Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sweet Tea Pie & A Barn Dance

Well, it's certainly not the most beautiful thing I've ever made, sweet tea pie. When I was taking these photos, attempting to make it look better by propping the shot with a pitcher of iced tea and a lemon, Brent and our friend Joe were teasing me, saying that ugly looking food was really the next culinary wave, because why distract yourself with unnecessary aesthetic (the philosophy behind Opaque, I suppose)? Let the food speak for itself--why make it look good?, they joked. I tried my best...

Sweet tea pie, a recipe of Mississippi chef Martha Hall Foose's via Nancie McDermott, is a chess pie spin-off that's infused with the beverage that can clearly identify southerners from non (As an Indiana-native with a health-conscious mom, I had never ever had iced tea so sweet as I did when I came to North Carolina). The filling is accented by a bit of lemon, as you might take in your tea, and a lot of butter, as you might not take in your tea. It's one of those, that like the salty honey pie, looks better before baking, because once in the oven all of that sugar caramelizes, turning brown and appearing almost burnt, like a not-so-dainty creme brûlée. But in the same way as the classic French dessert, that crusty top just masks the smooth and oozing sweet filling inside. The tea flavor is noticeable, but I wish it were a little stronger (perhaps by using more tea bags?), and that it was a little less sweet. But make it according to your preference--Do you like your sweet tea so sweet it makes your teeth quiver (I feel like that could be a line in a country song)? If so, stick with the 2 cups.

Sweet Tea Pie
Adapted slightly from Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies

1 1/2-2 c. sugar, depending on how sweet you like your sweet tea
1 c. butter, softened
8 egg yolks
3/4 c. strong black tea, room temperature (I used 2 tea bags)
1 Tblsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 packed tsp. lemon zest
2 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
2 Tblsp. cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Prepare half of Nothing-in-the-House pie crust (for 1 bottom crust) as per the instructions. Chill dough for at least one hour. Once chilled, roll out and fit into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Flute edges and return to the fridge until ready to use. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Using a Kitchenaid or by hand, beat the sugar and butter on medium speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Turn off the mixer and add tea, lemon juice & zest, and beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Add flour, cornmeal, and salt and beat on low until mixed evenly.

3. Remove pie crust from the fridge and pour filling into the crust. Place it on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake until edges puff and center is fairly firm, about 45-50 minutes. The top will be crystallized and deep brown similar to the top of a creme-brûlée, and filling will bubble and appear somewhat liquid, though should only wiggle slightly when nudged. Let pie cool on a cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

The lack of beauty of the pie itself was made up for by the surroundings and evening in which we ate it. Yesterday evening, Brent and Joe and I piled into Brent's truck, packed to the gills with fiddles and guitars and banjos and beers and this here pie, and got the hell outta DC, headed towards a barn dance at Moutoux Orchard in Loudon County, Virginia. After driving through the suburban monstrosities of Northern Virginia, we eventually found ourselves among horse farms and vineyards and even a cricket match(!) and rolled up in the golden hour of the evening, with the rolling hills and peach trees aglow in a warm light.

After the potluck dinner and as the band was warming up, my friends and I wandered down to the barn, where we found a very new calf trying out her wobbly legs. She put on quite a show for the camera, jumping about the pen, rubbing her nose in the mud, and practicing her moo. Eventually a crowd gathered and everyone was so taken by the bovine model that Joe had quite a task pulling them away from her to get them to come dance.

 But once he did, the party took off, with a barn packed full of dancers, many who had never square danced before. Joe did an excellent job calling and keeping everyone grapevine twisting, mountaineer looping, and shooting the hole through the old tin can late into the night-- quite a task when a good part of the crowd were farmers with early morning wake-up calls.

 As I like to do at things like this, I saved the pie for the set break, when everyone was sweaty and tipsy and tired enough to be hungry all over again. The band didn't really stop playing though, so I slipped plates with slices under their chairs and dished up the rest for whoever wanted a piece. In my own state of sweaty and tipsy and tiredness, I didn't manage to snap a clear photo of the sliced pie, but I did want to show you the smooth yellow filling under that crusty layer, so let's just call it a "mood shot" and move on.

I needed that slice with its dose of caffeine (and butter, so much butter) to keep me going, because even when the dance ended past midnight, we stayed up a few hours more to sit around and pick a few tunes. When we finally closed down the barn and curled up to go to sleep in the truck, I suddenly realized the country song-ready pun, sweet tea pie or sweetie pie?

You can find more pictures of the dance (and more of that cute calf) here.


Erika said...

These pictures are GORGEOUS!

emily said...

Oh, thank you. Got a little blurry there towards nightfall, but in a way it captures the mood :)

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