Saturday, October 8, 2011

Check Mate

I've never understood chess. I'm inclined to believe I've just never had the patience to learn, nor the disposition of one who sits still for long periods of time, rather than admit it looks dull and tedious.  Either way, there are many many things I do adore, some of which include as of late--  southern charm and of course pie.

Lets talk about pie.  To me, it's the perfect dessert.  It's the perfect breakfast and afternoon snack too. It's good warm, cold, fresh from the oven, or two days later straight out of the pie pan. You know what I am talking about.  Chess pie, is a sugary custard like pie common in southern cuisine, with a single buttery crust and a caramelized brown sugar top.  And although chess pie is relatively new to me, it originates from England, and I'd imagine it was popular among my New England Jamestown people as well, before it migrated south.  I don't really have any Jamestown people, but if I did, I would like to think they liked pie.

While there are many tales about where the name "chess pie" came from, my favorite stems from the eventually mutation, or blurring of lines, between the words just and pie, as chess pie was in fact initially, just pie.

Regardless, of where it came from or where it's going, once you make this pie you will want to make it again. And again.  Holiday pies, step aside.

There are about a million variations on chess pie out there, but the general consensus calls for butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Since I usually refer to Paula Deen, a woman who's favorite ingredients include: butter, oil, peanut butter, and cheese, (yes - she said that once while making something that melding all four ingredients) I started with her recipe and then got a little adventurous.  I wanted something to cut the sweetness and I wanted a unique flavor that plays on where I'm from and what I love.

Enter my two favorite ingredients :Vermont Maple Syrup and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

The syrup plays well with the custard, delicious, brown-sugariness of the pie and the lemon adds just a touch of tart. I also used buttermilk, not always common, and corn meal, which is pretty traditional across recipes.

The maple and lemon give the pie a little lighter coloring (see right half of above pie) but I also think it was perhaps a little undercooked, since I used a much deeper pie pan.

So you can thank England, or a Jamestown Rock wife, Paula Deen's great-great-great-great grandmother, or anyone you want.  But, remember your charm and manners, and don't forget to write a thank you note...

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