I have never been a pie person, but starting last year the Thanksgiving dessert responsibility has been delegated to me. Last year I made an apple tart and a pumpkin pie and had planned to do the same this year (even had the pumpkin pureed and ready) when Kiki said she would really like a pecan pie. Although I think I liked Mom's pecan pies when I was younger (recipe below), pecan pies now remind me of corn syrup and runny over-sweet middles, not the best finish for a big Thanksgiving dinner. But not wanting to disappoint. I consulted How to Cook Everything (original edition/1998) where Mark Bittman shares my sentiments: "There are two kinds of pecan pies, one of which contains not only sugar but corn syrup. I don't like this version - not only is it too sweet, if you taste corn syrup by itself you'll never cook with it again."(1) Though I have never tasted it straight-up, I can imagine. Then after you've made the corn syrup laden dessert that was pretty awful, you have the almost full corn syrup bottle staring you in the face every time you open the pantry closet until you finally pour the syrup down the drain and recycle the bottle. I liked Bittman's alternative, a custard pie that thickens the sugar with eggs. Moogie and I made the pie using Bitmann's recipe but I reduced the vanilla from 1 T to 1 t.
Prebake the Pie Crust. While heating the oven for the pie crust, place
2 cups shelled pecans
on a baking sheet and bake (this can and should be done well before oven reaches 425 degrees F) shaking and stirring for about 5 minutes or until pecans are hot. Cool the pecans. Select one cup of in tact whole pecan halves and coarsely chop the remaining nuts.
Start the filling while the crust is in the oven. When the crust is done, turn the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium saucepan, beat until foamy:
5 eggs, then beat in:
1 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
Pinch of salt
6 T (3/4 stick) butter, melted
Warm this mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is hot to the touch. Do not boil, then stir in:
1 t vanilla extract and the pecans.
Pour this mixture into the still-hot pie crust and bake 30 - 40 minutes, until the filling shakes like Jell-O but is still quite moist. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Unsweetened whipped cream is an excellent accompaniment to offset the sweetness of the pie.
A WORD ABOUT CONVECTION OVENS: I cooked this using the convection oven option at 375 degrees F. The filling was too hard when I checked the pie after the minimum time, 30 minutes. I am going to use the regular oven option next time. Alternatively if you do use a convection oven use a lower heat.
1 How to Cook Everything,(original edition/1998) page 694
MOOGIE'S PECAN PIE RECIPE
Prepare pastry and make an unbaked 9 inch pastry shell. Chill throughly.
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar gradually and cream together until light and fluffy.
Then add and blend well:
3 eggs, lightly beater
3/4 c dark corn syrup (Moogie notes: if I don't have dark, I use light)
1/4 t salt
1 c pecans, halves or broken
Pour mixture into pastry shell. Bake on lower shelf in moderate oven (350 degrees) 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the filling comes out clean.
Jason did an awesome job of cooking the turkey (without stuffing - stuffing was baked and served on the side) on his Sykes grill. It was greatly enjoyed by Moogie, Jason, Kiki, Christopher, Ed and me. Parker was at a ski camp in Colorado and Alex and Dan stayed in Portland and cooked their first Thanksgiving turkey. They got the turkey (from the Pine Mountain Buffalo Ranch in Bend OR) at the Portland Farmer's Market the Saturday before Thanksgiving.