Thanksgiving was never my favourite holiday when I lived in the United States, but it turns out it’s the one I miss the most. Every Thanksgiving, around noon, my wife and I would cruise to our adopted family’s house, knowing to expect a memorable day. The house, crowded with people of all ages (not to mention a few dogs), would have this buzzing atmosphere as everyone was merrily finishing bottle after bottle of wine, while preparing a vast amount of food; more food than really necessary, but absolutely essential to the day. Yes, it’s true, gluttony did not die with the Roman empire, it merely changed clothes.
The day is, of course, defined by the turkey, but, I never cared about the turkey. I really don’t think anyone does. The side dishes, the dressings, the stuffings, the cranberry sauce, those are the stars of the show, really. Without them, the turkey would be without purpose. But even they weren’t the ones I looked forward to the most; the desserts were. Pumpkin pie, apple pie, cheesecake, and, my favourite of all, pecan pie, which is what we’re making today.
Start by making the pie crust. Combine 350gr of flour, a pinch of salt, and a tablespoon of sugar in a food processor if you have one, or in a bowl, if you don’t. To this, add 180gr of cold butter, cut in small pieces. Pulse in the processor or rub through your hands until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. A few larger pieces of butter won’t hurt. Add 30gr of very cold water and 30gr of vodka. Yes, vodka, trust me (and the Cook’s Illustrated team who came up with this method). Gather the dough together, cover it, and put it in the fridge for an hour. Prepare a pie dish by buttering it, flouring it, and placing it in the fridge. Roll the dough out in a circle and place in the pie dish. Make a nice design on the edges of the dough, if you’re into that sort of thing, and put it back in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
In a bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, half a cup of honey, a pinch of salt, 70 gr of sugar, and the seeds from one vanilla bean (or a tablespoon of vanilla extract). Melt 150gr of very dark chocolate and, when it cools down a little bit, pour it into the pie shell. Top with 200gr of toasted pecans and pour the egg mixture in. Bake in a preheated 200˚C oven, for about 50 to 60 minutes, until the centre is still a little wobbly and the crust golden. If the pie seems to be browning too quickly, cover loosely with some aluminium foil. Let it cool down (if you have the strength to wait) and serve with some whipped cream. Happy Thanksgiving.
This article first appeared in the Universiteitskrant in 2011