Monday, July 5, 2010

Pecan pie for the 4th of July

This year Americans all over the world got to have their 4th of July BBQ since it was on a Sunday and my family and I spent the day on the Lake of Monate, that is less than an hour from Milan and a really picturesque area. The lake is a great place to swim in when the heat in the city is as sweltering as it was here yesterday (over 35°C and extremely humid) and after a nice dip in the cool water three half Italian-half American families went to a friends' home to grill some burgers, meat and shrimp. I was asked to bring a side dish, a cous cous salad I often make in the summer that I will write about very soon. But I felt I also wanted to make something really American. It had to be quick and easy given I had two kids running/crawling around the apartment calling for attention and it was so hot I wanted to get out of the kitchen asap. I also had a bag of pecans sitting in the cupboard I had been avoiding for quite some time that I knew I had to use up.

You are probably wondering why anybody in their right mind would be avoiding a bag of pecans. I mean, they are so easy to throw into a million desserts. I actually usually treasure them because they are hard to find around here. Still, I couldn't get myself around to using them for the longest time. Because the pecans in the abovementioned bag were still in their shells.

Big deal, right? No. Have you ever shelled enough pecans to make a pecan pie? If you have, you understand my fear. If you haven't, just let me tell you there are actually websites that teach you the best way to pull that delicious buttery nut out of its shell. It is a pain. And it is even harder to get them out of their shells looking halfway decent. But you know how much I hate waste and I just didn't have an excuse this time. It was Saturday (meaning F, my beloved husband, could keep the kids busy), it was the day before THE American holiday and I just happened to have every single ingredient I needed at an arm's reach. And did I mention that pecan pie is one of my F's favorite desserts? So there I sat at the kitchen table for almost two hours shelling those darn little things and breaking a few nails in the process. But I did it and the rest was easy peasy.

Before I give you the recipe, let me just add a couple of things:
1) Corn syrup is just one of those things you cannot find here. I have only found it in one store in Rome, which is about 600km from Milan. So I always brought my own stash over from the States or asked visiting friends and family to bring some, which they were always nice enough to schlepp over to the Old Country. These days however I have qualms about using corn syrup, especially after reading The Omnivore's dilemma. I still have a couple of bottles to use up but I have started reading about possible substitutes for corn syrup in pecan pie and promise to try them out as soon as I finish my stock.
2) My blog is about quick, simple recipes so I will not pretend I didn't use a pie crust I had in my freezer for just such emergencies. You are of course more than welcome to make your own and I do admire those of you who can do it in the same time it takes me to pull mine out of its wrapping and roll it onto a pie dish. Really.

Ingredients1 pie crust (homemade or store bought)
3 eggs
1 cup corn syrup (I usually use light corn syrup but happened to have a bottle of dark corn syrup and it worked fine)
1 cup sugar (white or brown. I prefer brown)
1 tbs flour
1/3 cup melted butter (as you can see below, I didn't even melt the butter this time. It turned out pretty much the same)
1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Roll the pie crust onto a pie dish. Preheat your oven at 375°F or 180°C.
Beat the 3 eggs in a bowl and then mix in the corn syrup, the sugar, the melted butter and the tablespoon of flour. Once you have stirred this well, add in the pecans and then pour the whole content of the bowl into the pie dish. Cover the pie crust or even the whole pie with aluminum foil for about 25 minutes and then bake for another 20-25 minutes uncovered, until the pie crust looks nice and golden. Let cool.
Preferably serve with vanilla ice cream

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