Happy Pi Day!

March 14, 2015

Pecan pi for pi day.

Pecan pi for pi day.

Here would be your pi of the day.

It gets many rave reviews from Epicurious (four forks, 48 reviews). It’s similar to my standard recipe, but for the fact it calls for brown sugar instead of white sugar. And it has two full cups of pecan halves, plus a little, as that was the last of my holiday pecan stash.

I wanted to make a pie of some sort to mark the auspicious occasion (3-14-15, or 3.1415 etc.). Didn’t feel like lemon icebox. Didn’t have any fruit for a fruit pie. Had pecans, as well as brown sugar, butter, vanilla and Karo corn syrup. That’ll work.

Back in the Dark Ages when I was a kid, we would average very nearly a pot luck dinner of some sort monthly, either at church or with some of my parents’ friends. I learned early on at church pot-lucks to get dessert first, not that you ate it first, but to stake your claim, because the good stuff got gone first. And despite the abundance of wonderful desserts (fried peach pies! Coconut cakes! German chocolate cakes!), more often than not, I’d home in on Mrs. Ruth Milliken’s pecan pie.

That woman, who has long since gone on to her reward, made the best pecan pie I have EVER eaten. Bar none. The filling was gelled to the perfect consistency, not sticky, plenty sweet but not enough so to make your teeth hurt, wrapped around a bajillion bits of pecans. Mrs. Ruth generally used chopped pecans, although not always.

I can make, have made, a fairly respectable pecan pie. Nothing to win the blue ribbon at the county fair, but certainly a serviceable pie. But it’s been so long I don’t remember what recipe I used, so I went looking for one today. I like Epicurious recipes, because they’re often rated by the cooks who make them, and generally will have several reviews, which may or may not include tweaks.

The recipe:

  • 3/4 stick butter (it specifies unsalted, but I had salted, so I used it and cut back a touch on the salt in the recipe)
  • 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar (I used 1 cup, and it was dark brown; didn’t want it quite so sweet)
  • 3/4 cup light Karo syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest (I used tangerine, because that was what I had)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups pecan halves or pieces
  • pie crust

Make your own crust, or use a pre-made one. I used pre-made. I can make a middling decent pie crust, but it’s not any better than the rolled up Pillsbury kind in the dairy case, so I get those. Easy-R-Us, at least sometimes. I unrolled it, put it in my nine-inch deep-dish pan, which is the only pie pan I own, and stuck it in the freezer, per the Epicurious instructions.

Melt the butter over medium low heat, and whisk in the brown sugar until smooth. Remove from heat, and whisk in the syrup, vanilla, zest and salt. Once that’s all combined, beat the eggs well and whisk those in. Put the pecans in the bottom of the well-chilled crust, and pour the filling over. It won’t fill a deep-dish nine-inch crust, so I folded the crust down just a tad. Then I crimped some foil around the edge to keep the exposed edge from browning too much.

Epicurious says to bake it in a preheated oven, on a preheated cookie sheet, so that’s what I did. Baked it for about 50-55 minutes, until the center was set. Haven’t cut it yet; it’s for dinner tomorrow, with Italian roast chicken and a wild rice salad. I will report.

Dinner tonight, on the other hand, was pretty decent, which is good, as there is a ready-to-bake casserole of the same in the freezer. I had shrimp that needed to be used, and I didn’t feel like Creole or shrimp and grits, so it became shrimp enchiladas.

I used about 1/2 pound shrimp, diced up into 1/2 inch chunks. Sprinkled those down with a little cumin and a little smokey paprika. Sauteed those, and then tossed them in some mild green chile taco sauce from the grocery.

Made the sauce — roux of 1/4 cup each butter and flour, cooked lightly (until the flour smells nutty), a pint of chicken broth, a tablespoon of chopped green chiles, a half-teaspoon or so of cumin, and 4 ounces of crumbled queso fresco. Cooked that until the cheese melted, then stirred in about 6 ounces of sour cream. Set that aside.

And then I ran into problems. I usually soften my corn tortillas in the microwave, and that’s what I did; sprinkled them with some water and nuked them about 30 seconds. They didn’t soften very well; I guess they weren’t very fresh. Used ’em anyway.

I crumbled more queso fresco onto each of about 8 tortillas; topped that with a spoonful of shrimp bits, and finished them off with a couple of teaspoons of chopped green chiles. Put about 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of my 7 x 11 baking dish. Rolled the enchiladas, as best I could with stale tortillas, and put them seam side down in the dish, then covered them with another cup of sauce. Baked for 30 minutes, and done.

These were good. No real assertive flavors, but everything played well together and it was a nice, comforting meal. And a half-pound of shrimp will feed four if they’re not horribly hungry.

Elsewhere in the wider world today, we cleaned house and I made corn dip for a shower, the rice salad for tomorrow, got the chicken ready to roast for tomorrow, and bathed a toddler and got him off to bed. And I’m about to finish up cleaning the kitchen and bathe me and put me to bed, because? I’m tired.

Hope you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em are having a fine weekend. And that the sun is shining where you are.




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