So it's a cool June here in NYC, and the social life has picked up a bit: Rififi, Sin- (the new one), Azkaban; soon Imelda, Truck Turner, and then to the Jersey Shore to assist Dave and Leah with their grand experiment of kosher smoked barbecue. I'm a little nervous, since I come from the heartland of treyf itself, but I think I have come up with some suitable side dishes for the upcoming carnifest. The following ain't one of them.
I am not a pie novice. But it has been a while. Thus the first thing: which pie should I make? I pull down my Norske Nook cookbook, which I consider the final arbiter of pie goodness, and look for a suitable candidate. Bingo! Butterscotch pie. I love butterscotch; I love pie. The choice is simple. Even better, this is a *pudding* pie! So there's going to be delicious leftover chilled filling, served in graceful Steuben crystal cups afterwards. Who am I kidding? I'm gonna eat it right out of the pot. The second thing: ingredients. I need brown sugar and eggs. And... I'm gonna cheat. I am going to use a pre-fabricated crust. But this is in defense of human liberty! One of the saddest, yet most mouth-watering, descriptions of food I have ever read was an account of making old-fashioned Southern biscuits. For my European audience, this is a savory bread made to sop up meat sauces and drippings, sometimes served by itself with gravy for breakfast (it's that good). In this case, the old-timey recipe was simple: mix white flour and good hog's lard into a dough, and then beat the hell out of it all day. Slave's work. So I'm gonna cheat, and yes I will feel guilty about it. But making a decent flaky crust is tough, and frankly, I think I may have lost the knack. They have a pre-fab crust at the store in the baking aisle, actually three varieties of them: chocolate, graham cracker, and shortbread. I choose shortbread, and feel embarrassed. Elfin magic better work. The third thing: the filling. The filling is easy. Three tablespoons of flour. (You can't see my keystrokes, but I so very badly want to spell that as 'fluor'. It's the chemist in me.) Three tablespoons of corn starch. Two packed cups of brown sugar. I use the dark brown kind, because I like the flavor. As I mix, the starch coats each granule of sugar, producing a volume that seems much greater than two, or even three cups. I wonder if it is related. Starches have unusual properties of viscosity, and brown sugar is always a little damp. Then three cups of milk. With the first cup, the immense brown volume of the sugar mixture evaporates. Then the second, stirring, stirring, and then the third. Then three egg yolks. I crack the eggs slightly, and empty the whites out into the measuring cup. The yolks go into the sweet brown soup. Then three-quarters of a stick of butter. That's three-eights of a cup, and I apologize for these archaic units of measurements. I turn on the burner, cutting the butter into chunks with my spoon, stirring slowly, slowly, slowly. Damn this is dull. So I put on a long mp3, what seems to be Golden Bough folk-rock from (get this, Doug) The Tain. Of course, by the time I return to the stove, the filling has thickened treacherously. Frantic repair stirring ensues. Finally, it has thickened to what I consider a proper consistency. Stew-like. I turn off the stove, and pour a capful of vanilla extract into the mass. The Norske Nook people suggest maple extract, but we're doing freestyle butterscotch here. The aromatics waft into my nose. It does improve the taste. I let it cool, and in the meantime make a white omelette with the egg whites. Some grated Parmesan, some pepper. It's good. Finally, I pour the filling into the pre-fab crust. The empty accusing face of the crust is soon submerged underneath cup after cup of sweet brown goodness. The completed pie goes on top of the refrigerator to cool further. There's about a cup of butterscotch filling left in the pot. I eat it. My GOD, what a sugar rush. It's so good. And I think to myself, how the hell am I going to finish eight slices of this monstrous pie? More tomorrow.