With fall approaching, I think it is an appropriate time to say a few kind words about late summer.
Putting rain and drought aside, it has been a spectacular season for me. And I have been able to spend most of it outdoors, notably on my bike or on my back in many seaside landscapes. The result is a great tan and a new appreciation of what is in and what is out in beachwear in the last gap of the 20th Century.
The bikini has become passe in 1986. That goes for both sexes. Trendy females have eschewed what we once thought of as “little nothings” for something else: bare upper torsos. And while nudity per se may be officially noted as a misdemeanor on police blotters across most of the nation, you’d never know it from what I’ve observed on both coastlines.
What men are wearing as swimming gear today is unfathomable to me. Some guys (mostly young) wear skin-tight shorts that cling well below their knees while others (older types) opt for see-through outfits so flimsy they could be mistaken for jockey shorts. Which indeed, they may very well be. Neither form of male attire has caused more public reaction than a few raised eyebrows.
Which brings me to my favorite subject: food, of course. Taking my view of this summer’s figures as a tangent, I offer some delectable dishes for fall, both of which are pies. One, appropriately, is topless and the other is sans bottom.
My favorite topless pie is a tart lemon custard.
TOPLESS LEMON PIE
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup cold shortening
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
2 tablespoons orange juice
2/3 cup sugar
Juice of 4 lemons
1 1/2 cups whipping cream or half and half
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
To make crust, sift flour with salt into large bowl. Cut in butter and shortening. Add orange peel. Blend with pastry blender until texture of coarse crumbs. Using fork or knife, cut orange juice into flour mixture to form soft dough. Do not overwork. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Roll out pastry on lightly floured board. Line 10-inch, loose-bottom tart pan or ceramic dish with pastry. Line pastry with foil and weight with beans. Bake at 400 degrees 10 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake 5 minutes longer and cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until light and lemon colored. Add lemon juice, cream and melted butter. Pour into shell. Bake until firm, about 45 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
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Also a special pie, this bottomless entree is a corn and peppered version of old-fashioned chicken pot pie.
BOTTOMLESS CHICKEN AND CORN PIE
1 1/4 cups plus 1 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold lard
1 small egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon wine vinegar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chile, seeded, deveined and minced
1 sweet red pepper, seeded
1 1/4 cups strong chicken broth
1/2 cup whipping cream or half and half
1/2 teaspoon chopped marjoram leaves or dash dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup diced carrots
1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1 cup corn
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
To make crust, sift 1 cup flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Cut in lard. Blend with pastry blender until texture of coarse crumbs. Using fork or knife, cut in egg and vinegar to form soft dough. Do not overwork. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon flour. Refrigerate 1 hour before using.
To make filling, melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion. Cook 1 minute. Add garlic, chile and sweet red pepper. Cook until tender, about 3 minutes.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to pan. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup flour. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and cream. Add marjoram, mace, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in carrots. Allow to cool.
Add chicken and corn to mixture. Place in glass or ceramic pie plate.
Roll out pastry on lightly floured board and place over chicken mixture. Whisk yolk with water. Brush over top of crust. Bake at 400 degrees 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and bake 45 minutes longer. Makes 4 to 6 servings.