Sunday, November 30, 2008

Smith Family Rapberry Pie

Wow, I’m still full. How bout you? Was your Thanksgiving good? I wish you could share your Thanksgiving Day get together stories with me. That aunt who drank too much or that uncle who fell asleep and snored loudly are just the best. Those stories never get old.

What did I do? Since you asked, I went to Phoenix. My brother, David, lives there. We haven’t seen each other in years so was great catching up. My mom and step dad were there too. Connie is David’s girlfriend and Thanksgiving dinner was at her family’s home. Although we were the outsiders, they were amazingly gracious and it was a terrific meal.

When 15 people finished eating all of this food, it still looked untouched. Wow, there was a lot.

As a foodie, I found it difficult to grasp the idea that I had no role in dinner. Sure I’ve been the guest before but I never quite acclimatize to it. Fortunately for me, Connie let me help put the Antipasto Salad together. Mom and I headed to the store to add a few items to what would have already been a delicious salad. Connie stacked it high with fresh, traditional deli meats so we just touched it with some wonderful caper berries, olives and roasted peppers. It was a great starter.

Connie's Antipasto Salad that she let Mom and I play with

And since I just can’t show up at someone’s house empty handed, I decided on a pie. Now of course this pie has a story. I first tasted the Smith Family Raspberry pie years ago at a Thanksgiving in northwest Ohio. My girlfriend’s family (The Smith family) considers Thanksgiving to be the big family get together; better than Christmas. And like most families, the recipes along with their presentations are traditional. Each year the same platter has the same white-meat-only turkey on it and the ham is perfectly arranged on another platter right next to it. The myriad of vegetables and side dishes are placed along side ready to go. If you took a picture of the buffet line 10 years ago or a few days ago, you would have a difficult time distinguishing the difference. On the back counter, that raspberry pie sits waiting for everyone to have their fill of the first rounds. Then it makes its way to the front counter, along with other wonderful desert offerings and another wave of feeding begins.

I like this pie for a couple of reasons. Mostly, because it’s sinfully delicious but also because it’s super easy. A web search of raspberry pie recipes produces a plethora of delicious looking but more complex offerings. This one though is set in a sweet raspberry cornstarch thickened base then chilled. No eggs and no baking. The raspberry taste is more pure and unencumbered. More importantly, just like at the Smith family Thanksgivings, it was a hit here too.

Since I like raising the bar, I decided to make a vanilla whipped cream. I knew the pie itself couldn’t be improved upon (although I do have a couple of ideas for future experimentation) so a topping seemed quite logical. Well folks, all I can say is… Oh… My… God!!! I will be making this again and soon. The pie is light and sweet and overwhelmingly raspberryish. It is a blend of summer berry picking and fall kitchen mastery. The heavy cream beat to a light, airy pillow with fresh vanilla seed is a special touch. Mounding the clouds of whipped cream atop the bright red pie, I then dot the top with fresh raspberries like little red gumdrops. This pie is straight off the Candy Land playing board that my daughter so loves.

My pie, a homemade Chocolate Mocha Torte from Adrian and my vanilla whipped cream

You have not before and you may not again see me write about desert. It’s just not my thing. This was different though. Man do I love this pie. I know we are all considering some 12 step program after the gluttonous holiday of last week, but you can prepare this for your family for Christmas and not have completely fallen off the wagon. Skip the whipped cream and the fat content is zero.

Smith Family Raspberry Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

For the pie

Pie Shell (I used a store bought version because I am NOT a baker. Do what you like here)
1 cup sugar
1½ cup water
¼ cup cornstarch
Dash salt
3 oz raspberry Jell-O
1½ qt berries. Add a few tbsp sugar to sweeten then sit aside 30 minutes. Drain juice.

Cook 1st 4 ingredients over medium heat stirring constantly. Once thicker and clear remove from heat and stir in Jell-O. Dissolve. Add raspberries and stir. Fill pie shell and chill. Should be set in about 2 hours.

For the topping

6 oz heavy whipping cream
1 whole vanilla bean (or 1 tsp good quality vanilla extract)
¼ cup sugar (adjust to desired sweetness)
10-12 fresh raspberries

If using a whole bean (recommended), split in two gently along the length of the bean. With your knife, scrape the black seeds out of the bean and add to a mixing bowl. Otherwise, just add the extract. Add the cream and sugar as well. Beat with an electric mixer until cream is firm (about 5 minutes). Heap atop pie so that it is about 1 inch thick. Reserve extra cream for guests. Arrange fresh berries atop. Slice and serve

Serves 8-10

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