Friday, April 05, 2013
E is for EGG CUSTARD PIE
Yes . . . egg custard pie. There’s a story here, and eventually, I’ll get to it.
Frank, my husband (my hero) and I met in February 1961, had our first date on March 10, and married on December 17 of that same year. At that time, he had two parents, three brothers, and one sister. His older brother and his sister came down for our wedding in Pensacola, Florida.
In August 1962, we struck out for the Great Northwest—I had never been farther west than Crain, Texas, back in the ‘40s—so that I could see our country and meet my in-laws. What an adventure for a Southern girl who really had been practically nowhere in her twenty-two years!
I loved traveling across this beautiful land of ours, but as we drew closer and closer to Fall City, Washington, I became more and more nervous. What would my new parents and Frank’s siblings and families think of his new wife (not that he had an old one, you understand)? Would they think he’d made a big mistake? After all, he hadn’t known her for even a year when he had married her. Poor Sandy! She has no imagination for writing stories, but her imagination was hugely active that afternoon as they turned off the highway and neared her husband’s old home.
All of my worries disappeared as I was welcomed into the loving family. I immediately felt right at home and at one with new parents and siblings. Back in Pensacola, I had two wonderful parents, but I had no brothers or sisters either there or anywhere else. I was in Heaven with this readymade family way up in the foreign land of Washington State.
So . . . you’re wondering where the egg custard pie comes in. Have patience, dear reader.
Every day, as I hung around the kitchen keeping my mother-in-law company and hoping to learn culinary skills from this lady, I watched Grandma (she already had a gaggle of grandchildren, so we all called her Grandma) make delicious meals. She could take a little bit of this and a little bit of that from her amazing pantry and turn those little bits into meals that could feed the proverbial army!
One afternoon, she announced that she was making custard pie, Frank’s favorite, for dinner. Frank’s favorite? I didn’t know that! The ensuing conversation went something like this:
“I didn’t know custard pie was his favorite. Can you teach me how to make it?”
“Oh, I don’t think you could learn. It’s really tricky. If you have even one little hole or tear in the crust, you’ll have a burned mess in the pie pan, and the pie will be awful!”
Well, I’m not really a competitive person, but if you don’t want me to do something, don’t tell me that I can’t. Especially, don’t imply that I’m not smart enough.
Almost as soon as we arrived back home in Clinton, Mississippi, where we were students at Mississippi College, I pulled out my trusty Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cook Book. There, on page 149, was a recipe for Easy Custard Pie—just what I needed for my experiment to prove Grandma wrong!
The very first time I tried baking Frank’s favorite pie, complete with homemade crust with no holes, I was successful. Was I a proud young wife? You betcha! I must admit, though that if Grandma hadn’t “challenged” me, not even aware that she was “throwing down the gauntlet,” and if she hadn’t mentioned what holes in the crust would do, I might never have even tried making custard pie, and I’m almost sure that I would have had some small holes or tears in the crust. Hey . . . wait a minute! Maybe she knew that her “challenge” would inspire me rather than deter me. My mother-in-law was a really smart lady, so I wouldn’t doubt for a minute that she felt pretty sure that her son would have his favorite pie way down there in the Southland. Thank you, Grandma!
Oh, but I must add something else in order to keep myself honest. Fast forward about fourteen years . . .
It’s Christmas morning, and I want to do something really nice for my neighbors who help me almost every day by always being aware of our children as they play with theirs in the afternoon before I get home from teaching. Right after we open our gifts, I head for the kitchen to make custard pies for my friends. I keep two at home to serve family and guests and deliver three more around the neighborhood.
That afternoon, the Fitzgeralds, our across-the-street neighbors, come over for coffee and dessert. As Peggy, Tom, and Frank sit at the table and chat, I cut big pieces of my always-good custard pie and pile each piece high with Cool Whip. Yum! Yum! The plates are in front of all of us, and I take the first bite.
BLEAAAHHHH! I gag and almost spit it out right there in front of our company. Instead, I hold the tasteless pie in my mouth, grab all four plates, and run to the kitchen as two amazed visitors and one stumped husband watch. YUK! I forgot the sugar! We all have a good laugh, and I cut pieces from the second pie. Just like the king’s taster, I take the first bite. Ah! Creamy and delicious as almost always.
I never heard anything but thanks from the recipients of my gifts—including Peggy and Tom. I’ve always wondered, though, if I had made my faux pas more than once that Christmas morning.
And so, Grandma, maybe you were right about at least one pie but not because of a leaky crust!
Just in case you need a good custard pie recipe, here’s the one that I’ve been making for more than fifty years. I’ve never failed with it since the sugarless one, and even that one LOOKED good.
EASY CUSTARD PIE
4 eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups scalded milk – heat till it has bubbles around the side.
1 9-inch pie crust
Heat oven to 450º. Cover edge of pastry with 1 ½’-wide strip of aluminum foil. (I don’t usually bother with this, but it’s a good idea to do it.) Thoroughly mix eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Slowly stir in hot milk; pour immediately into unbaked pie shell. (To avoid spills, pull out oven rack, put pie pan on it, and then pour. If you get any filling on the edge of the crust, it WILL burn.) Sprinkle top with nutmeg. Be generous. Bake about 20 minutes, or until silver knife inserted 1” from side of filling comes out clean. The center may still look a bit soft, but will set later. Serve slightly warm or chilled. Top with Cool Whip.
It's pretty much obvious that I've used page 149 lots of times in more than fifty years!