Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Best Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie has been a Thanksgiving standard for us since long before the kids were born -- 23+ years ago. The recipe on the can always seemed fine -- pumpkin, eggs, evaporated milk, sugar, and lots of spice. In fact, sans fatty crust, I used to make this as pumpkin pudding when the kids were tots, as a painless way to get an orange vegetable into them.

But Michael, our pumpkin pie connoisseur, deems the recipe from The Best American Recipes 2005-2006 far superior, and Ed, Rhona and I agree.

"Silky Pumpkin Pie" is from a cooking school handout by Pam Anderson (no, not that Pamela Anderson). She calls for a dough with cream cheese, which I didn't use -- I went to a fabulous pie cooking class earlier this fall, and didn't care for the cream cheese pastry. But that's another post. It's the filling that's the bomb -- very light and creamy in texture and in taste, with a light hand on the spices and sugar.

Basically, you warm up the pumpkin in a saucepan with the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg, then whisk in a cup of evap milk and a can of sweetened condensed milk. You temper the eggs and finally whisk in the pumpkin mixture (so you dirty an extra pan). It's then baked at a very low temp (300°), which yields the toothsome texture. My oven is pretty accurate, and I finally boosted the temp and it still took more than an hour to set. But worth the wait. Heavenly pie. [... As I read this, I bet we used the whole can of evap milk, not just a cup, so maybe that's why it took forever to set.?]

Silky Pumpkin Pie


1 15oz can pumpkin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks

Preheat oven to 300°. [I pushed it to 325 when the pie was still completely liquid after half an hour. Still took forever. I'm using the higher temp from the beginning next time.] [Update: 12-25-06. Using the higher temp affected the texture. Still delish, but not as velvety smooth, like making a custard without the bain marie. So just admit that the baking will take a lot longer than the 30 mins the book suggests.] Combine pumpkin, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium low heat just to blend flavors, stirred occasionally. Add the condensed and evap milks and whisk to combine. Cook until heated through. Put the eggs and the yolks in a medium bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk the pumkin mixture into the eggs, a spoonful at a time at first to warm the eggs without scrambling them. Whisk well.

Pour filling into a partially baked pie shell -- you'll have extra which you can pour into custard cups and bake with the pie. Bake until a thin-bladed knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. [Took well over 70 minutes for me, even at the higher temp]. Custard cups will cook faster.

Cool on a wire rack then refrigerate if not serving immediately. Serve at room temp or chilled, with a dollop of whipped cream.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

5 Things to Eat Before You Die

Melissa at The Traveler's Lunchbox has offered this challenge to food bloggers -- things you've eaten and think everyone should eat at least once, and the answers are fascinating. How to limit this to 5? And then comes the really hard part: When I think of memorable meals, they are linked to a time and especially a place -- the food isn't actually the most important part.

Favorite meal of all time? An overstuffed turkey and ham sandwich, eaten while dressed in foul weather gear, sitting on the windward rail of our 27-foot racing sailboat, pounding on a beat in Block Island Sound. Oh, and while watching the competition -- far behind. The setting was definitely important here, since we all know that salt air makes everything taste better. But it was a really good sandwich.

But to limit it to food, here's my list:

1. Oysters, harvested 10 minutes earlier (ours came from an oyster farm off Cuttyhunk, an island off Cape Cod. We bought them literally off the boat.) Serve with lemon and fresh pepper. Although Oysters are usually good, a truly fresh one is ethereal, and unlike anything you've ever eaten.

2. A Mortgage Lifter tomato, just picked, still warm from the sun. Now, this is good with just a little salt. The sublime: a BLT, with toasted Pepperidge Farm white bread, Hellman's mayo, applewood smoked bacon, buttery Boston lettuce, a touch of salt and fresh pepper.

3. Pizza from Pepe's in New Haven, CT. Super thin crust, slightly charred in spots from the incredibly hot brick oven. The pizza has a light coating of red sauce, and mozzarella is applied with a light hand. The best pizza on the planet.

4. Beignets and chicory coffee at Café du Monde in New Orleans. Actually, I don't think it's possible to have a bad meal in Nola -- those people know food. A pile of fresh boiled crawfish, served on a table covered with brown paper, at a local dive, is also on the list. And anything at the Commander's Palace, for the sheer theatrical joy of it. Hmm, guess it's not possible to eliminate terroir totally, is it? A Café du Monde beignet is not just a doughnut...

5. Fresh, homemade cheese. Follow the simple recipe in The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells. It couldn't be easier, although it does take a little time. Two quarts of milk yield about 2 cups of essentially home made ricotta. It's very light, delicious with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, sliced tomatoes, or even as a breakfast spread on toast. It's magical to watch curds develop, and get an inkling of what's involved in creating cheese.

It's hard to limit to only 5... the clam chowder at the Black Pearl in Newport, R.I. fought hard for 5th place...