Pie Redemption Challenge

So Petey, The Kid and I went to Chapel Hill last weekend to visit Southern Season and Trader Joe’s.When dinner time rolled around, we decided to eat at K&W Cafeteria.  We all enjoy cafeteria eating.  It’s usually pretty cheap for a tray heavy with Southern food.  Each person can get whatever they want—three helpings of carrots and a piece of garlic bread?  Go for it.  Spaghetti, chicken livers and ham on one plate?  Enjoy!  Feel like gravy on your fries, or jello on your cabbage?  Just ask.

The Kid had their chicken tenders, which are pretty good; crispy and juicy, if sometimes a touch greasy.  I normally get the country style steak, but instead had the meatloaf, which was moist and tasty.  Petey had the comedy item; hoki fish, which sounds like something crafted into the shape of fish from tofu, but was really fish.

I threw caloric caution to the wind and picked both bread (a biscuit; not bad), and dessert.I chose a slice of light looking, fluffy chiffon pie.  The signs under it indicated it was either lemon or lime.  But either way I was looking forward to an airy, citrus-flavored treat at the end of my meal.


Only it was orange.  But that was ok–I like orange just fine.  The problem was, it was extraordinarily sweet and artificial tasting.  After the entire Matthews Family Band tasted it, the consensus was that too much boxed jello had been used to make it.  Because not only was it cloyingly saccharine, the texture of the pie was similar to that insulation that is blown onto the wall with a gun, then expands and hardens.

Room for dessert?  We’ve got pie!

It was gummy, stiff, and thoroughly unpleasant.


The Kid and I discussed the pie on the ride home, and I decided to come up with my own version.  This pie would be made with fresh ingredients.  It would not be too sweet, or have a weird, creepy texture.  And because it was my pie, I wouldn’t go the traditional route of straight lemon, lime, or orange.  I was going rogue.

I thought maybe I’d do a lemon-orange combo, but at Earth Fare they had Meyer lemons.  Myer lemons are sweeter than regular lemons, and have a beautiful orangey-yellow color.  But they’re expensive and can be hard to find.meyerThen I thought about blood oranges.  They have deep scarlet flesh, and a berry component to the taste.  But they don’t show up in stores for another month or so.

Then I thought about bergamot.

Bergamot orange is a Mediterranean citrus fruit.  Like the Asian yuzu, it’s not really eaten in fruit form much, but used for its ability to flavor food and drink.

You may already know, gentle reader, the most common item in which bergamot is used.  It’s Earl Grey tea.  Earl Grey’s a combination of black tea, and oil of bergamot.

Earl Grey Chiffon Pie   

Ingredientsearl-gray1 envelope unflavored gelatin

¾ cup sugar

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

¾ cup strong Earl Grey tea, made with 2-3 tea bags and cooled

¼ cup lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks

1 9-inch pie shell or 1-11 inch tart shell, either homemade or store bought, baked and cooled


In a saucepan, combine the gelatin, sugar and salt. Add milk and egg yolks. Cook, whisking constantly over medium-low heat just until mixture comes to boil and gelatin’s dissolved. Remove from the heat; whisk in tea, juice, and zest. Chill until partially set.Very gently, fold in whipped cream and chill just until mixture is cool, and starts to hold its shape. Artfully mound into pie shell; chill thoroughly (3-4 hours).  Makes 6-8 servings.

While this pie would be epic on a hot summer day, I think it would also be a welcome, lighter dessert alternative to a holiday meal.  Plus, whoever heard of Earl Grey pie?  You’ll definitely get points for originality.

But if you sub out the tea and juice for other components, the recipe contains the procedure to make any type of chiffon pie.  Even (Horrors!), pumpkin spice.Thanks for your time.

Salting away the salt

Hey there friend!

You say it’s eleventy thousand degrees in the shade?  You say that if you go outside there’s a distinct possibility that you’ll burst into flame?  You say you’re stuck in the house with children that are so bored they’ve taken to reading up on taxidermy and are starting to look at you funny?

Or maybe everything’s peachy and you’d like a kitchen adventure?

Well Bunkie, have I got something for each of you.

This week we’re going to make salt.

When I go to the mall, I always visit Williams Sonoma.  They’ve got cooking tools on the left and tableware on the right.  Displayed in the center, around the cash/wrap is food..

But the best stuff is around the corner, near the gadget wall.

This is where the mark-downs are.

And you never know what’ll be back there.  One time I got a normally very expensive package of Carnaroli risotto rice for less than $4.00.

One afternoon I made a beeline for the mark downs and spied something that was as unfamiliar as it was intriguing.

It was a tiny glass jar full of deep, shiny, chestnut-brown crystals labeled Stumptown Coffee Flake Salt made by the Jacobsen Salt Company.

The original price, for 1.5 ounces, was $11.99.

Ridiculous, right?  But…it was half price.  And half price certainly makes everything much more attractive.  I’m pretty sure that’s how come Jefferson was so eager to make that Louisiana Purchase.

So I took it home.

It was good on steaks, but I discovered that when it’s rubbed on the very humble baked potato it basically turns it into crack.  Ever since I’ve been eating them at least three times a month.

Coffee Roasted Baked Potato

coffee spud

2 large Russet potatoes

2 teaspoons coffee salt (grind it a little finer in mortar and pestle)

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon bacon grease

Preheat oven to 350.  Make a shallow rimmed tray out of foil.  Wash spuds and poke with a fork 4 or 5 times.

Spread a thin coat of fat all over both potatoes, then rub with coffee salt and pepper, making sure the entire surface has a nice crust on it.

Place in foil tray and bake for 45 minutes, then flip over and bake 45 more.  Remove from oven and dress to taste.

Serves 2.

After quite a few spuds, I needed more of this stuff.  I picked up another jar, but discovered it was half price because it was being discontinued, and there would be no more.

So, I decided to make some salt.  The first time out, I made coffee salt.  But the next time I made a batch of Earl Gray salt for The Kid’s birthday.  My thinking is that almost any liquid could be used.  I made both coffee and tea triple strong to intensify the salt’s flavor.

Coffee Salt


Set up a jar.  Tie cotton string around a pencil or thin dowel that is long enough to reach the bottom of a tall jar. 

4 cups water

2 cups kosher salt

7 ½ tablespoons instant coffee

Put water and salt in non-reactive pan.  Add coffee and heat until it lightly simmers.  Take off heat, let cool for 10 or 15 minutes and pour into jar.

Rest pencil horizontally on the rim of the jar.  The string will float for possibly a couple days, but when it gets fully saturated, it will sink.

Put jar in a quiet corner of the kitchen and forget about it for a week or so.  The crystals will grow on the string.  When the string looks fat with brown crystals and the water has evaporated about ¼ of way down, remove string from water and brush crystals into a glass baking dish.  Strain the brine and add to dish.  Bake at 200 degrees for 15 minutes, then rake the salt with a fork to break up.  Bake and rake in 15 minute increments until dry.  Break up salt one last time, store in a glass jar, to use as desired.


You know, I’m thinking this would be amazing lightly sprinkled on chocolate.   And roast beef sandwiches or sautéed mushrooms, or barbecue sauce or…

Thanks for your time.