Sour Cream Raisin Pie

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Right before my 10th grade school year, our family moved from New York to Utah. At that time I don’t think I could have located Utah on a map, although geography has never been one of my strengths.

Salt Lake City was quite different to me, in so many ways. Regarding the food scene, well, there was none. Not that I was a modern foodie in 1970, but my mother certainly was.

There was no Chinatown, no German deli, not even a cheese shop. In fact, Salt Lake City remained in the culinary dead zone for a long time, until nearby ski resorts like Park City, where we lived, became popular to the world.

After graduating high school, I moved west for college, but when I went home for visits, there was one restaurant that my mother and I would lunch at when we shopped in Salt Lake City – it was our only choice – Marie Callender’s.

Because of having been raised and fed by my mother, who was a chef in her own right, I wasn’t a burger and sandwich eater. But there were a few things on the Marie Callender’s menu that I liked, especially the wilted bacon salad. Plus I always had sour cream raisin pie for dessert.

I remember it well – the creamy filling with the soft raisins and the meringue on top. And even back then I wasn’t much of a dessert eater.

So recently I was shocked to come across a sour cream raisin pie whilst browsing on Epicurious.com. It’s funny how food-related memories come rushing back.

I decided to go online and check the spelling of Marie Callender for the sake of this post, and discovered that her restaurants are still around. Sadly, neither my wilted bacon salad nor this pie is on their menu anymore.

But there is an interesting story about Marie Callender, who was a real person and a pie baker from California. I never thought about Marie possibly being a real person.

These days, if I were to pass by a Marie Callender’s restaurant, I’d turn my head and give a little chortle. Sorry Ms Callender. It’s just not my type of restaurant. But back in the days when I had no other choice, Ms. Callender satisfied my gastronomic needs.

I’m making this pie in her honor. Below, a young and older Marie Callender.

Here’s a sour cream raisin pie recipe, from Epicurious.com.

Sour Cream Raisin Pie
printable recipe below

1 cup raisins
Pastry dough
Pie weights
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a bowl soak raisins in water to cover by 2 inches at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Drain raisins in a sieve. I also let them “dry” a bit on paper towels.


On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out dough into a 14-inch round (about 1/8″ thick) and fit into a 9-inch glass pie plate.

Trim dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, and crimp edge decoratively. Chill shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly prick bottom of shell all over with a fork and line shell with foil. Fill foil with pie weights and bake shell in middle of oven for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove foil and weights and bake shell until golden, about 8 minutes more. Cool shell in pan on a rack.

Reduce temperature to 400 degrees F.

Separate eggs. Chill whites until ready to use.

In a bowl whisk together yolks and sour cream and whisk in 1/2 cup sugar, flour, vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and raisins. Pour filling into shell and bake in middle of oven for 10 minutes.d


Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake pie 30-40 minutes more, or until filling is set.

Remove pie from the oven but keep temperature at 350 degrees F.

In another bowl with an electric mixer beat whites until they just hold soft peaks.

Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until meringue just holds stiff peaks.

Spread meringue over warm pie, covering filling completely and making sure meringue touches shell all the way around.

Bake pie in middle of oven until meringue is golden, about 10 minutes. Cool pie on rack and serve at room temperature.

This is absolutely wonderful.

I had a piece of warm pie, but it was a bit too wobbly,

So I let the pie come to room temperature.

It was magnificent, and so much like what I remember. The only negative might be the amount of sugar. If I make this pie again, I would only add 1/2 cup of sugar to the pie filling.

Keep in mind how lovely this pie would be during the holidays, made with dried cranberries!

 

 

The Taste of Central Otago

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The Taste of Central Otago is the name of a cookbook that I purchased at the restaurant, Saffron, in Arrowtown, New Zealand.

Our meal was spectacular there. I enjoyed a beet salad, followed by lamb with sweetbreads.


Even though the food was exquisite in its quality and presentation, it was not an upscale, stuffy dining experience. One would almost call it “pub-like.,” which I prefer.

When we were leaving, I spotted the cookbook for sale at the bar, and bought it on a whim.

Had I made time to actually look through the book, I might not have purchased it. Now that I’m home and perusing it, the recipes take me back to the many times I looked at my Charlie Trotter cookbook, called Meat and Game. I’ve not yet made anything from it, and never will. Everything is way too complicated!

