Sunday, May 27, 2018

Pie Ice Cream: Ben & Jerry's Bourbon Pecan Pie

Earlier in the year I visited Ben & Jerry's only Houston location near Rice Village for Free Scoop Day. After scrutinizing all the available flavors online I determined that there is a Bourbon Pecan Pie flavor composed of bourbon ice cream with pecans, shortbread cookie pieces and a whiskey caramel swirl. This flavor is Tex-clusively sold in Texas according to the company website. I was told that it might be sold at either Target or Walmart. I didn't see it at Target so I will continue searching and update when I find the flavor and can give it a review.

Tomball's The Jay Cafe

The Jay Cafe in Tomball claims to have a great pie selection so Jay and I had to road trip out to his namesake to check out the pie. After confirming with the waitress that the pies were baked by the owner's mother we selected a coconut meringue and an apple pie.

Coconut meringue and apple pie
The coconut meringue pie was pretty delicious, so it's a keeper. I thought the apple pie filling was outstanding but the topping was too sweet for me. Crust was surprisingly not amazing since these are hand formed pies so they shouldn't taste like preformed frozen pie crust.

Some other pie choices

Cleiburne is back!

I've been waiting for more than a year for Cleiburne Cafe to reopen after their fire. Their pie selection was the thing that set me on my quest to try all of the 25 restaurants in Houston in continuous operation for >70 years. 

Look at all the choices!
Their selection of old-fashioned chess pies - like chess pie, custard pie, and coconut ice box - that are great for the winter sets them apart as a great Houston pie bakery. The custard pie is an egg custard with a dusting of nutmeg. Coconut ice box is a zesty lemon tart based topped with toasted coconut shreds.

custard pie

Coconut icebox
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chocolate meringue and coconut chess

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pecan and coconut meringue

coconut chess

Bourbon pecan tart
State of Grace is a classy place and really knows how to put on the dining dance with shows of generosity and continuous service. I was impressed that the server correctly guessed my trivia question about their sticky toffee pudding - "Sticky toffee pudding is 90% what?" Answer: Medjool dates.

However the bourbon pecan tart leaves something to be desired. I liked the filling but the crust was pretty awful. The crust isn't made with some amazing house-rendered lard or an all-butter shortbread crust. It tasted somewhat raw and floury. It's even more surprising given the fact that the house made crackers the oysters are served with and the hushpuppies are delicious. I believe their pastry chef should consider making a pecan bar with a modified version of their crackers as a base instead.

Update: The pie was no longer on the menu the last time I visited.

Christmas Gift List: Pie Towel from Sur La Table

The latest towel creation from Sur La Table features a selection of fall pies and would make a great holiday gift for a pie lover.

Pie in Sky Company Pork Pies at British Isles

Pork pie served here with and celebration grapes
British Isles in the Village has been adding to their freezer items, including their meat pies. Pie in the Sky Company is now making pork pies and steak pies for their store. The pork pies are supposed to be served room temperature, but I think they are best warmed slightly but not hot enough to cause the meat jelly to ooze out of the pie. The beef pies (not pictured) are packed with chunks of beef that are rendered to a nicely meaty but not a gristly consistency.

Their freezer section stocks a lot of hard-to-find British food items, including back bacon, Irish bangers, Cornish pasties, chicken curry pasties, sausage rolls, and Scotch eggs. Plus all the English condiments like pub onions, Coleman's mustard, and sauce are stocked just above the freezer.

These meat pies are perfect for your early morning royal wedding or for Queen's Birthday in June.

Nachitoches Meat Pies

 Nachitoches LA (pronounced Nack-a-tish by locals to distinguish it from its sister city from the same era Nacogdoches TX) is one of those destination Christmas towns that you have to visit at least once. The town in northern Lousiana is along the Mississippi river which allows it to have access to Gulf oysters but otherwise is surrounded by coniferous hills like being in the Appalachian mountains. The town decorates the banks of the river with lights for Christmas and usually has to make artificial snow to create the white Christmas feel. My wife and I visited in December 2010.

Aside from it's Christmas celebrations the town is known for its recreated French colonial fort from the town's founding and it's signature meat pies. The most famous restaurant in Nachitoches for meat pies is Lasyone's. My buddy Jay Francis and I used their recipe. We used a shortcut by enclosing the meat filling inside flour tortillas that we closed by moistening the edges with water and then pressed closed with a fork rather than making the traditional dough. Make sure you have a lot of hot sauce to eat them with. We liked to dash each bite with different hot sauces. Stellar Gourmet in Austin has some great tasting hot sauces with distinctive flavors and not as much heat. Their 

Lasyone's sign is a giant meat pie

Nachitoches Meat Pies
From Real Cajun by Donald Link

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb ground beef
1 Tbsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp ground white pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1 medium jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
4 bay leaves
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp water
1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
5 dashes Louisiana hot sauce
Meat Pie Dough, chilled
1 egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil for frying

Heat the vegetable oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat, salt, cayenne, paprika, chili powder, white pepper, cumin, and black pepper and cook, using a metal spatula to break up the meat, for 5-8 minutes, or until the meat is lightly browned.

Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, tomatoes, dried thyme, bay leaves, and Worcestershire sauce and cook, stirring, for an additional 5-10 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated and the vegetables have softened.

Dust the flour over the meat and add the water, stirring to combine (this should tighten up the mixture enough so it won’t leak moisture when it’s encased in the dough). Stir in the scallions and hot sauce and transfer the mixture to a baking pan to cool for 20 minutes at room temperature and at least 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to prepare the pies, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and a dusting of flour. Divide the dough into four even sections to make it easier to work with. Return three of the sections to the refrigerator. Dust the counter with a sprinkling of flour and roll out the first section until it’s just under ¼ inch thick. Using a 4-inch biscuit cutter (or a similar size bowl or jar lid), cut the dough into rounds. Save the scraps; they can be rerolled if needed.

Lightly brush the outer edges of each circle with beaten egg. Place 2 ½ Tbsp of filling in the center of each round. Fold the circle over the filling to make a half circle. Using the back side of fork tines, press around the edges to seal the pie. Transfer the pies to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough sections.

When you fill a baking sheet, place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so the dough stays firm when you fry it. You can also freeze the uncooked pies. Just freeze them on the sheet pan first, and then when fully frozen, transfer them to a plastic freezer bag.

To fry the pies, heat 2 ½ inches of oil in a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven to 350F. Fry the chilled pies in batches of 4 or 5 at a time, cooking for about 8 minutes, until golden. Frozen pies will need 12-14 minutes. Transfer the cooked pies to a sheet pan lined with paper towels or newspaper, and keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Makes 16 pies.