Lee's Kitchen: Pear pie just in time for the beginning of fall
Many years ago we moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut, having found an old house with land in Canterbury. That beautiful old house took years to transform itself to gorgeous (thanks to my husband, who worked nights and weekends inside and outside that 1750 center-chimney colonial).
The kitchen barely existed when we moved in. It took months before the work was done. I washed dishes in the downstairs tub since I hated paper towels and plastic or paper glasses and cups even 25 years ago.
I learned what I could make in a microwave (not much). We were on a budget, so once a week, since I was writing restaurant reviews for The Day, the newspaper paid for us to eat pretty well. There were few good restaurants within both our budget and 10 miles of our house.
One restaurant in Willimantic, long gone and whose name I forgot, had for dessert a two-crust pear pie, the pears nestled in a soft, cream-cheese pillow.
I love pears and pies and autumn, but I never got that recipe. I would love if someone knew what that filling was, but here is a recipe I love.
The crust was Deb Jensen’s, who had a couple of incredibly good restaurants in Stonington until she died a few years ago. I have been using that recipe ever since she shared it with me. The pear recipe I make with cinnamon or sometimes vanilla, since some people do not like cinnamon.
Deb Jensen’s Perfect Pie Crust
Makes enough for two, two-crust, nine-inch pies (what is not used can be frozen)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups solid shortening (I use 1 cup Crisco, 3/4 cup unsalted butter)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup ice water
Combine dry ingredients. Cut shortening into dry ingredients. Add egg to ice water, beat, then add vinegar. Stir into dry ingredients with a fork. Form into four balls, place individually in plastic wrap or small plastic bags and chill. Bring back to room temperature before rolling out. Dough keeps one month in refrigerator and longer in the freezer.
Tip: My biggest problem with pie crust is the rolling out. I use a floured pastry cloth and a well-floured “mitten” on my rolling pin. When it’s the right size, I roll the crust up on my rolling pin and gently “roll it out” over the pie plate.
Pear Pie Filling
2 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups) Anjou or Bartlett pears, cored, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a large sheet pan into the oven. Toss the pears in a large bowl with lemon juice and allow to macerate for half an hour. Mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon (or vanilla), then toss with the pears. Add the pear mixture into the bottom crust, then dot with pieces of butter. Add the second crust and crimp the edges. Use a knife to put a few vents onto the crust. I also place thin pieces of aluminum foil on the edges of the crust so they don’t blacken before the pie is ready.
Put the pie on the hot sheet pan for 15 minutes. Then turn oven to 350 degrees, and cook until fruit is bubbling, about 45 minutes more. I take the foil pieces off around 15 minutes before the pie is ready.
On the Side: Parthenon Diner
People may say it is just a diner, but I am very fond of diners. I have never gone to any diner and not found something to eat. I have never had to mortgage my house or worried that I was late for a reservation.
I can usually find club sandwiches, turkey dinners with mashed potatoes and gravy and, when I was much younger, breakfast at midnight.
So, when I saw that the Parthenon had changed hands at a place I love on Route 1 in Old Saybrook, I was nervous. The menu has changed and I don't know if they have turkey dinners in July. The club sandwiches are no longer on an eight-page menu.
But here is the thing: the club sandwiches include real, thick slices of turkey, like the turkey you only get when you make a turkey at home. On top of that, the sweet potato fries taste like real sweet potatoes fries. I once ordered a turkey sandwich with perfectly ripe slices of avocado. And iced coffee, maybe all the time. I am happy.
Parthenon Diner, 809 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook
Lee White lives in Groton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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