Well, folks, as promised, I have an extra-special post for you this week. Since there are a few recipes in the cookbook that require immediate consumption, I decided to invite over 7 of my friends (who all live within walking distance from my apartment…proximity helps) to feast on four pies and copious amounts of wine.
The first course, which I prepared the night before the big event, was Old Joe's Horny Past Pie. I timed the next course, Sit on Your Ass Chili Frito Pie, to be ready about 30 minutes after my guests arrived. As soon as that hit the table, I began whipping up A Little Wild, Wild Berry Pie, which I prepped a bit for earlier in the day and I hoped would be ready about 2 hours into the evening. Finishing off the quartet were the Jumping Without a Net Bottomless Strawberry-Rhubarb Cups for dessert. There's lots to discuss, so let's jump right in (will be describing pies in the order they were baked)!
Old Joe's Horny Past Pie
What's Inside: Red and [hopefully] yellow tomatoes, goat cheese, mayo
1) The recipe called for 2 pounds of large, sun ripened tomatoes, preferably a mix of red and yellow. Before you purchase these, be sure to learn what two pounds of tomatoes looks like.
2) Take this newfound knowledge and don't buy 8 giant red tomatoes before finally finding yellow tomatoes and buying 3 for over $11. But if you do, ask your dinner guests to bring some mozzarella and have yourself a little palate cleanser between courses because if you didn't catch on, 11 tomatoes is about 7 too many.
Jumping Without a Net Bottomless Strawberry-Rhubarb Cups
What's Inside: Strawberries and the ever-elusive rhubarb
1) Try actually making these mini pies when rhubarb is in season (May – July). That way, you don't have to whine to your co-workers about your inability to find said rhubarb until one of them happens upon some at their co-op this late in July (thanks, Michelle!).
2) You don't need ramekins for this recipe as it says. I used adorable mini pie dishes and was able to get one extra serving out of it.
3) If you only have a hand mixer that requires you to hold its button down while it does its thang, maybe consider borrowing a standing mixer from a friend. Luckily Patrick was keeping me company when I was making this pie at midnight and we were able to tag team the meringue like Olympians. I don't know if my mixer wasn't strong enough or my newly healed thumb couldn't handle the pressure (literally), but I actually considered giving up midway through this nearly hour-long (I could be exaggerating) marathon of torture (definitely exaggerating). It probably didn't help that my mixing bowl had a crack in it.
4) Google image search the difference between soft peaks and stiff peaks. They are different, yet both difficult to achieve.
5) I kept these in the fridge overnight and they do keep. However, the meringue fell a little bit, probably because my stiff peaks weren't stiff enough (see 4).
6) The recipe claims you will have syrup to add to the top of the pies after you bake them. The recipe lies. My syrup basically congealed into Flubber over time, soooo…
7) If you have leftover rhubarb, have a friend make some compote with some possibly expired grapefruit juice he found in your fridge while you are fretting over a different pie. You can drizzle it on top of the pie (need to water it down a bit for that smooth drizzle effect) or save it for whatever else fancy people put preserves on. Peter, you're a compote wizard.
Sit on Your Ass Chili Frito Pie
What's Inside: Fritos (or under, rather), ground chuck or turkey, and a mysterious thing called Mexican oregano (among other spices)
1) You can definitely swap in lean turkey meat if your friend doesn't eat red meat and you'd like to gain a false sense of healthiness.
2) Mexican oregano is NOT oregano. Everyone found this so fascinating that any time I put the oregano away, it would somehow reappear on a countertop. Mexican oregano is haunted.
3) Mini Bags of Fritos are apparently a rare commodity. Go to Rite Aid if you can't find them. Also, serving this pie in the bag does absolutely nothing, but it sure is fun!
A Little Wild, Wild Berry Pie
What's Inside: Beef Chuck roast, blackberries, butternut squash, carrots, parsnip, pumpkin biscuits
1) I was so stoked to use venison for this dish. I called ahead to my local butcher to make sure they had it and then took a nice Sunday morning stroll there. Turns out that saying "yes" to the question "Do you have venison?" really just means that at some point in the history of this butcher shop being open, they have, in fact, sold venison to a customer. Beef chuck roast it was.
2) Read a recipe all the way through before starting to bake something you think will take two hours that really needs four. I really don't know how this happened, but it did. The recipe says to let your meat simmer in its sauce for TWO HOURS. Well, ain't nobody got time for that, especially since this was the pie I decided to make while my dinner guests were already at the table. Well, guess what. I didn't listen. I let the meat stew for 30 minutes before adding in my vegetables, which needed to cook for another 30 before putting everything in the oven for 30. Guess what else. It didn't make a damn difference! This "pie" was epic.
3) The recipe says to use 8 individual mini cast iron skillets, but seriously, who has that laying around? I used one large skillet and put all of the biscuits on top and it was lovely.
4) I was so relieved to finally get this sucker into the oven that I forgot to treat the pumpkin biscuits with a little cream and salt and pepper. They were still a beautiful golden brown when they emerged from the oven. Lesson here? Mistakes are okay.
What Baking Can Do:
Pie parties are fun, but exhausting. I don't know what I would have done if I didn't make some pies the night before. And if I didn't have patient friends who can entertain themselves by singing along to the Waitress radio station on Spotify and drinking all of the wine.
Let's see how we did!
Look at the anticipation and excitement as Steph cuts into the tomato pie…
And serves some pie to Joe (for those unfamiliar with Waitress, this is not the Joe for whom this pie was named).
Success! This was a tasty pie that is served cold and really held up overnight. It was a little messy to serve, but hey, it's all going to the same place, right?
Next up was the Frito pie. I made a buffet of sorts so people could add whatever they wanted to their personal dish. It was a pretty standard Frito pie, a crowd pleaser due to its presentation. I returned to the table to find my portion had been eaten while I was baking (love you, Geoffrey).
The main course was the daunting meat/blackberry/winter vegetable/pumpkin biscuit [not technically a pie] pie.
As it turns out, despite my many blunders, this was everyone's favorite pie. It had a very interesting mixture of flavors that just worked. And the meat was super tender! The pumpkin biscuits were fluffy perfection. The only complaint was that the blackberry seeds provided a weird, unexpectedly crunchy texture. I'd save this one for a snowy winter day when you have about 5 or 6 hours to spare to do it right. Look at those happy faces!
Finally, we got to the strawberry rhubarb pies. F***, were they good! I may have been hysterical from exhaustion, but it was like eating a sugary piece of cloud and it made me happy to finally sit at the table with my friends.
I'd call this a great success! I'll probably host another one of these shindigs, preferably with mostly pies that can be refrigerated.
There will be another pie next week, but for now I'm off to the west coast to the lands of Starbucks and Voodoo Donuts (sorry, pie).