Wednesday, July 8, 2009


The great director Francois Truffaut said "It's a beautiful day! Let's go to the movies!" I say, "It's a beautiful day! Let's eat pie down by the lake!" On July 5th, 2009, a collection of 22 food loving folk gathered on the grassy shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago, braving amazingly difficult parking conditions, vague directions (sorry, Mike!) and 4th of July hangovers to enjoy an unbelievably beautiful evening, all in the name of, you guessed it, pie. Now, when the call went out to come together for the pie off, one of the most surprising responses was "Can I make a savory pie?" I'm not sure I've ever been in a pie situation where more people were interested, immediately, in making it savory-style, and I'm not sure if it's due to the recent proliferation of the clever pork pie hat everywhere I look, but I can say that I have absolutely no problem with the savory pie. In fact, I made one myself. But more on that later.

The real story here is the amazing variety that was provided, functioning as a complete meal in that there was an entree and a dessert available, and even individually packaged Frito pies serving, if one stretched the imagination, as a sort of amuse-bouche. A woman made crust for the first time, using her grandmother's recipe which included plenty of lard; someone took time out of a heavy baking schedule (a tropical iron cupcake challenge, I'm told) to bake a gorgeous pie; tarts were given a go; someone even braised pork butt in order to fill a pie. All in all, it was an absolute success, complete with live bongos and maracas one spot over, a delightfully boisterous and soft dog, perfect weather, and despite the obligatory harrasment from the cops, we were pretty much left alone the rest of the evening. We spread out a couple of blankets and pie'd it up, taking ideas in pie to strange new heights.

And so, without further ado, meet the pies (the pie pictured at top is a Peach and Caramelized Honey Pie). You can click on the pictures for ginormous versions of them:

The aforementioned Frito Pies

Vanilla Custard and Cookie Crust Pie

Apple Tart

Turtle Pie

Polenta, Sausage and Fennel Pie

Hot Mayo and Tomato Pie

Pecan Pie

Also brought, but sadly, not pictured as my mitts were too busy shoveling pie into my, um, piehole, included a Banoffee Pie (basically a banana cream pie with a lovely toffee), a delicious pork pie made with braised pork butt and a biscuit crust, a bourbon-cherry pie (and I tell you what, bourbon comes first in the name for a reason), a devilishly rich and decadent cheese pie (think cheesecake, then make it a pie), some market fresh blueberries not yet in pie form and one beloved pie-napple that became a mascot of sorts.
So, I'm thinking we keep the good grub rolling, and look ahead to a barbecue/grilling potluck of sorts in August. It'll be a good chance for all the bbq'ers who are certain there is only one way to do it to educate the rest of us on what we've been missing, and for those less, shall we say, passionate about the specifics to enjoy a good schooling on what makes different barbecue what. What the differences are amongst regions, and what makes a really good side dish. Of course, since we here at Food on the Dole are interested in removing the competition from food and replacing it with a more community-centric approach, it should be made clear that despite the name, The Smoked Meat and Sides Challenge '09 will not be judged, just like the Pie-Off was not judged. There are no losers, and there are many winners. You know, kind of like on field day in grade school, where everyone gets a ribbon. But you know, when it comes to pie and barbecue, is there ever anything other than blue ribbons?


  1. Darn it. Do you have to keep talking about these wonderful pies...and NOT give any recipes? I'm not gaining any Dignity Points by drooling all over my laptop. (And it's not doing the keyboard any good, either.)

    Please consider throwing your readers a bone, so to speak, and giving at least one recipe?? Hmmm???

  2. Hi Cindy,

    Thanks for the comment. Let's open up this comments section as a forum for readers to share their favorite pie recipes, or memories of favorite pies. To start things off, I usually use the following for a pie crust:

    7 oz AP Flour
    1 tsp Sugar
    ½ tsp Salt
    2 oz Butter (cold, cubed)
    2 oz Lard or Shortening (cold)
    3 T Cold Water

    Combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter and lard until dough resembles tiny pebbles. Add as little water as necessary to pull the dough together and pat into a round, flat disc. Wrap in parchment paper and put in cooler for 30 minutes.

    From there, roll it out and fill with your favorite filling. Want a top crust as well? Just double the recipe. Depending on what you fill it with, bake it at around 350 for awhile, checking it after about 30 minutes, until the filling is done and the crust is golden brown. For fruit fillings, toss roughly 5 cups of fruit (for a 9" pie pan) with some sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon or two of corn starch or tapioca starch.

    The filling part is up to you, and making any adjustments to the crust is as well (going 100% lard, going vegetarian and replacing lard with shortening or all butter, adding something like cornmeal to the mix, etc.).

    Alas, as you know, I believe that the best cooking comes from the heart:

    But, especially in baking, sometimes we all need a sort of starting point to begin our improvisations. Hopefully the above recipe can serve as that point. The pie I made would be tough to remake exactly: I grilled homemade sausages (that I obtained by luckily walking into a friend's restaurant just as she finished linking them--how often does that happen?) and red peppers, caramelized onions and fennel, rendered some bacon for a potato salad for the 4th of July and used the fat left behind in a creamy polenta, threw in some feta cheese and parmigianno, because I had both in the fridge. I didn't buy a single thing for the pie. Next time, the same pie will be completely different, if you know what I mean. And who knows if, given the same ingredients, it would taste the same if I made it again? But that's one of the many beauties of food: it reflects availability, the mindset of the cook, the things that are happening on or around the day of cooking, etc.

    I think you probably get it. But I also understand that sometimes, recipes are great to use as references for us to branch off on. Thus, if anyone else has some great pie recipes, please post them here!

    Thanks for reading, Cindy!