I remember the first time I saw the cookbook A Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis. It was a softcover copy my sister still owns, with a seasoned Edna Lewis in a field of sunflowers. Last spring our Favorite Chefs group hosted a potluck tribute to Edna Lewis. This book was one of the texts. Edna’s philosophies and recipes definitely brought to light that southern cooking is regional. Whereas Savannah, Charleston, Nashville and other spots give food flavor, Virginia is about the natural flavor of food itself.
I didn’t go cake or pie. I made fried chicken. Edna’s fried chicken does not require a brine – seasoned overnight cold water soak. She did revisit this with Scott Peacock (AL) in The Gift of Southern Cooking and the 2006 film “Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie.” Edna’s version tastes like the fried chicken I had as a child at summer picnics. Both sides of my family are from Virginia. Take-out and fast food chicken introduced me to the brine flavor which I’ve come to enjoy and make myself from time-to-time. I try to avoid take-out unless I’ve got a time and quantity crunch for a picnic contribution.
My sister chose Edna’s caramel pie. The thought of it made my teeth ache. It seemed too crazy ssssweeeeeet. Alas, this was one of the best pies I’ve had all year. And when our host topped it off with fresh brewed coffee…”Honey, hush!” as they say. This pie tops fried chicken. The recipe from The Taste of Country Cooking is found in the chapter, “A Late Spring Lunch.” The photo on the left includes the two caramel pies and our “take away” sweet potato treats (emphasize “treat”) made by our potluck pal, Lisa.
“This is a very haunting dessert, so rich and sweet one could easily overindulge. It’s great after a heavy meal, to be served as tiny tarts or in very slender wedges.”
Pastry dough for 2 8-inch pies/tarts
3 cups soft dark-brown sugar (not brownulated)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sifted flou
2 eggs, separated and beaten
2 tablespoons butter, slightly melted over hot water
4 tablespoons dark Karo syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk, at room temperature
Line pie plates or tart pans with pastry and refrigerate.
In a large mixing bowl mix sugar, salt, and flour. Stir well with a clean wooden spoon and stir well again after each addition. Add the beaten yolks, butter, syrup, vanilla, and milk. When well mixed, beat the egg whites to soft peaks and fold in. Pour the batter into chilled, pastry-lined pans. Set into a preheated 350˚ oven. Bake until set, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven. Serve warm. When cut, the filling should be about the consistency of blackberry jelly, not too firm.
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