This week I don’t know where to begin my column. Our family recently returned from a great holiday in Colorado. Upon our re-entry there was no ‘ease’ into our family schedule. The week started with broken glasses and a need for me to be in twenty places at once. It was overwhelming! After being home for a week we’ve all settled into our usual routines. The hardest thing was having to purchase meals on the road coming to and from Colorado. Somehow we managed to drop an awful lot of money across Kansas and Colorado!
Probably the favorite spot for our entire group was a stop in Hays, Kansas, at Al’s Chickenette. This fantastic country style chicken restaurant is an icon in Hays. We first discovered it around 13 years ago when our son, Phillip was about 2. The restaurant has actually been in operation since 1949. It is located on the south end of town away from the busy I-70 traffic. Next time your passing through you just have to stop. Another favorite was Flagler, Colorado at the I-70 Café. You can’t miss it there’s a big pink Cadillac suspended in the air. Another great place to try if you’re traveling the I-70 corridor this year. I’ve decided my RV needs to fall from the sky soon, so I don’t have to spend all this money eating out!
OK, OK, let’s talk pie. I could chatter about great pies all day long. When I’m interviewed one common question is: ‘What’s your favorite thing to make?” That’s a tough question for someone who cooks as much as I do. Usually the answer leans towards pies. Today our society is focused on ‘quick-fix’ and ‘instant gratification’, which tells me we’re not going to find a great deal of pie makers in the future. When I first started demoing pies I actually had a hard time slicing them to serve. It felt like a piece of artwork was being destroyed.
My order for learning to make pies is to use a Pillsbury pie crust until you learn how to handle dough. Master the fillings right off the bat. Then I suggest moving on to the crust. Learn a basic recipe and stick with it until you have a good outcome. Remember to make extras and freeze them for quick desserts at a later time. After you make a delightful crust and filling, master meringues one of my favorites.
Lemon Chess Pie has deep roots in the South. Stories go something like this:
Mz. Mammy brought the dessert out serve to the household. The head of the plantation said: ‘Mz. Mammy, this pie is just wonderful, what do you call it?’
Mz. Mammy replied: ‘Oh Master its jus’ pie.’ Get it? Chess Pie? Chess pies were very economical to make because most of the ingredients were always on hand. To keep a chess pie authentic it does need to contain some cornmeal in the body of the pie. Many people compare the ingredients to a buttermilk pie or a vinegar pie, which are somewhat similar.
Lemon Chess Pie still remains one of my favorite pies. When I first came to the Branson area I would swap my lemon chess pies with Dino in exchange for his 24 Karot Cake! My husband, Ervin, got to be the messenger on a great many of those events.
Baking a pie for someone is truly an action of love. Something meant to be shared with family & friends. One of the good things about serving this pie is you can often cut the pie into 10 pieces instead of 8 because it is such a rich pie.
Gather your ingredients, pre-heat the oven, and let’s get to baking! Embrace the week and rejoice as we watch our plants and trees burst forth with new buds and foliage. Simply yours, The Covered Dish. www.thecovereddish.com
Lemon Chess Pie
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoons flour
4 large eggs, unbeaten
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons zested lemon peel
1 (9-inch standard) pie crust, unbaked
This pie is super easy to prepare using a bowl, whisk and spoon. Bring the sugar, cornmeal and flour together in a bowl. Making a well in the center add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Now add the melted butter, milk, lemon juice and zest, stirring well to blend. Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie crust. Bake in a 350 degree oven for around 45 minutes. Test like a quiche, when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean it is done. Serve with a dollop of whipping crème and a twist of lemon. Consider protecting the crust edges with foil during a portion of the baking time.