Monde beignets, Tujaque’s shrimp remoulade, Mother’s oyster loaves, Commander’s Palace Eggs Sardou, and, embarrassingly, Hurricanes in souvenir glasses on Bourbon Street) I had never made the acquaintance of Savory Simon.

Our surprise package arrived via overnight mail. After poring over the wrapped treats like aborigines examining the Coke bottle in The Gods Must be Crazy, we unwrapped our Hubig’s and, following the instructions, microwaved the pies for 25 seconds.

The result? Well, I’m not making a special trip to New Orleans any time soon just to pick up a Hubig’s or two, although I can respect how they became a local thing. There are lots of testimonials to be found on the ‘net and nobody can accuse New Orleanians of not knowing a good thing to eat when they see it. But, you know, maybe it’s an acquired taste. For heaven’s sake, I’ve lived in St. Louis, home of toasted (read: fried ) ravioli, and Cincinnati, where they put chili on spaghetti of all things. So who am I to question another city’s hometown favorite?

Plus that Savory Simon looks like my kind of guy.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Calling All Leprechauns

Here, in anticipation of a lively St. Patrick’s Day, is your holiday pie. Its Irish-ness derives from a hearty splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream, perhaps not the most authentic of beverages, but certainly one of the most beloved.


The pie is a close cousin to a cheesecake, with a cream cheese filling that’s lightened (ha!) with whipping cream and a nice dousing of the liqueur. A chocolaty crumb crust and shavings on top give it an extra boost of flavor.


Bailey’s is tasty indeed, yet it is not the beverage that I most associate with the Emerald Isle, nor is the country’s namesake whiskey. No, when I think of Ireland (and I do, often) I think of the splendid Guinness. One of my most vivid (albeit boozy) memories involves a voyage I took in college. The trip was a homecoming of sorts, not for me, but for a fellow student who intended to look up relatives in County Mayo. There were a few problems with the scenario. The first was that my friend had never actually met any of these relatives before, although she assured me that they’d welcome not only her – but also two of her friends -- with smilin’ Irish eyes. The second was that I had to make my way across Ireland all alone, since for whatever cockamamie reason I couldn’t leave Paris at the same time as the two of them. The third complication was that it was Christmas.

I hasten to remind you that things were primitive then, without cell phones and ATM cards and Google Maps. Somehow, after boarding the ferry to Ireland, I realized I’d left most of my traveler’s checks back in Paris. I seem to recall having about three dollars in my backpack, and just the name of the town where the clan was said to reside.

Luckily, that was enough. A family I met on board the ferry gave me a ride for part of the way and then, somehow (please don’t try this at home) I managed to hitchhike to my destination. I ended up in the appointed town late in the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Although I had no specific street address, everyone knew the Gintys and pretty soon I did, too. My friend had been right – that great big Irish family couldn’t have been more welcoming. They clucked over my adventure, fed me lamb stew, and asked me if I knew any American television stars.

After dinner, some of the Irish cousins took us to the pub and before we knew what was happening, there were five Guinness’ lined up in a row for each of us. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to buy a drink for the American Girls. The American Girls did not demur.

Toasting! Dancing! Singing! We’d barely put a dent in the evening when the midnight bells began to chime. Bong! Bong! Bong! Before the bells had struck four, the entire pub rushed out the door and we were whisked along with them to the church next door. ‘Twas Christmas and time for midnight mass.

That, dear Readers, was my idea of a religious experience.

Irish Cream Pie

Crumb crust:
9 oz. chocolate wafer cookies, finely crushed
4 T. butter, melted

2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. sugar
1 c. whipping cream
1/2 c. Bailey's Irish Cream
1/2 t. vanilla

dark chocolate for shaving

Combine cookie crumbs and butter and press mixture onto bottom and sides of 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Blend together cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. Whip the cream in separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold whipping cream, Bailey's Irish Cream, and vanilla into cream cheese mixture.

Spoon filling over crumb crust and set in refrigerator for at least 3 hours. At serving time, shave dark chocolate over top of pie -- and pass the Bailey's.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

3.14159. . . . . . . . .

Happy Pi Day, Mathematicians!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Fungus Among Us

I have just a couple of things to say about mushrooms. If you want true scholarship on the subject, go take a course in Mycology.


The first thing I’ll say is that I like them. All sorts, from the lowly button to the exotic enoki. And you should, too, since their nutritional profile includes significant amounts of potassium and copper. The second thing: According to folklore (and the Mushroom Council), the mushroom has many qualities that could prove rather important (superhuman strength, immortality, aphrodisiacs, and . . .help in finding lost objects). I don’t know about you, dear Reader, but that seems a most potent combination.

