Friends, it has been a bittersweet week.
We lost a beloved member of our community in a horrible accident that hit far too close to home for many of us.
We turned our clocks back on the weekend, which has resulted, paradoxically, in some very short nights around here; and our hitherto unseasonably lovely weather is finally starting to turn, resulting in long days spent indoors and the reminder that those sorts of disgruntled days are only just beginning.
On the sweeter side, my mom has been here, and it’s been everything that I adore about her visits: long conversations, wine in vast quantities, delicious food, a bit of shopping, and all kinds of convivial giggling with my children. A week of pure bliss.
She left this morning, and, because I am home alone just now and taking solace in food is such an integral part of who I am, I suspect that the leftover pecan pie from last night’s dinner will also be gone before I know it.
We did have some spectacular meals this week, though, and I am looking forward to sharing them with you – but first, the pie.
Solace in a dish.
We couldn’t quite remember our family recipe for pecan pie, so my mom and I took the one from Gourmet’s All-Time Favourite Seasonal Recipes edition and made it our own.
pastry to fit a 9-inch glass pie plate
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4c packed dark brown sugar
3/4c maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of an orange
a pinch of salt
4 large eggs
3c pecan halves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a baking sheet on the middle rack.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface, and transfer to pie plate. Crimp edges decoratively, if you can manage it – I often can’t, and frankly I have given up worrying about it. Chill until ready to use.
While shell is chilling, make filling: melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and whisk together with sugar, syrup, vanilla, orange zest, and eggs; mixture should be quite smooth and sugar mostly dissolved. Stir in pecans.
Pour filling into prepared pie shell. Place pie on baking sheet in oven and bake until crust is golden and filling is mostly set (it will be a touch wobbly in the middle), 45-55 minutes.
Cool completely before serving, preferably with whipped cream.
If I am deeply overtired in a physical way, I need to have a grilled cheese, fries with mayo, or pancakes and bacon (yes, I have discovered that hangover foods are also a great balm for the overtired body); but when I am feeling world-weary, I turn to smooth, soothing pureed soups.
When I am bleating and blue and the weather is not doing what I’d like, it’s a lemon square and some Earl Grey tea with amaretto.
When funds are plentiful and I am grateful for all that life has to offer, I roast a duck and insist on really good wine with it.
And when everything just feels simple and good, nothing is more perfect to eat than my mother’s lemon pie.
My mom was here visiting last week, and we had the best time.
It’s nearly impossible these days to have an uneventful week at our house, but last week we came pretty close – no birth, no insanely prolonged labour (or preparations for either event), no – well, not too many – raging hormones or eviction notices or husband travelling; and on the home front, no kitchen cupboards needing painting or garden needing planting.
My mom hadn’t been here in eight months, so we spent our week enjoying her company and planning for her next visit, which will happen in our new house.
Oh, and we drank and ate indulgently all week.
Simple and Good Lemon Pie
I usually buy three lemons for this, but often I only need two.
3c boiling water
4 eggs, separated
2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2c lemon juice
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Use your favourite pie crust recipe to line an 8- or 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Cool completely.
Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees.
Prepare filling while crust is cooling: In a medium saucepan, combine cornstarch and 1 cup sugar. Place saucepan over medium heat, and gradually add boiling water, stirring constantly until thickened.
Lightly beat egg yolks in a small bowl. Stir a small amount of hot mixture into eggs yolks, then beat egg yolk mixture back into saucepan. Cook a further minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter vanilla, lemon zest and juice.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape filling into prepared pie crust.
Make meringue: Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high speed about 30 seconds to combine, then add cream of tartar. With the mixer running, gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form.
Top pie with meringue, using a spatula to ensure that filling is completely covered with meringue.
Place in 400 degree oven for 5 minutes or so, until meringue is golden.
Cool to room temperature before serving.