why not make a lemon chess pie!
There are few desserts that are more southern than a chess pie. Whenever there was dinner on the grounds or a supper in the fellowship hall as I grew up in the Baptist church, there were 2 items you could almost be certain would be on the dessert table: lemon chess pie and cherry yum-yum. The latter was an easy, no-bake version of cheese cake with a can of cherry pie filling on top. Sometimes I wonder if I had a bite of it today, would it be as tasty as I remember it or was my palate simply not developed? I want to think my palate too advanced now for such banality, but who knows?
Back to the lemons….
Occasionally ralston requests some particular food or dish(or dessert). The beginning of the week he said, “You know what I’d like? An old-fashioned chess pie.” After a brief discussion and going through a few cookbooks as I blurt out names of recipes, we agreed on lemon chess, since it is a basic custard pie, which is what he craved and lemon which is what I nearly always opt for, if given the choice. I do feel that folks who cook tend to crave more unusual flavors than those who don’t. Or maybe it’s because my poor taste buds too desensitized from years of smoking(cigarette-free for 9 years now!) that I love tart and bitter tastes.
I decided on the quintessentially southern recipe from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. The next decision was the crust. Any of you who read my entry of “Strawberry Fields Forever” know that even though the crust looked good, it had been tough as nails- hardly edible. I used the formula from The Gift of Southern Cooking, the same book as the pie recipe, substituting some vanilla vodka for some fo the liquid, but being careful to keep the vodka amount at 1/3- 1/2 the total liquid( I used a total of 2 T vodka, about 4 T water).
Here are the ingredients for the filling.
Sometimes things just ‘feel’ right when you work with them as you cook(especially with pastry or bread dough) and this crust did just that. I chose my vintage pie plate, since the request was for pie, not tart. It is aluminum and has holes perforated all over the bottom so the crust will be crisp and flaky. If there’s one motto I live by it is NO SOGGY BOTTOMS! I loved the deep, slightly exaggerated scalloped edge I established.
Into the oven for about 45 minutes(I baked directly on the pizza stone), then 5 minutes on the next higher rack for a little more browning to the top. Here’s my reward.
After a chill in the refrigerator, it was time to serve- finally!.
The taste buds got their just reward. The sweet, tart, smooth filling contrasting against the crunchy, flaky non-soggy bottom of the crust was so satisfying and oh-so-southern. If you look closely in this photo, you will see the holes in the bottom of the pan.
So the next time life hands you lemons, save the lemonade for July & August. I recommend you pull out your pie plate and make you and your family a slice of real southern comfort!