The chef at Saffron, Pete Caron, and the author of this, his second cookbook, takes his food seriously. He’s a forager by nature, and chooses the farm-to-table approach, which makes sense with all that New Zealand has to offer.

But I had no idea how crazy involved his recipes would be in this cookbook. Like this:

Green Tea Creme Brûlée with Spirulina and Seaweed Biscotti and Crisp-Fried Lichen

Many of the proteins I have no access to as well, like Boer goat, mutton bird, red deer, butterfish, and Bendigo rabbit.

The book just isn’t for a home cook like myself. I don’t want to make Vichyssoise Spheres, or Cabbage Pearl Caviar, or Chamomile Foam, or Passionfruit Tissue with Mint Dust. Okay, you get the idea.

But I’m keeping the book, because looking through it reminds me of our lovely experience visiting New Zealand – especially the South Island. Otago is highlighted in the map below.

Most of the pages are gorgeous photographs from Otago, taken by photographer Aaron McLean.

If you want this book, I know it’s available on Amazon’s AU site.

L’Escargot

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There is a restaurant in the Soho district of London called L’Escargot that is owned by the famous/infamous Marco Pierre White. My daughters and I have dined there three times, and each time has been a perfect experience.

The food is exceptional, and not too over-the-top. The service is perfect. The ambiance is lovely. And we’ve always relied on the in-house sommelier, who has always been successful with wine choices, as well.

The reason I wanted to write a post on the restaurant has a lot to do with Marco Pierre White. He’s a hulking monster of a man, with a kind of bad-boy sexiness that really intrigues me. It’s also what’s gotten him into trouble on many occasions, according to his autobiography*.

In one post earlier this year, I wrote about my food experiences in the U.K., and how things have obviously changed from the days when the U.K. culinary world had a terrible reputation primarily based on its bland food. I’ve been lucky enough to spend weeks in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, as well as in England, and have been thrilled with the obvious “improvements.”

In this post I wrote that Marco Pierre White played an integral role in changing the course of all things culinary. I’ve read his book, but many others as well that focus on that period of time in culinary history, and it’s pretty obvious that he was one of the first of few to shake things up in restaurant kitchens.

Recently I was watching Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations, and on this show he actually met up with Marco Pierre White. They went hunting together and it was a very interesting show. They make quite a bad-boy pair, although ever since Mr. Bourdain had a baby he’s mellowed. He even quit smoking. Mr. White still smokes.

But in the show’s introduction, Anthony Bourdain said that Marco Pierre White had single handedly changed the course of England’s culinary journey. Single handedly!!! I had only said that he played an integral role! So take that Mr. Obnoxious male commenters!!!

Another really interesting tidbit, for those of you who don’t know, when Mr. White retired some years ago, he withdrew all of his Michelin stars. He felt he didn’t deserve them when he wouldn’t actually be at his restaurants. I feel that is very humble and noble.

He still owns quite a few restaurant other than L’Escargot, but I wanted to mention my experiences there because of the perfection involved. Here is my daughter’s starter of sardines one night.
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If you have ever watched the show “Hell’s Kitchen,” then you’re aware that Gordon Ramsay is a stickler for the highest level of quality. The competing chefs are supposed to have perfection as their goal. Risotto must be cooked properly. Fish must be cooked properly. No piece of rotten lettuce on the plate. Medium rare is medium rare – nothing other.

And having unfortunately dined in establishments over many years where perfection is never aspired to, I take having a great meal in a great restaurant very seriously. That means you’re never bothered by the staff. Every one is polite. You can ask questions and you get answers. And the food is perfect. And this is why we continue to return to L’Escargot.

I can’t remember for the life of me what this is, but I know it was good!!

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Here is a photo when I went with my younger daughter on our apartment-finding trip to London in 2010.
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Here I am with my two daughters a few years ago when we went in December. I didn’t have bangs yet, but that’s me.

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I absolutely adore going to a perfect restaurant. It’s what they all should be. Thank you.

* Marco Pierre White’s autobiography, The Devil in the Kitchen is a fabulous read. It’s on my kindle, but here’s the photo of the actual book.

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update: The restaurant, L’Escargot, is now no longer owned by Marco Pierro White.