Chocolate Pecan Pie with Cane Syrup

chocolate pecan pie cane syrup 2

What is the power of pie? Well, pie is just a pastry. Pie is just a dessert. Right?

You know those are trick questions coming from me, right? I have spent the last 3 years waxing sentimental about how pie is sacred amongst desserts, not because of any one ingredient or any one quality, but for the feelings that a pie evokes in those who gaze upon it.

Pie is comfort.

Pie is home.

Pie is love.

Pie is warmth.

Pie is everything we want Thanksgiving to embody. Thanksgiving is the day we give thanks that we are comfortable, at home, surrounded by love, and warm. No wonder Thanksgiving and pie are rarely without one another.

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Fresh Nectarine Ramekin Pies

Nectarine Ramekin Pies I’m getting a lot of good advice these days. I think I unconsciously asked the universe for a wee bit of perspective and the good ideas are flowing in. I checked in on the new Tim Byres website. He’s the chef behind Dallas’ SMOKE restaurant. I was just poking on the internet between bouts of mild-first-world-crisis and puppy pee. And there it was in plain form: “You don’t have to take yourself so seriously.” That is an excellent start to any bout of introspection.

Yesterday morning, after having to go three rounds with my conscience over whatever, and how I handled this-and-that, and what to do about such-and-such comes an email announcement from one of my favorite art photographers, Josie Iselin. Quoting a painter, she was writing about reminding herself to “tolerate chaos” and “attempt what is not certain” in her photography.

Again, all my problems are good ones, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t spend a lot of time worrying…about everything, especially where my children are concerned.

I wrote her an email to just say thank you. I explained that although she was talking about art, I had applied it to a child rearing worry, and it had righted my ship of perspective. She responded that she had always believed that the art making guidance of several of her favorite masters was completely applicable to parenting. It is messy, gut-wrenching, creative, and inspiring all at the same time…. 

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Bob’s Mom’s Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb the ThirdWhen I am long gone, and my 8-year-old son is 88, and has children and grandchildren and great grandchildren to tell, I hope he will say something like, “My mother made the best rhubarb pie in the world, and I can still taste it and see it and smell it.” When he says this, I hope he does so with a slight shimmer of moisture in his eye, like he just that moment put his face close to the steaming vents on the browned top crust of a pie that I made for him 70 years before. I hope that memory transports him to an earlier time and connects me to the people being welcomed into the world on that day.

My step-father, Bob…I rarely call him my step-father because I think it is a chilly term, and my relationship with this great man has always been warm and chummy…had a mother named Florence. And Florence had a recipe for a rhubarb pie. And this is the pie that Bob still talks about when he talks about his mom. Bob’s daughter-in-law, Ann, still makes this pie for him on special occasions. She was kind enough to share a photocopy of the recipe with me. I’ve made it for my family to great fanfare. I misplaced the photocopy for a bit. Or rather, I knew generally where it was within a 12 cubic foot space of dog-eared cookbooks, handwritten note cards, recipes ripped out of magazines, and scribbled notes and notebooks of my research. When I found the lost lamb, I was grateful that the original was in the custody and care of  a more responsible member of the family. Handwritten recipe cards are precious, fading, ephemeral, wisps and hints of lives lived before.  Such a responsibility.

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A dinner for your family, and a trip down memory lane

slaw_plateI have been realizing for a long time that I need to go back and clean up my old recipes. For those who have been reading PIE from the beginning, God Bless You…I mean it. My writing was not good three years ago. It was borderline embarrassing, actually. Slowly, a few a day, I’m going back and fixing a few typos and putting ingredients in bold, for instance, to make them easier to read. It seemed like no big job until I looked and realized I now had over 300 posts on PIE, most of which are recipes.

I also realized that this means that some of my best (though perhaps not my most artfully written) posts are way at the bottom of the pile and you may have missed them altogether. So, here and there I will be posting some of these sorts of “remember these recipes” posts. For those who were not exposed to these the first time around, they are truly some of my favorites and I hope that you too like them. In this installment, I am putting together three of my all time favorite recipes. First up is another classic “Cynthia” recipe. Cynthia, as you may remember from my recent meatloaf post, is my mother-in-law. And, she passed away in the Fall. But this was her “feed the boys” recipe and many people out there still sing the praises of Cynthia’s brisket. This is “MOM BRISKET” writ large. It is baked in the oven or in a crock-pot until it falls apart. I’ve spent so much time with brisket purists lately I’m afraid I’ll need to DUCK when they read “put the FLAT cut brisket in the CROCK-POT” as that is just a dirty, low-down, meat sin where many are concerned. Well, this has a BBQ sauce of sorts cooked right along with the beef, but it is not, I repeat not, barbecue brisket. My friend Steave used to shudder any time I used the terms brisket and oven in the same breath. God rest his soul, too. But still, purist or not, there is a place for this in your recipe book. It is like a saucy pot roast. There isn’t a thing wrong with that. This one is called Saucy, Sweet, Sloppy, Hot, Delicious Brisket. (Click on the bold title to be redirected to the recipe.)

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Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Cream Pie SliceI’ve had Coconut Cream Pie on my mind and I finally got around to putting one together that I love. It is different than the typical Coconut Cream Pie for several reasons. First, instead of relying on coconut extract for the punch of coconut flavor, I have tried to layer on real coconut wherever possible. To wit, I use Coconut Milk in the custard along with heavy whipping cream, sweetened coconut in the custard, and toasted sweetened coconut on top. I made a version previously using coconut extract and found the flavor to be a little too artificial. I felt like I was eating something with a hint of Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen. That is not something I look for in a pie. So, I put real coconut wherever I could and I think it is much better now.

The other way in which it is a little bit unique is that I prepare the custard in a blender. If you remember Betty’s Buttermilk Pie, the filling was whirled up in a blender before baking and it was extremely easy. I wanted to carry on the “easy” part for this pie, so instead of mixing in two bowls and slowly adding the cream to the egg yolks in the saucepan, I put all of the custard ingredients in the blender and blended them perfectly before putting it all in the saucepan to cook and thicken. This also allowed me to use sweetened coconut in the filling; however, it is chopped so finely that you hardly notice it is there. The custard is thickened with a bit of cornstarch, and cooks into a nice pudding that is then cooled and spooned into a cooled crust.

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