Mrs. Storey’s Chess Pie

1 stick of butter
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 deep-dish pie shell*

Preheat oven to 350 and cook the pie shell for 10 minutes or so. Melt butter and cool to room temperature. Mix eggs, sugar, vanilla, and vinegar with a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, just whisk for a while, but it’s going to take a long time to get a light, fluffy batter. Slowly add melted butter and pour into the pie shell. Bake at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes, then bake for 45 minutes at 350** or until a crispy crust sets and turns almost the color of the pie shell. Allow to cool completely in the oven (or your pretty crust will crack, as mine has in the above photo) and refrigerate. Serve cold and with canned whipped cream, because we Southerners keep it classy.

*A regular-depth pie crust works as well. It looks prettier, too, but it can spill out if you’re not careful, so I go with deep-dish.

** If you cook it at 350 the whole way through, it rises quickly and forms a tall crust, then it sinks back down and you get this weird space between the crust and the custard-y part. Cooking it low at first means the crust will be more likely to stick to the custard, but it’s no guarantee. It’s hard to make this look super-pretty, but either way, it will be tasty.

A few words on this recipe: Chess pie is one of those stereotypical Southern things that no one outside the South seems to have any clue about. It’s very rich and sweet (like most Southern dessert items) and has a kind of custard-y texture. I got the recipe from my grandmother, who got it from Mrs. Storey, who once hosted dinner for my grandparents and father when they moved to a little town called Signal Mountain, TN. My father liked the chess pie she made for dessert so much that my grandmother asked for her recipe, and my family’s been making it ever since. Some traditional recipes add a little cornmeal, which is fine. Some other recipes will tell you to add flour or omit the vinegar for citrus fruit and zest, which is wrong. Don’t try to fancy this up, and you’ll have a very delicious Southern pie.

Really, I normally don’t have so much pride for my Southern roots. I left Georgia because it kind of sucked. However, when it comes to the food, don’t even play. It’s the best around, and you know it.

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WHEW! Welcome to my blog, y’all!

Well, after posting pictures and recipes on Facebook for ages, I figured I’d start a blog where I can post just my kitchen adventures. I guess my Facebook albums will now just be full of cat pictures. Oh, well.

At any rate, I’m going to post all my recipes, be they good or bad, on here. I’ll try to take better photos of my meals, and maybe I’ll even record a video or two. If there’s any meal in particular that you know I make well (or that you’d like to see me struggle through), I am more than happy to post the recipe and my own snarky comments here. Also, if any of you try out my recipes for yourselves and want to share the results here, please do! It’ll stroke my ego in the most delightful way.

Oh, just a couple of notes on my cooking philosophy and taste. I very rarely measure anything unless I’m doing a new baked recipe. Most of the stove top recipes are estimates at best, so if you don’t like one of the ingredients, add with caution, because I might have said “tablespoon” when I actually meant “teaspoon.” I also tend to cook with what I have around. You’ll see a lot of trends with spices or veggies based on what I have and like, obvi, so you can do that, too. Don’t like scallions? Use shallots instead! Vegetarian? Use a miso or vegetable broth instead of beef! I’m all about adapting recipes for your own taste, since most of these are bastardizations of family recipes or things I saw briefly online. Anywho, I hope you enjoy!

Chicken and Chive Dumplings

1 cooked chicken breast, minced (I used a rotisserie one)
1 handful chives, minced
1 to 1.5 c flour, depending on how full you like your dumplings
1 tsp baking powder salt, pepper, cayenne, etc
1 tsp Dijon mustard
cold water

Mix all ingredients except the water until thoroughly incorporated. Gradually add the cold water until there is no dry flour left, no more. This is a fairly thick dough. Bring salted water to a gentle boil. Make small dumplings (maybe a teaspoon or two) by scooping up dough with two spoons. Drop each dumpling into the boiling water, being careful not to overcrowd. 3-4 minutes after the dumplings float, take them out and place them immediately in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Dry them off, then crisp them up in a skillet on med-hi with some vegetable oil: make sure they get a good crust, or they’ll just taste like weird boiled dough balls (which is what they are). Top with any sauce you like; I added a little soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, though for the rest, I’m going to try to make a Mornay sauce with some cream cheese to remind me of Doughboys from Esperanto. If you’ve never had a Doughboy, kindly go to Saratoga Springs, NY, get wasted, and go to Esperanto and have 5.

DOUBLE WHAMMY: Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Soup; Pork Tenderloin

HOLY COW, IT’S TWO RECIPES IN ONE POST!

SOUP
1/2 butternut squash
1 onion, diced
2-3 tbsp butter
1 bottle hard apple cider, like Woodchuck
1 tart apple (Granny Smith will do)
2-3 good dashes of nutmeg
1 dash of allspice
the usual gang of spices: salt, pepper, Cayenne

Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise, (It is a serious freaking ordeal. I had to use my giant knife and a hammer; otherwise, many nice grocery stores will sell pre-sliced butternut squash.) scoop out the gooey inside, and place the squash on a cookie sheet. Brush with oil and salt, and roast at 400 for about an hour. Allow to cool completely before peeling and cubing. In the meantime, cook the onions until soft. Add the squash and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Add the flat cider (NOTE: if it’s not flat, you will have many, many bubbles to deal with) and cook until the alcohol has evaporated. Let the soup cool before you blend it thoroughly in the food processor. You might need to do a couple of batches. Reheat and add your spices. Serve with bits of apple as garnish.

