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National Pie Day 2021

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By Dan Clarke

I’ve just sent a reminder to Mike and Gary that the 23rd of this month is Pie Day.

Apparently, it is celebrated every year on this date. While National Pie Day sounds quite official and perhaps even historic, if I’m to believe Wikipedia, the celebration was begun in the mid-1970’s by a fellow named Charlie Papazian as a way to commemorate his own birthday. Since 1986 the occasion has been sponsored by the American Pie Council, which also sounds very official.

My pals have always been included in the loop whenever I’ve received any information about this holiday. If I remember correctly it goes back to a time when the three of us were sharing a Happy Hour table in Sacramento. Mike, a former resident of Eugene, Oregon, was planning a visit to that part of the state. Gary, a graduate of the University of Oregon, suggested that Mike really should take a side trip to little town called Chemult where an unpretentious little restaurant served extraordinary pies.

Mike, a man known to make a mean cobbler himself, was intrigued. Through another couple of rounds Gary continued to extol the virtues of this out-of-the-way place. It was worth a side trip, he assured us.

It was about a week later when we next saw Mike at our Craft Beer Chautauqua. He was not happy. Apparently, Chemult was a detour to be measured in hours, not minutes. He might have been mollified if he’d been able to get a slice of any one of those wonderful pies Gary had told us about. Alas, the woman at the register said that they no longer served pie. Not since their baker died several years previously.

The incident remained a topic of Happy Hour conversations in subsequent years. Usually these were more amusing than this recollection (but then the beers were helping elevate our mood). In any case, pie is a wonderful part of life. Quintessentially American. More diner than fine dining.

We’d like you to enjoy a piece of pie with us to celebrate National Pie Day. We won’t send you on a fruitless journey but can recommend the banana cream pie, as served at Frank Fat’s, a Chinese restaurant near California’s State Capitol. it’s been pleasing customers since 1939. The following recipe is from The Lina Fat Cookbook: Recipes from the Fat Family.

 

FRANK FAT'S RESTAURANT BANANA CREAM PIE

 

RICH PIE PASTRY FOR A SINGLE-CRUST 10-INCH PIE:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons firm cold butter

4 tablespoons firm cold margarine

3 tablespoons ice water

CUSTARD FILLING:

3 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups whole milk

4 bananas

TOPPING:

1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE CRUST:

Place flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process 2 seconds. Cut butter and margarine into 1/2-inch chunks and distribute over the flour.

Process until fat particles look like small peas, 6 to 8 seconds. With motor running, add ice water through the feed tube. Process just until dough forms a ball.

(To make dough without a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender or two table knives, cut butter and margarine into flour until fat particles look like small peas. While stirring with a fork, sprinkle water over mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all flour is moistened and dough forms a ball.)

Shape dough into a 4-inch round. Dust with flour. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured board, roll out chilled dough until it is 1/2-inch-thick and 2 inches larger in diameter than a 10-inch pie pan. Fit pastry into pan, making a high, fluted edge. Prick bottom of pastry in several places with a fork. Place pastry-lined pan in freezer for 30 minutes.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Place on a rack and let cool completely before filling.

FOR THE CUSTARD FILLING:

In a medium bowl, beat eggs lightly with an electric mixer. Add sugar, cornstarch, butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat until well-mixed.

In a heavy 3-quart pan, heat milk just to scalding. Pour half of the hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring to blend well. Return egg-milk mixture to remaining milk in pan. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until custard has thickened enough to lightly coat a metal spoon. Remove from heat and let custard cool to room temperature.

Peel bananas and cut into 1/4-inch slices, placing the slices into an even layer over the bottom of the cooled pie crust. Pour custard over the bananas. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

FOR THE TOPPING:

Just before serving, whip cream, sugar and 1/4-teaspoon vanilla until stiff. Spread in an even layer over the pie.

Note: If you are using a shallow pie plate, you may have custard and bananas left over. These can be layered in dessert cups and refrigerated.

Makes 8 servings

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