Monday, May 9, 2011

Delicious Nostalgia

Ok, recipes are complicated.  They are fraught with memory and associations.  When I was really small--3 or so--I remember being taken to have dinner with my dad on summer evenings.  He was working at the Shriners Children's Hospital across town.  I guess he had to stay overnight for those shifts.

There was a skeleton in a closet that we would visit, "Hello Mr. Bones!" I remember that I was already bathed and wearing my nightie, which seemed very elegant.  Going out at night was a rarity.  My mom would pack a picnic  dinner.  We would eat on the grounds--lots of rolling lawns and big rhododendrons.  And this huge old white hospital building as a backdrop.

I remember spinning because my nightgown twirled in a very satisfactory way.  Boys miss out on this stuff, poor things.  Anyway, the rhodys in my garden are blooming, so I was inspired to replicate the picnic dinner tonight:


But wait:  there's more discourse before I can disclose the formula.  No one else I knew my entire childhood ate this.  I thought our family was just weird to have this peculiar favorite until I was in England for a term during college:  It turns out that my Crazy New Zealander Nana was the source for this very typical British dish.  She is also the reason we don't bother whipping up the cream, we just pour it on whatever sweet thing is around.  MMMMMM.  One of my roommates in England would nip down to the corner shop and buy a  "Mr Kipling's Fudge Cake"  in a box--equivalent to little Debbies--she'd drown it in cream and eat it up.  Yum Yum.

OK  here it is:

One recipe pie crust:  Don't freak.  It's easy.  In England, they call this "Short Crust":
Grate 1 C cold butter into 2 cups flour,  every 1/4  c or so of the butter, pause in your grating and mix it around.  there, now you have the butter and the flour, that took about 3 minutes.

Bring the bowl to the sink.     Spray a teeny bit--just a dash!-- of cold water over the butter and flour and mix thoroughly with your hands.  add a little more water.  Mix.  repeat until it makes a ball when you squeeze it.  They dryer your dough, the better the texture will be when it's cooked.  The more frequently you make pie crust, the better you'll be at judging when it's just right, so get started!  This will take another 5 minutes.

Put a ball made of half the dough on the  (Clean) counter.  Using your hands, mash a dough ball until it's a flat circle.  Roll with a rolling pin or a wine bottle if you don't have a rolling pin.  Turn the dough frequently to keep it from sticking and to coax it into a round-ish shape.add more flour to the surface if it's sticking.  When it's about the thickness of cardboard, fold it in half, then in fourths, and unfold over a pie pan.  Repeat to make the top crust.   You could skip the top crust, but the crust is the best part.

You can use this crust recipe for any pie.  It's from my mother's 1961 edition of the Joy of Cooking.  Except the grating part.  Somebody, my friend Jeanine's 90s era boyfriend?-- gave me that tip--it really speeds it up.  I never use anything else.  I make really good pie, although now I am intimidated becasuse my friend Sam makes this strawberry rhubarb pie that 3 people shelled out $50 for at our auction.  Is my pie THAT good?  Maybe.


break 8 eggs very gently into the bottom crust.  Try not to let the yolks break.  Sprnkle with 6 crumbled strips of crispy bacon.  Layer thin slices of white cheddar cheese, and two thinly sliced tomatoes.  If you join Rhe Man Who Lives In My House in insisting on green vegetables (oh please), you can add chopped spinach and parsley.

Place the top crust over, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden.  This pie looks beautiful when you slice it and you can see the  yolks, whites, red tomotoes, etc.  it's good warm, but even better at room temperature.  In short, perfect picnic food.   Since it's one of my dad's favorites, it's likely that my mom is making it, too, as he is having surgery at the end of this week.  Send him good thoughts!  And enjoy!

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