TENDERLOIN
1.5 to 2 lbs pork tenderloin
2 cups red wine
16 oz beef broth / salted water
good splash of sherry
1 onion
5-6 sliced baby Bella mushrooms
some more of those apple bits you chopped for the soup
nutmeg
allspice
the usual spices

6-8 hours before you plan to cook the meat (or overnight), wash the tenderloin and remove any excess fat and the membranes. Oh, yeah, and also don’t forget that pork tenderloin has membranes on the outside. Eugh. Mix up all the ingredients in a big Ziploc bag, add the pork, and marinate in the fridge, shaking occasionally. Remove the tenderloin an hour before cooking to let it warm up. Heat up a big skillet with a little oil and cook tenderloin on med-hi for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Don’t you dare even think about moving that pork before you flip it. I know you want to scoot it around the pan, but that is how you end up with no crust on your pork. After getting some good crustification, add some of the marinade, put the top on, and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Definitely continually slice into the tenderloin to see how it’s going. Pull it off the stove once it’s still pink in the middle and a little underdone to your taste. Let the pork rest on a cutting board for at least 5 minutes before cutting it into medallions. A little touch of pink should remain in the center. Serve in a freaking artful arrangement and impress the heck out of your boyfriend, who until now seriously questioned your cooking skills.

QUICKIE: Fake Curry

1/2 can chickpeas
1/3 to 1/2 cup pasta sauce (I used vodka sauce because that’s what I had)
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
dash Cayenne
dash ginger
tiny pinch of cloves
chives (optional)

Mix everything together until heated through and serve over rice, pita, naan, whatever. So tasty and so cheap! If I had some tumeric and cumin, I’d have added that, and if you like cilantro (I think it’s nasty), Wikipedia tells me that’s a good addition to curry.

Lentil Soup

1/2 lb lentils (red might be good, but I got the regular brown)
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
2 tomatoes, diced with goey inside removed
1 tbsp capers 2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups water
1-2 tbsp caper juice
splash vinegar
1/2 pack sazon Goya (a Ramen flavor pack would work, too. It’s all basically MSG.)
salt, pepper, cayenne, etc. to taste

Sort, rinse, and drain the lentils, looking for stones or non-lentil plant matter. Cover with water and cook covered until tender (30-45 minutes). Saute the onion, celery, tomatoes, capers, and garlic until celery and onion are tender. Process the mix until smooth (or blend, or leave as-is if you like the texture; I think it overpowers the lentils, which go a little mushy). Drain the cooked lentils and add to a pot with the veggie blend. Add caper juice, vinegar, sazon, whatever else sounds good.

QUICKIE: Nacho Soup

1 can tomato soup
the end of a can of salsa
the end of a bag of tortilla chips
shredded nacho cheese

Make the tomato soup as normal, but ADD SOME SALSA TO THEM FELLAS! Toast the chips (because they probably went stale) with some cheese on top, and add that tasty pile of heaven to the top of your soup. Don’t burn the chips. This is so freaking genius, you guys.

Also, if someone asks if they can have some, you are obligated to say “NO! This is NACHO soup!! 😀 😀 :D”

Frozen Yoghurt

1 big container plain yoghurt
8 oz pineapple
1 banana
1/4 c raspberry preserves
1/4 c wheat germ

Put all ingredients in a cuisinart/blender and blend until smooth. Place in an airtight container and freeze, mixing occasionally. The high sugar content will keep it from freezing too hard (NOTE: not true, but if you put it into a popsicle mold, it works out well). I think the probiotics survive freezing, too, but I’m not sure . . .

Tofu Quiche

5 oz baby spinach
1 15 oz package of silken tofu
1/2 cup half-and-half
3-4 green onions
2 cups sharp cheddar
salt, Cayenne pepper, paprika, and any other spices
2 deep-dish pie crusts

Wilt spinach over low heat and drain tofu thoroughly. Blend tofu, half-and-half, spinach, onions, spices, and one cup of cheese in a food processor. Bake pie crusts for 10 minutes at 350, then split filling evenly between pie crusts. Sprinkle rest of cheese over pies. Bake at 350 for an hour and allow to return to room temperature. This could easily be adapted for vegan diets: just use non-dairy cheese and cream and make your own pie crust.

NOTE: this is a rather runny quiche. Feel free to cut out some of the liquid, as tofu apparently doesn’t harden like eggs when cooked.

Mint Limeade

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1.5 cups mint leaves, shredded*
12 oz. lime juice
6-8 cups water

Place first three ingredients in a saucepan and boil for 3-5 minutes. Allow to return to room temperature uncovered. Strain through a fine sieve and mix syrup, lime juice, and water in a pitcher. Serve with lots of ice and a sprig of mint, and maybe some bourbon or vodka

*Those adventurous cooks who cannot grow mint but seem to have no trouble with catnip can use said catnip instead. The flavor will be a little earthier, and I can’t promise you won’t feel a sense of extreeeeeeme relaxation, but it works.