i've never been much of a dessert person. fat, salt-- these are my cravings, but sugar? not so much. that said, there are some occasions that demand dessert, and christmas is definitely one of those.
i went to georgia to visit my family a little early this year, and since i wasn't going to be there over the 25th, we rescheduled "christmas" for a couple of days before. it was great. we had a totally low-key potluck, featuring my dad's smoked turkey, my brother's mac & cheese (mac & cheese is a requirement of all family get-togethers, no matter the occasion), aunt jane's amazing zipper peas and creamed spinach (i'll post about this soon!), and i contributed a pie. a pecan pie. because christmas cries out for pecan pie, and because i love it.
i followed a recipe from the final issue of gourmet from november, 2009. they, of course, made their own crust, but i didn't bother because 1) i don't bake, and 2) it's christmas-- i don't want to spend it in the kitchen, i want to stay in pjs all day long and watch football with my dad! besides, the whole thing is basically corn syrup-- why not pile a little partially hydrogenated lard on top of it, eh?
the pie was amazing. aunt jane declared it the best she's ever had. dad told us a couple of times that he doesn't even like pecan pie, but that he really liked this one. he requested i make another one before i left for seattle. aunt jane wouldn't leave the house without the recipe, and was telling her neighbor about it a couple of days later. i made the pie again as soon as we arrived back home in seattle because, yeah, it's that good.
the magic comes from the light corn syrup and light brown sugar, so it avoids the heavy, molasses-y experience that comes from their dark counterparts. add to that the best pecans you can get your hands on (hooray for georgia pecans!) and a hint of orange zest, and you've got a really spectacular pie with very little effort.
now, i have had two friends make either this pie or add orange zest to another pecan pie recipe and report mixed results. fair enough-- holidays are personal, and we all have expectations about holiday meals. i'm just saying, WE think this pie RULES.
dad and aunt jane's favorite pecan pie
from old fashioned pean pie, gourmet, november 2009
3/4 stick butter (i used salted)
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar (i actually used a little less)
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated orange zest, orange part only
1/4 tsp salt (if you are using UNsalted butter)
3 large eggs
2 cups pecans, half of them chopped
1 deep dish pie shell
preheat oven to 350 degrees.
melt butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. add brown sugar and stir/whisk well until smooth. remove from heat and add corn syrup, vanilla, orange zest, and salt (is using), stirring well to combine. allow to cool briefly (adding the eggs to hot syrup will cause them to cook). lightly beat the eggs and add to the syrup mixture, mixing to thoroughly combine.
put pecans in pie shell and pour syrup/egg mixture over pecans. bake on a baking sheet until filling is set, 45 minutes to an hour.