Obsessing over Thanksgiving meal for family, for no particularly good reason. They could not be more easy going when it comes to food (and that may be the only way in which they are easy going). The tried and true is all anyone wants at Thanksgiving–nonetheless I’ve spent hours leafing through recipes and testing new ones. Brussels sprouts with pancetta instead of mixed roasted vegetables? But then is that too much meat, if I make that stuffing with the sausage? How about red cabbage? Or squash no sweet potatoes but we’re having mashed how about peas and baby onions? Tested two Brussels spouts recipes before my husband Dan casually allowed: “I don’t really like Brussels sprouts.” I stared at him. This after countless meals featuring the little green things. Okay, then: no sprouts for Thanksgiving. Phew. We’ll stick with roasted root vegetables, which everyone loves, or least doesn’t complain about. Next I made a pecan and chocolate tart out of the November 2012 Bon Appétit, on the off chance it might trump my own much beloved pecan-pie recipe. And it didn’t. The chocolate overwhelmed the flavor of the pecans, and the tart crust was oddly tasteless. Served me right. The recipe that works every time for me strikes just the right balance between nuttiness and sweetness.
Alex’s Pecan Pie (an amalgam of recipes from the Silver Palate, Epicurious and others):
4 large eggs
2 cups chopped pecans, 1 cup or so pecan halves
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 stick sweet butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
9-inch prepared or homemade pie crust, unbaked
(3 oz. good-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips, if desired)
In a 250-degree oven, crisp the nuts on a cookie tray for 5 to 10 minutes, until fragrant and crunchy.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch glass pie dish with crust (or bring store-bought to room temperature). Whisk sugar, eggs, butter, syrup, vanilla and cinnamon together. Reserve a handful of the chopped nuts and put aside. Spread the rest in the bottom of the pie shell and pour in the filling until you reach the top edge of the crust (you can add the chocolate chips, also, if desired). Use the handful of nuts you saved on any spots that don’t appear to have enough nuts. Arrange the pecan halves around the edge of the pie as decoration. Bake on a baking tray on the middle oven rack for around 40 minutes, until the filling has gelled but no means hard. If crust is browning too quickly, cover with foil. Cool at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.