Before my kids were born, neither my in-laws nor my mother was particularly insistent that we join them for Thanksgiving. For them, Christmas Eve with my mom and Christmas Day with my in-laws was sufficient. After my kids were born, however…well that was entirely different. With the pressure on, we had to choose whom we’d visit and it was inevitable that someone would feel slighted. The only obvious solution was to take it over myself and host both sides of the family. Now the onus was on them to see their grandchildren. Sorry, no grumbling.
Along with a strong background in catering, I had quite a few years of “hosting” Thanksgiving in the Food & Wine test kitchen and so it seemed like a breeze to cook for 15 or so people. The only problem was that all my experience was in a controlled environment—a professional kitchen, during the workday. Two little kids, a full time job and no time to prep made it a bit more challenging on my own. But I was, after all, my mother’s daughter and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like chaos deter me. When guests, politely and genuinely asked if they could bring something my answer was always, “Oh, I don’t know, how about a bottle of Pinot Noir.” But after the 2nd or 3rd year, my exhaustion level rising in direct proportion to my ego relaxing, the answer became “Oh, lovely! How about a green vegetable? Or a potato gratin? Or the first course?”
But NEVER dessert. That is where I drew the line…eventually. Yes, my mom was an impressive cook and cookie baker, but her pie making skills were less than stellar. Her pies looked beautiful but they were almost always undercooked. The bottom crust was pale and soggy and the fruit inside was crunchy. All my suggestions to bake it longer were ignored. I know my standards are ridiculously high, but that’s because I am the reigning champ of pies or so I’ve been told.
Handing out an assignment to my brother Frank, one year, he asked what our mother was bringing and I made the mistake of saying “I don’t care as long as it’s not a pie.” Naturally, he relayed that to my mom in their conversation. It was years before I lived that one down and yet, her pies remained under-baked. I miss her so much, I’d gladly endure one today and I wouldn’t even say a word.
Check out this fun video shot by Lucy Schaeffer
DEEP DISH APPLE PIE
ACTIVE: 30 MIN TOTAL: 2 1/2 HRS PLUS COOLING
6 large apples (3 pounds) such as 2 Granny Smith, 2 golden delicious, and 2 Pink Lady, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into cubes
FLAKY ALL-BUTTER CRUST, recipe follows
- Preheat the oven to 375°. In a bowl, combine the apples and lemon juice. Add the sugar, flour, ginger and cinnamon and stir to combine.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll one disc of the dough to a 13-inch round and ease it into a 10-inch deep dish glass pie plate. Roll the 2nd disc to a 12-inch round, being sure to keep each cold. Add the filling to the pie plate and dot with the butter. Brush the rim with water and center the top crust over the apples. Press the edges together and trim the overhanging dough to a scant 1-inch. Fold under and crimp decoratively. Cut a few vents in the top crust.
- Bake the pie in the center of the oven, placing a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any spills, until the top and bottom is golden and the filling is bubbling through the vents, about 70 minutes. Cover the edges of the crust if they brown too quickly. Cool on a wire rack at least 4 hours before serving.
FLAKY ALL-BUTTER CRUST
MAKES A 9 TO 10-INCH DOUBLE CRUST
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, chilled
1/2 cup ice water
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add the cubed butter and pulse in 1 second bursts 5 times. The butter should be the size of small peas. Lift the lid, pour in the water and pulse 5 or 6 times, just until the dough is moistened, but doesn’t form a ball. Turn the crumbs onto a work surface, and gather into a ball. Divide the dough into 2 parts. Flatten each into a disc, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.