September 14, 2009


Mmm . . . pie.

Invoking Homer Simpson is probably the wrong thing to do here, but come on! Isn’t it the first thing that comes to mind when you see this?

get one thing straight, though. Seth, a college professor and the creator of this raspberry masterpiece, is the anti-Homer Simpson. He is organized, calm, diplomatic, and reasonable. We're digressing beyond the realm of food and cooking here, but just look at how the guy lays out his utensils before he gets to work.

That sense of
orderliness and composure may come naturally to Seth, but it was enhanced by one of his formative food experiences: eating almost daily at the Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop in New Haven, Connecticut, when he was a student. The man who worked the grill was named Lew. “Lew was an artist of short order cooking,” Seth says. From him, Seth learned “to see the beauty in economy of motion,” he says. “Lew was extremely efficient and unflappable. He produced a lot of lunches under pressure.”

Seth has got the efficient and unflappable thing down pat, which is helpful when it comes to rolling out pie crust and weaving it into lattice. But he doesn’t do much short-order cooking under pressure—unless you count the meals he makes for his three-year-old and nine-month-old. That’s REAL pressure.

As a kid, Seth’s interest in food was typically perfunctory. His curiosity grew, and developed into an obsession, when he spent a summer working in Hong Kong. He didn’t cook much there, but oh, how he ate! Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian—“the food was so good, so varied,” Seth says. The theme stuck. A 20-year-old copy of Ken Hom’s Quick and Easy Chinese Cooking—Seth’s bible in graduate school—remains in play, and the one indispensable gadget in his kitchen is a rice cooker.

Yet in the summer and early fall, Seth is all about PIE. Fruit pies. Blueberry. Peach. And lovely raspberry, which turns out to be something of a political statement for Seth, a subtle eat-local call to arms. Because raspberries are so fragile, he says, they are difficult to produce and ship in large quantities—the opposite of wheat, say, or corn. “They lend themselves least well to commodification,” he says proudly. Such a rabble-rouser, that Seth.

Honestly, though, this pie isn't about politics; it's about love. When Seth made a raspberry pie for a potluck dinner earlier in the summer, his wife, Kate, failed to snag a piece. She was understandably bitter. So this one is for her.

Summer Raspberry Pie with Wine Pastry
(adapted from Great Pies & Tarts by Carole Walter)
2 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
5-6 tbsp. cold white wine
6 cups fresh raspberries
1 tbsp. instant tapioca
3/4 cup sugar or to taste
2-2 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. grated orange zest (Seth used a chopped dried apricot)
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift together dry pastry ingredients in a large bowl. Add shortening and butter, toss to coat with flour, and cut the fats into the flour with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal. Add the wine, one tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork to blend, until the dough holds together when you press it with your fingertips. Don't overmix! Form dough into two disks, cover in plastic wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes.
Roll one disk into a 13-inch circle, place it in a 9-inch pie plate, and trim the edge, leaving a half-inch overhang.

Wash and dry the raspberries. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with tapioca, shaking the bowl to distribute. Let stand 15 minutes.

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and orange zest/dried apricot in a small bowl. Sprinkle two tablespoons of this mixture over the pie crust. Place half the raspberries in the crust, sprinkle with half the sugar mixture, then repeat with the rest of the raspberries and the sugar mixture. Drizzle with lemon juice and dot with butter.

Now we get fancy: roll the remaining dough disk into a 13-inch circle. Cut into 1-or 2-inch strips with a knife or a pastry wheel/pizza cutter. Lay one of the longer strips down the center of the pie. Place a shorter strip on either side, then rotate the pie 90 degrees. Center another longer strip on top of the pie, weaving it over and under the first three strips. Repeat the weaving with two more strips. Add additional shorter strips to the sides if you cut narrower strips, as Seth did.
Or throw a little tantrum, shake your fist at the over-under weaving, and simply lay the strips down in a pretend woven pattern. Fold the bottom-crust edge over the ends of the lattice and crimp gently.

With a cookie sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on the rack below to catch drips, bake the pie for 55 minutes, until crust is golden brown and juices begin to bubble. Important: cover the edges of the crust with foil or a pie crust shield for the first 40 minutes to prevent burning. Remove from oven, cool on a rack, and torture yourself by letting the pie stand for at least three hours before serving.

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