Thanksgiving dinner was supposed to be easy this year. Cooking was optional. The family was in town. Maybe we’d order in. Our new life in SF was taking center stage rather than an organic Diestel turkey. Or so I thought.
As I began to do research on places that would actually deliver food on Thanksgiving, I started to feel silly. I should cook. I like to cook. I mean, how many times a year can I eat such calorie-laden goodness? Maybe we’d just do side dishes. And order the turkey already cooked. You can see where this is going. N could see it from a mile a way.
There was no way I was leaving the biggest feastival of the year to chance. I had a non-Manhattan-size kitchen and a dining room table that begged for eight people to be crammed around it. This was a runaway gravy train.
We ended up making six veggie side dishes from Real Simple and The New York Times, plus we bought and brined turkey parts–wings, thighs, drumsticks, breasts (which, by the way, were delicious and a huge headache due to the various cooking times).
The piece de resistance was the whiskey pecan pie. I saw the recipe the week before in the NY Times. It was love at first read. I had to make this pie.
To save time (and oven space), I cooked the pie the day on Wednesday. N hovered about the kitchen wondering if it would look bad to eat a slice before all our guests arrived. Taste testing was required. You know, to make sure no one was going to be poisoned. We took a big slice and dug in.
It was warm, and uh… terrible. Not just terrible, but inedible. N was trying to be polite, but I could read it all over this face. I was panicking and getting defensive, but something was really wrong with this pie. It wreaked of whiskey. The texture was really custard-y and not in a good way. And it wasn’t that sweet. How could that be? The recipe called for molasses, corn syrup and over a cup of… wait a minute. I forgot the sugar. WHO DOES THAT? Oh, I did.
Decision time. It was 10pm the night before T-giving. I felt destroyed, and we were short a pie (and fodder for a blog post). Pecan pie, take two.
Liquid Courage Pecan Pie
Adapted from The New York Times
Makes one pie
Special equipment: springform pan
Whipped cream, for serving
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tspn kosher salt
1 ½ tbspn white sugar
½ pound cold unsalted butter, cubed (I used Kerrygold Irish butter, so yum)
½ cup ice water (or less)
beans for baking
5 large eggs
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar
6 tbspn unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 tspn vanilla extract
¼ tspn kosher salt
2 tbspn whisky/rye/bourbon for the pie, 1 shot for the baker
2 cups finely chopped pecans
2 ½ cups pecan halves (or less)
2. Add butter and mix until pea-size lumps form.
3. Raise the speed to medium-low and add 1/2 cup ice water in a slow, steady stream, mixing just until dough holds together.
4. To test, pinch a small amount of dough. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time.
5. Shape dough into a ball and wrap it loosely in plastic, then roll it into a disk. Refrigerate at least one hour, or up to 3 days, before rolling. (Dough can be frozen for up to a month.)
Note: I do not have a mixer, but used a pastry cutter (not my hot hands). Results are the same.
6. On a lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough into a circle 16 inches in diameter (or as circular as it gets). Lift it and let it settle into pan, fitting the dough down into the edges. Press the sides firmly against pan and pinch around the top rim. Trim dough with kitchen scissors so it hangs over the rim by one inch, reserving excess.
7. Refrigerate in pan until very cold and firm, at least 45 minutes.
8. Cook the crust: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prick bottom of dough with a fork. Lay a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom of the pie. Fill foil lining with dried beans to top of pan.
9. Bake 15 minutes, until the sides of the crust have set.
10. Remove from oven and lift out the beans, foil and parchment. Patch any holes with reserved dough, pressing firmly. If your crust starts to droop down the sides of the pan, carefully press them back up with a spatula or using your hand (covered in a paper towel).
11. Bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden brown. Let cool at least 30 minutes before filling.
13. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar (don’t forget the SUGAR!), melted butter, molasses, corn syrup, vanilla, salt and whiskey (or rye).
14. Place baked pie shell, still in the pan, on a sheet pan (important so that you don’t drip all over your oven and cause a smoky disaster).
15. Gently pour in the filling. Sprinkle chopped pecans evenly over surface.
16. Working from outside in, arrange pecan halves in concentric circles, without overlapping, until entire surface is covered. (Use only as many as needed.)
17. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, just until filling is firm and a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into center. (Do not worry if the overhanging crust becomes very dark brown.) Let cool completely.
18. Use a serrated knife to saw off all overhanging pie crust (if necessary).
19. Carefully remove outer ring of pan. Slice with a large, very sharp knife and serve with whipped cream. Elicit oohs and aahs from your family.
Hell no. It was aromatic and perfectly sweet without being cloying. I guess that’s what happens when you remember the sugar. The crust was sturdy and a perfect buttery balance to the nut-laden gooey filling. Make this pie. Make it now.