Here then is a recipe to take full advantage of our friendly fungi, a wild mushroom tart. Use any combination of mushrooms (as long as they’re of the legal variety), add a splash of onions, a sizzle of sherry, and a sprinkling of Parmesan. You’ll wind up with a wonderful vegetarian main course or a saucy appetizer, and maybe, a new lover and the key ring you misplaced last week.


Wild Mushroom Tart
Loosely adapted from Whole Foods Market

Pastry for a single crust pie (I used a whole wheat pastry flour in my usual pie crust recipe to great success)

1 c. Parmesan cheese
3 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1 c. onions, thinly sliced
¾ lb. wild mushrooms (any variety or a combination), roughly chopped
½ t. sea salt
¼ c. dry sherry
½ c. vegetable or chicken stock
1/3 c. sour cream
2 T. half and half

Preheat oven to 450. Line a 9” tart pan with pastry, pressing into bottom and up sides of pan. Prick several times with a fork and line with parchment paper. Fill with dried beans or pie weights, place on baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and sprinkle ½ c. Parmesan cheese over bottom of crust.

Reduce oven to 350. Combine butter and olive oil in large skillet. Add onions and sauté until pale golden. Stir in mushrooms and add salt and pepper. Saute until mushrooms are soft, about 6-8 minutes.


Add sherry and stock and simmer until liquid has been absorbed. Stir in sour cream and half and half and simmer gently, about 5 minutes. Spoon into tart pan. Sprinkle remaining ½ c. Parmesan over mushroom mixture. Bake tart about 45 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before serving.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Yes, We Have No Bananas

In this (hopefully) brave new world of green awareness, the Queen has decided that incorporating a form of recycled recipes is an appropriate way to augment our Pie Collection. This week’s featured concoction is a prime example: Banana Pudding Pie. Now most of you know this beloved southern dessert from its lower order – the simple but tasty banana pudding. Here it’s served -- with most of its delicious components intact, even improved upon -- in the form of our favorite dessert category.


You might recall that a Toll House cookie recipe was recently rendered in a similar way. What’s next? Think of that titillating parlor game played with fortune cookies. You know, the one where the phrase “in bed” is added to the end of the fortune to make the reading livelier. Perhaps the same could be done with “pie.” Tiramisu pie? (sounds promising to me) Ice cream pie? (oops, already done that) Brownie pie? (hmmm……not a bad idea at all) Pound cake pie? (uh, no)

If you’re fond of bananas (is there anyone who’s not?) and creamy vanilla pastry cream (ditto) and the airy fluff of meringue (50-50?), you’ll find this pie scrumptious. It’s not difficult to make, although it does require several distinct steps. One of those involves the grinding of a large amount of vanilla wafers in order to create the crust. As you can see, this particular pie was made with the assistance of a 6-year-old whirlwind, someone who found the grinding and smashing duty quite satisfying.


Alas, she was eager to hand over the whisk when it came time to make the pastry cream. 6-year-olds, you see, can be such specialists.


Warm Banana Pudding Pie
Adapted from Valerie Hill, Johnny’s Half Shell Restaurant

For the crust:

2 c. finely crushed vanilla wafers (about 45-50)
3 T. sugar
6 T. butter, melted

For the pastry cream:

½ c. sugar
¼ t. salt
¼ c. cornstarch
6 egg yolks
2 c. whole milk
2 T. butter, softened
1 t. vanilla extract

For the meringue:

5 egg whites
6 T. sugar
¼ t. cream of tartar

For the crust: Preheat oven to 350. Combine wafers, sugar, and melted butter and press into 9-inch pie plate. Bake 7-8 minutes, until golden brown. Allow crust to cool.

For the pastry cream: Combine sugar, salt, and cornstarch in large bowl. Add egg yolks and whisk for about 30 seconds. Put milk into medium saucepan and heat until bubbles begin to form around edges of pan. Remove heat from the pan and gradually whisk 3-5 tablespoons of milk into egg yolk mixture. Then whisk egg mixture back into saucepan of milk. On medium heat continue whisking until mixture becomes thick and starts to boil. Pour mixture into a bowl and stir in butter and vanilla. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

For the meringue: Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in bowl of standing mixer. Place pan over bowl of barely bubbling water and whisk for 2 minutes, until frothy and warm to the touch. Place bowl on mixer stand and beat on high speed until meringue is satiny with soft peaks.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 375. Cut bananas into ¼ inch slices and fold gently into pastry cream. Spoon mixture into vanilla wafer pie shell. Spread meringue over all, covering edges of filling completely, to seal. Use back of spoon to swirl meringue into decorative peaks. Bake for 10 minutes, until meringue is golden brown. Serve immediately.