HALLIE EPHRON: There's a movie moment when Andie MacDowell sings a sweet little song that declares, "Me oh my, I love pie." And in these dog days of summer, I do love pie. Blueberry pie. Key lime pie. Peach pie.
But pie is a food for all seasons. In the cool crisp fall, apple pie. Winter calls for the warm creaminess of pumpkin pie and the savory snap of a good quiche.
I remember the coconut cream pie (which I managed to duplicate once, right down to the toasted coconut sprinkled on top) that you could get at Hamburger Hamlet in LA (back in the days when they made their own incredible lobster bisque which still sets the standard for me). I had its rival a few years ago at Jestin's Kitchen in Charleston. I confess a weakness for the kind of cherry pie you can get at cafeteria-style restaurants just about anywhere there are restaurants like that. The bottom crust usually turns into something that resembles wallpaper paste, but no matter because I just eat the filling. I can still eat cherry pie filling straight out of the can.
I've never found a recipe to duplicate the deep dish peach cobbler we used to have when I was growing up. Buttery, sweet and tart, with a flaky crust on top. And besides, skinning peaches is a royal pain. But the wonderful creamy cheese pie--a bottom layer of sweetened cream cheese and egg, a top layer of sweetened vanilla-flavored sour cream, baked in a graham cracker crust (you gotta use crumbs, not the kind that comes premade) is in the Joy of Cooking. You can blow an entire day's calorie allotment with a single slender slice.
Weirdest pie I ever had was shoo-fly pie. Basically molasses and eggs baked into sludge. Someone must like it, but it's gotta be an acquired taste like Vegemite. And I confess, ice cream pies never did me much.
Pie memories, anyone?
RHYS BOWEN: When I was at school they served us something called gypsy tart. It was essentially baked condensed milk over pastry. Of course as kids we loved it,but I've never seen it anywhere else. The best pies I've ever had? My mom's. Every Sunday morning she baked an apple and a lemon meringue pie and we devoured both for Sunday lunch. Even then I used to think it was an awful lot of effort for ten minutes of eating. But I've inherited my mom's good pastry making skills.
HALLIE: Rhys, I found a photo of a gypsy tart, and the recipe IS just a special raw cane sugar and condensed milk. It sure looks like a cousin to shoo-fly pie.
JAN BROGAN: When I was a kid my mother took a powder on cooking and stocked the freezer with frozen chicken pot pies. I developed such a fondness for them that my first mission as cook in my early twenties was to try to make one from scratch that tasted almost as good as the cheap frozen version. So, armed with my aunt's fool-proof pie crust recipe (the one with vinegar and crisco) I made my first chicken pot pie -- And because i had NO IDEA what I was doing, I started by boiling an entire chicken on the stove and making a sort of stew. To season it, I simply went with the Simon and Garfunkel lyrics "Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme" And except for a few bones I failed to extract, it was actually quite good. And my home-made chicken pot pie became a great success!!
HALLIE: That sounds absolutely delicious! I've never even attempted a chicken pot pie. Too many steps!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: My mother made great pies when I was growing up, and her specialty was lemon meringue. I've never even attempted to duplicate it. Nor did I inherit her skill. I got the whole foods bug about the time I really started learning to cook, so made things like whole wheat pancakes and whole wheat scones (both yummy, by the way) and lovely quick breads and gingerbread. I can't make a cake to save my life.
Like Jan, I have a thing for chicken pot pies. My grandmother lived with us when I was growing up and every time my parents went out of town, my gran and I had chicken pot pies in front of the TV. Swanson's chicken pot pies are still my ultimate comfort food, although I now know the ingredients are disgusting.
I have made them from scratch--Jamie Oliver has a killer recipe--but maybe comfort food should be a bit stodgier:-)
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Hallie, have you seen the movie Waitress? Good, indie film about a girl who makes pies and some of the visuals are wonderful.
HALLIE: I loved that movie! Just added it to my Netflix queue to see it again.
ROSEMARY: When I was little I thought pies came in cardboard boxes. We lived near a bakery that supplied supermarkets and diners and we always had stacks of individual pies and massive restaurant-sized pies. I hated them. Totally tasteless.
My mother never made fruit pies but around Easter time she would make these incredible wheat pies - or as my grandmother called them grana cakes. They were works of art with woven lattice strips on top. I've never found her recipe but I'd love to try my hand at one some day. Do you all know the delightful Amy Alessio? She's a librarian, mystery writer and foodie who has a blog called vintage cookbooks. I bet she has a recipe for it.
The one pie I make over and over again is a savory onion pie. I was working at WNET and there was a show called Cooking From Quilt Country about Amish cooking when I got the cookbook. I can make that pie blindfolded.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Pie. I think...I'm not a fan of pie. Weird, huh? My mother used to make wonderful lemon meringue pie, I remember, it was SUCH a treat. I can still taste that tangy lemon and remember how the sticky meringue stuck on my fork. And frozen chicken pot pie, Jan, yes, all that nice (now yucky) cornstarchy gravy stuff. And peas. But I never liked the crust. Boston cream pie? no. Quiche? No. Fruit pies? Ah, take it or leave it. One bite, maybe, of peach and blueberry. But after that? Diminishing returns. Pizza! Yes. But is that pie?
Please don't pie-in-the-face me!
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Oh, Hank. I've heard there are people who didn't like pie, but I've never met one before!
In our family, Ross is the piemaker (isn't that wonderful? And I didn't even know he could do it before we got married.)My mother and her mother made the best pies in the world, but I seem to have missed the pastry gene. Like Ro, I also have a soft spot for savory pies, which led to my greatest pie disaster. One Thanksgiving, I decided to make an authentic 17th century beet pie. (Hint: don't try to make an authentic 17th century anything. If it was really good, we'd still be eating it today.) I peeled and cooked and made a "savoury wheat crust," and when it was done, I offered my guests the original Pilgrim experience.
Well, either I got the recipe wrong or the Pilgrims ate as a kind of mortification of the flesh, because it was almost inedible. The crust was like heavy-duty cardboard and the beets were crunchy and vinegary. My poor father-in-law ate a whole large helping just to make me feel better. The next year, we stuck to Ross-made pumpkin pie.
HALLIE: Laughing so hard, Julia! Too bad you didn't have my husband at that Thanksgiving. He eats anything (my cheese pie soup, just for example.)
So, what say you, Jungle Red Readers, on pie? Bests? Worsts? Dish...