November 21, 2011

Honorable Mention: Pumpkin Praline Pie

Thanksgiving is all about traditions, and I can't imagine turkey day without pumpkin praline pie. I always refer to my mom as my entertaining mentor, but it was really my great grandmother Francis who set the tone for gardening, canning, cooking & baking in our family. She wallpapered the walls of her kitchen with old covers of Gourmet magazine and coined the phrase, "Always make enough for the uninvited guest." I guess it's in the genes. This pumpkin praline pie is her creation and it won honorable mention at the first annual Pillsbury Bake-Off at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Grand Ballroom, in 1933. A pretty big deal, and our family's culinary claim to fame!! This pie kills two birds with one stone. You have a creamy spiced pumpkin pie, with a thin layer of chewy pecan crunch between the custard and the crust. My great grandma lived on her own until she was 97 and continued to 'learn something new every day,' --a real inspiration. I miss her and each year this pie is a reminder of her graceful, stubborn spirit.
Pumpkin Praline Pie: The Recipe

One prepared pie crust in a 10'' pie pan. Prepare your own or frozen works like a charm, since it's the filling that is incredible. If using frozen, thaw first for a half hour, and then proceed.

Preheat oven @ 450 degrees.


3 T. butter, soft
1/3 C. pecans, finely chopped
1/3 C. brown sugar, packed

Combine and press gently into the bottom of the pie shell. Prick sides of crust with a fork. Bake Shell @ 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool at least 2 minutes.

Once you remove prepared shell from oven, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, prepare the Pumpkin-Custard Filling:

3 slightly beaten eggs
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
2 T. flour
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger, ground
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 t. mace (originally recipe calls for mace, but I skip it)

Combine all of the above, and then add:

1 1/2 C. pureed pumpkin, and then:
1 1/2 C. hot half and half cream

Pour into prepared pie shell, bake @ 350 degrees, for 50-60 minutes, until set. Bake pie on a cookie sheet to avoid oven spills. Cool and serve with whipped cream.


*Note the filling Pumpkin-Custard filling is enough to fill two pies. I always make two crusts (or use two frozen, as they always come in packs of two!) and then double the pecan-praline mixture for the two shells. Make the filling in one bowl and then divide between the two prepared pie shells.

November 6, 2011

Remember, Remember...the 5th of Novemeber

Discovery a new holiday feels like winning the lottery, so I was quite thrilled when my new friends--British imports Mike & Bran--introduced me to Guy Fawkes Day, aka Bonfire Night. The day celebrates a failed attempt of the Gunpowder Plot to overthrow the House of Lords, usually with fireworks & bonfires. For their first year in the US, I helped M & B with the food for their 5th of November festivities. We started with British inspired finger foods, with a nod to the jacket potatoes usually associated with Bonfire night: mini fingerlings topped with sour cream, cheddar & chives. Warming soups & stews are typically served at bonfires, so we went with curry (one of Mike's favorites, as well as a sort of Passage to India reference to English food) and steaming parchment wrapped fish. Parchment wrapped fish is a fantastic way to serve fish to a large group. It's nearly impossible to mess up, packets can be wrapped in advance, they can be cooked all together in the oven and no fussy plating is necessary as the seasonings & garnish are already in the packets. Dessert was a mix of sweets from India Sweets & Spices in Atwater Village (an incredible source for Indian party food in LA) & British candies. Please keep me advised on any little-known holidays from afar coming up; I always want an excuse to make a party!
The Menu


Bonfire Vesper
gin, vodka, lillet blanc, lemon peel

serrano chili pepper infused tequila blanco, basil, mint, lime, gunpowder tea

Milky Chai Tea
cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, black tea, milk, honey



chana crackers

fingerling potato jackets with sharp cheddar and chive sour cream

english cheddar, tomato chutney & mint crostini

smashed english pea crostini with parmesan & basil


coconut, tumeric, ginger & coriander sole

3 bean curry with butternut squash & tomatoes

basmati rice

chutney 3 ways: mint, tamarind & tomato

cucumber raita

carrot, red cabbage & golden raisin slaw with cumin-buttermilk dressing


assorted indian petit-fours

assorted cadbury bars, wine gums & jelly babies

sesame snacks & sugar coated almonds