Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Lust and Avarice: A Tale of Cherry Pie
In my last post, I referenced both my friend, June, and an amazing cherry pie. And I promised to tell the tale and follow through with the recipe, so I mean to make good on my promise (redemption seems a worthy aim during the Lenten season). First, let me tell you about June. Now, by all outward appearances, June is the most reasonable of persons. Indeed, she is a psychology professor and an expert on the brain itself. But when it comes to cherry pie, she loses all rationality, and her many virtues quickly yield to such vices as lust, greed, avarice and dare I add, gluttony? (I know, 'tis unsavory to mention that particular sin on a food blog! Tsk, tsk!) Do you doubt me? Listen to this anecdote and then judge...
Around the holidays, say at Thanksgiving or Christmas, June becomes quite prolific in the kitchen. In fact, she wowed her family a couple of years ago with a sublime Rachael Ray creation that I have since added to my own harvest-time repertoire, Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish (ok, fine, I'll post the recipe for that, too!). Moreover, in a show of great devotion and attentiveness to her family's desires, she offers to bake each person his or her own favorite pie, whatever it might be. Doesn't that sound extraordinarily kind and generous? But NO, it is a thinly-veiled deception! You see, she makes everyone else a pie, so that she may make herself her beloved cherry pie and be able to consume it all--without sharing! How's that for holiday spirit? Lust, greed, avarice, gluttony, I've said, and I'll say them again! Of course, all villians get their come-uppance at the end of a good story, and June's is no exception. As is always the way, her family never shows as much interest in their requested pies as they do in her coveted cherry pie, and her devious plan is always thwarted! So she has taken to baking two cherry pies at each major holiday, but they are devoured just as quickly, or perhaps doubly so. Poor June!
Because her tale is so tragic, I have taken to baking her her own special cherry pie when the occasion warrants. I have used the recipe on the back of the Oregon pie cherry label with great success, but one day, I saw a show on the Food Network about a bakery in Michigan that Mario Batali raves about, and I quote him, "I don’t think I've ever had as good a pie as Grand Traverse Pie Company's Cherry Crumb Pie... It's a religious experience." I think it's only right to tell you that you can buy their pies online, but for a pretty penny (about twenty bucks without shipping)! So when I saw that pie I thought, I could make something like that! So here is the recipe that I adapted and prepared for June's last birthday (that ended in a big -0!). She declared it the best she'd ever had, and that is high praise, considering the source. I think you'll really like it, too.
Cherry Pie with Almond Crumb Topping
1-9 inch single pie crust
2 cans pitted tart red cherries – water pack (or 4 cups)
1 ½ cups sugar, divided
1/3 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon butter
3-4 drops almond extract
½ t vanilla
¼ cup almonds (ground)
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter, cold, cubed
½ cup sliced almonds
Prepare pastry and line a 9-inch pie plate. Flute the edges. Chill in the fridge while you make the filling.
Drain the cherries and reserve one cup of the liquid (no more!). In a saucepan, combine ¾ cup sugar, the cornstarch, and a dash of salt. Stir in reserved cherry juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir one minute more. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ¾ cup sugar, butter and extracts, then the cherries. Fill pastry with the cherry mixture.
In a food processor, grind ¼ cup of almonds. Add the flour, brown sugar and salt, and pulse until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Then stir in the ½ cup of sliced almonds (don’t process after that!). Sprinkle the crumb topping over the cherry filling. Cover edge of pie with foil. Place pie on a lined baking sheet as it WILL bubble all over! Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for about 30 minutes more. Cool on wire rack (at least two hours!) before serving.
Oregon Cherry Pie
1 1/2 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 cans Oregon Red Tart Pie Cherries, drained, reserve juice from one can
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (I add at least a half teaspoon of vanilla, too!)
1 tablespoon butter
Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drain the cherries and reserve the juice from only one can. In a saucepan, stir the cherry juice into the combined mixture of the cornstarch and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Gently stir in cherries and optional ingredients. Remove from heat. Pour filling into pastry lined pie pan. Dot with butter. Adjust crust, seal and vent. Bake 45 minutes or until crust browns and filling begins to bubble. If necessary, cover edges with aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning. Cool pie several hours to allow filling to thicken before slicing. Makes 8 servings.
Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish
Difficulty: Easy, Prep Time: 20 minutes, Cook Time: 25 minutes, Yield: 8 first course or 4 entree servings
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 fresh bay leaf
2 ribs celery with greens, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning or 2 teaspoons ground thyme
2 teaspoons hot sauce, or to taste
6 cups chicken stock
1 (28-ounce) can cooked pumpkin puree
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 crisp apple, such as McIntosh or Granny Smith, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat a medium soup pot over medium to medium high heat. Add the oil and melt the butter. Add bay, celery, and onion. Season the veggies with salt and pepper. Cook 6 or 7 minutes, until tender. Add flour, poultry seasoning and hot sauce, to taste, then cook flour a minute. Whisk in chicken stock and bring liquid to a bubble. Whisk in pumpkin in large spoonfuls to incorporate it into the broth. Simmer soup 10 minutes to thicken a bit then add in cream and nutmeg. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.
While soup cooks, assemble the relish: combine apple, onion, lemon juice, cranberries, chili powder, honey and cinnamon. Adjust seasonings in soup and relish and serve soup in shallow bowls with a few spoonfuls of relish.