I don’t eat Turkey. Even though I started eating meat a few years ago, I cannot seem to bring myself to eat birds. They just freak me out, like eating a terradctyl or something. So, my thanksgiving traditions have usually been about other things like the side dishes and oysters and champagne (strangely this year is I think the FIRST that involved no champagne or oysters). But the most important part of Thanksgiving for me is the pie! I love pie. Actually, I should say that I love to bake pie. I love making crust and tweaking my recipes until they are perfectly mine and now part of my tradition. Making this pumpkin pie every year with the sounds of the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade in the background on tv really makes me feel safe and homey no matter where I have lived when I make it. The smell of the spices cooking signals something internal in me that it’s officially the holiday season. This year it was a little different. It was just the two of us…me and Schmoo. And it was great.
The night before I roasted the pumpkin, after getting the knife stuck in the pumpkin and panicking for about 45 minutes. In this tear soaked time, I was not only questioning why I wanted to start the pie after working all day and night but also thinking of some of the more hilarious Thanksgiving misgivings I’ve been a part of. I thought of a thanksgiving back in the late 70’s when my uncle and I set up a cassette recorder and placed it under the “adult table” so we could find out what was really going on. For years afterward, we kept the secret of this tape safe and just between us. We were convinced that one day we would be able to use “the evidence” as blackmail for something we needed desperately when the time seemed appropriate. I thought about one of the years that Bryan and Sinclair hosted Thanksgiving and Bryan and I cooked just about everything imaginable, and he “accidentally” threw away my chipolte peppers that I was going to use for my sweet potatoes and the whole rest of the evening I was convinced of sabotage. I thought of the year I spent at my ex-in laws and noticed that they served a dish they called a “pretzel salad” that seemed to consist of red jello, pretzels, and marshmallows all congealed together. When I asked the grandmother about it she said she never eats it herself but always makes it because it looks so pretty on the plate. I thought about my years of tofurkey, or carb fest dinners when I didn’t eat meat. I thought about all the years I worked at a restaurant on Thanksgiving! I thought about drinking whisky from a flask at the parade and watching one of the balloons come crashing down on broadway. And I thought about the future and wondered what sort of things will be my traditions when I have my own family. I’ve spent thanksgiving with a lot of different people. Sometimes at my home, sometimes at others, sometimes with family, sometimes with friends, coast to coast, year to year only two things have remained the same: Schmoo and this pie. Enjoy!
Carolyn’s Maple Pumpkin Pie (originally swiped from Martha Stewart about 10 years ago but it’s been adapted and molded over the years and now it’s mine.)
13/4 cups pumpkin pureed. (one small pumpkin roasted for about 45 minutes at 325 cut in half with olive oil rubbed on cut halves will yield 1 3/4 cups puree).
1/2 cup good quality maple syrup
1/4 cup maple sugar (available at whole foods and the like)
1/4 cup sugar (either white granulated or sugar in the raw)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup low fat milk
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Piecrust for two pies. Use the second piecrust to make fall leaf cut outs to decorate the top of the pie.
In my years of baking and sharing recipes with friends and family, I’ve learned that piecrust is extremely personal and apparently private. I get that now, but once upon a time I did not. One of the first years I had spent thanksgiving at Bryan and Sinclair’s, I dared to ask Bryan for his recipe for his delicious pie crust and he looked at me with an expression that I can only describe as the one that Joan Crawford wore before she hauled off and knocked Christina flat on her ass in Mommy Dearest and he pretty much said get your own damn pie crust recipe. So…get your own piecrust recipe bitches!
- prepare pie crust at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes. 2. Heat pumpkin in a heavy pan stirring often. 3. Add milk and cream, stir to smooth but do not let it boil. 4. With your mixer, beat eggs and sugars until smooth then add dry spices. Beat in flour, then add maple syrup. 5. Beat hot pumpkin mixture into egg mixture. It should be hot but not so hot as to cook the eggs. 6. Carefully pour hot filling into hot pie crust. (valuable life lesson: pour most of filling into pie crust then return pie dish to center of over rack and using a ladle pour the rest of the filling in…otherwise you end up spilling filling all over your oven as you slide the pie into center of rack). 7. Bake at 400 degrees. Every oven is different. Your pie is done when the outside edge of pie filling is firm and a little puffy but the center is still jiggly. 8. Remove pie and let cool on a rack (the pie will continue to cook or “set” outside of oven). 9. Once cool completely store in the fridge until about an hour before serving. 10. I use leaf shaped cookie cutters to make decorative crust topping. See photo! 11. I serve this with fresh whipped cream (with a healthy dose of rum or cognac or whisky whisked into the cream).