Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jan's Chess Pie

It always seems like the simplest of dishes, with the least amount of ingredients, when handled deftly can yield the most superlative dish! Layering several sophisticated flavors to yield a complex dish is an art in an of itself, but sometimes a crutch for a lack of faith in the utter beauty of simplicity.

I think of that often when I remember my first taste of Chess Pie. It was simply referred to as a Coconut Egg Pie by my friend Jan. She is a very good cook and made the assembly of this pie look effortless and the resulting product was sublime! The taste was buttery, sweet, rich! There was no custard preparation on top of the stove, ingredients are mixed, poured into pie shells and popped into an oven. It is hard to mess up this pie. I am fascinated with old school southern pies, made with just a handful of ingredients because so often pantries were simpler in their staples. I love the ideas of Chess Pies, Shoefly Pies, Peanut Butter Pies, Lemon Pies...simply the best. After tasting Jan's I decided to make a couple of these pies, using her recipe which had a not so common ingredient: sharp cheddar cheese!

A plain chess pie has a mixture of eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, buttermilk (sometimes milk & vinegar), corn meal, salt & an uncooked pie shell. The variations to those ingredients can include: coconut, lemon, and chocolate. I wasn't sure with the addition of cheddar cheese if the pie needed any thickener, but I added the corn meal nonetheless, it was the only variation to Jan's original recipe.

Ingredients Preheat Oven 425º

Yield: 2 pies
2 uncooked pie shells
10 large eggs
3 cups sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
2 sticks butter, melted
1 t. salt
3 T. cornmeal
2 cups grated coconut
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Combine all the ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shells, place on baking sheet and cook in oven at 425º for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350º for 40 minutes, until golden brown and set in the middle. (no jiggles)

The pie is just that simple and just that delicious, enjoy!