Pie Day? Again? I just celebrated Pie Day on December 1st. I made a taco pie. And I assume there is another Pie Day coming up on March 14th. How many times can we celebrate the pie? Is the pie that insecure it needs three days (at least) to celebrate its goodness? I feel there is a corporate pie agenda that Big Pie is pushing on the world. It gets absurdly romanticized in movies and on tv. It has spun its own image to be this icon in the world of comfort food, but is the pie any better than cake or cookies? Oh pie is good, don’t get me wrong. But does it deserve three days of celebration, not to mention all those individual days such as Raspberry Cream Pie Day and Pumpkin Pie Day? Don’t fall for the Big Pie agenda.
It is what it is, I suppose, so despite my conflicts, I set out to celebrate Pie Day. My first celebration was unintentional but ended up being appropriate. On Sunday, in my post DC trip haze to Clements, I picked up a pot pie for dinner that night (along with the sandwiches for lunch). Well we ate the sandwiches kind of late in the day and then had some blondies at night, so neither of us were really all that hungry for dinner. That means that I had dinner ready for Monday night which unbeknownst to me at the time, was Pie Day. So by accident, we were having pot pie for dinner on Pie Day (nailed it).
To my chagrin, Clements did not have any of our favorite pot pie from the Centerville Pie Company. That’s Oprah’s favorite too (I’ve talked about them here before). I’m not sure if Clements are out of the pies or if they are just not carrying them anymore (it looks like the latter because there was no empty space where they are usually kept). That was a bummer because their pies are the best. Instead, I picked up a Willow Tree chicken pot pie. Willow Tree is based out of Attleboro, MA which is right over the Rhode Island border. They began life as poultry farmers but at some point, expanded to become pot pie makers. That’s what made their business take off. Then they started making chicken salad. That’s how I first heard their name, with their chicken salad. It’s kind of a thing down here. In fact if you mention you bought chicken salad around here, you usually get the “is it Willow Tree” question. It’s tasty chicken salad, I’ll give them that. This was the first time I have ever had their pot pie. I figured they were chicken experts, so it must be a good product. It cooked in about an hour and fifteen minutes.
It was the prefect night for chicken pot pie. It wasn’t freezing outside but it was cold and with a Nor’easter in the air, the wind was whooping and whomping. It just sounded bitterly cold, so the warmness of a pot pie was perfect. To be honest, we are spoiled by the Centerville Pie pot pies because they are packed with chicken. The Willow Tree pie was good, but it was different and definitely far less chicken. The main difference was that this pie had a layer of pie crust over the top and beneath it was a mixture of chicken and gravy, which was almost soupy. The Centerville Pie has pie crust on the bottom and top so it eats more like a real pie, especially with all that chicken. The Willow Tree was more like chicken and dumplings. Still tasty (it really was delicious), just not what we are used to. I ate it with a spoon so I could get all the gravy. I guess it’s just a different interpretation of pot pie. I would get it again, but pretty sure I would reach for Centerville’s version first.
The second part of my Pie Day celebration was to make a sweet pie since I had savory covered. I looked at some recipes online and tried to find something tasty. Then I thought about one of my favorite pies, the key lime. It’s a sweet pie with a tart twist to it. It’s cool and refreshing and despite the wintery weather, that was appealing to me. Some of the other pies I was looking at were all sweet but seemed heavy and too much. The key lime sounded like simple sweetness. I found a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction blog. I have found some stellar recipes from her before so I always check her out to see what recipes she has. Her key lime recipe looked good and easy. It was actually for mini pies which you would make inside a muffin pan. I was going to make it that way, but then I wondered if I was not being pie compliant for Pie Day, so I made a full pie instead. Thankfully, she had a note on how to to do that in her recipe.
The first step of the recipe was to make a pie crust out of graham crackers. I took the easy way out on this one and just bought a pre-made pie crust. Making your own pie crust, at least a graham cracker one, is not that hard, but I just wanted to give myself a little break, so I cut a corner. I was ok with that. If I make it again, I’ll make my own crust. The rest was kind of easy. You beat cream cheese with some egg yolks, add in some sweetened condensed milk and then your lime juice. Per Sally’s instructions, I used Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lime Juice. I had seen this recipe made with Rose’s lime juice before, but there is a freshness to the Nellie & Joe’s juice that is unbeatable, plus it’s made from real key limes. That makes a difference. A good recommendation. I grated in some lime zest too for extra flavor, but that was pretty much it. I poured it all into the pie crust, baked it for about 15 minutes, then let it cool. It was surprisingly easy.
When I made chocolate mousse a few weeks ago, I recalled my time at the restaurant I used to work at, New England Food and Beverage Company, and how the little old lady Auntie Anna would make the desserts every week in her little nook in the kitchen. She also used to make a Key Lime Pie too (in fact it was on the menu as Auntie Anna’s Key Lime Pie). That’s where I saw the Rose’s lime juice being used as she always had the bottle on the counter when she was baking. Key Lime was a pie that I had no real interest in eating so I always avoided it. I had actually not even heard of it before I started working there. Then, as it happens in restaurants, a piece of pie is left out for the staff to eat (one that was not pretty enough to serve), so I gave it a taste. It was super good. Tangy, sweet and refreshing. I learned to love it. Even crave it. Later in life after the ONEF&B, when I met Lola, we realized we both liked Key Lime Pie. Growing up, she had spent many of her school vacations in Miami visiting her grandparents. That’s where she first tasted key lime, and she’s been a fan ever since. I knew I had my work cut out for me to meet her expectations of good Key Lime Pie here.
I made some fresh whipped cream to go on top of the pie to add a little more sweetness then I served a piece to Lola when she was sitting in front of the fire. That’s not your typical Key Lime Pie experience. Key Lime is summery or reminiscent of warm vacations. It’s not huddled around the hearth. But sweetness is good wherever you have it. I waited for her reaction and soon enough, I knew I had a hit. It was really good. Great lime flavor and tartness with just the right of sweetness mixed in. The crust was perfect (I think we have established that graham cracker crusts are a must for all Key Lime Pies) and the whipped cream, which was especially sweet, really melded with the tartness of the pie. Not to brag, but it could be one of my favorite pies that I have made so far on my quest. A success, and more importantly, a success in Lola’s eyes.
Another day, another Pie Day. I’m running out of pies to make here. I do like pies. There’s something festive to them, although maybe I’m falling for the Big Pie narrative. But like them I do, so I’ll keep celebrating. I was able to make a pie today that I have always wanted make and it came out great, so that’s worth trumpeting. Plus I got to eat a nice hot chicken pot pie that warmed up my soul. Another win for pies. So I’ll keep celebrating Pie Days even though I’ll probably keep ranting about it if another pops up on the calendar. Stay true to good eats, they say, and resist the Big Pie agenda!
Next Up: National Beer Can Appreciation Day