What is the Right Combination of Pies? My Annual Thanksgiving Pie Crisis
It happens every year. I get paralyzed by Thanksgiving pie indecision. I find it very difficult to figure out the right combination of pies to serve at our Thanksgiving meal. How do Serious Eaters everywhere solve this problem? Remember I don't bake, and neither does any member of my wife's family. But as you might have noticed, I have more than a passing interest in finding excellent pie, either in New York or via mail-order.
There are 16 people coming over to our house, and nary a baker in the bunch. I don't hold their lack of baking prowess or interest against them. How could I, given that I don't bake pies myself. They're all caring, considerate, generously spirited people, so they're willing to order, buy, and pick up pies anywhere I ask them to go. But they do want to get their marching orders from me, and that's where my pie quandary comes in. It's early Monday morning as I write this, about 77 hours before the big meal, or perhaps I should call it the big (pie) game.
This is where I'm at, pie-wise:
My wife's Aunt Muriel and Uncle Arthur are picking up a pumpkin pie from one of my favorite New York pie bakers, Yura. Yura's such a good pie-baker she goes by one name (she's the pie-quivalent of Beyonce). You all know by now my position on pumpkin pie. But my wife loves pumpkin pie, and I love her dearly, so I have done a fair amount of pumpkin pie research, and Yura's custardy, spicy pumpkin pie is our pumpkin pie of choice.
Yura also sells something every Thanksgiving that's so ingenius she should be given the first MacArthur Genius award given to a pie-baker. She sells a ready-to-bake apple pie, so you get that incredible apple pie perfume wafting through your house without getting frustrated because your pie crust is turning out stiff, not flaky. So that's pie number two. My wife's cousin Pamela has been assigned the task of picking that pie up.
Our son is home for Thanksgiving, and he is quite partial to pecan pie. I have honed in on Trois Pommes Patisserie in Brooklyn for my pecan pie, but Trois Pomme's Emily Isaac has deepened my pie quandary by offering a straight pecan pie and a chocolate pecan pie. Two Little Red Hen's Christina Winkler, another terrific New York pie baker, also offers the same choice, by the way. I think I'm going to go with the Chocolate Pecan variety, because I feel we should be serving something with chocolate in it.
I also feel like one streusel-topped or crumb pie is in order because not everyone loves double-crusted fruit pies as much as I do. I was thinking of ordering one of the excellent crumb pies from the very fine mail-order pie company, Traverse City, Michigan's Grand Traverse Pie Company. They make a peach-cherry crumb pie that's crazy good.
Isn't a custard or cream pie in order for the Thanksgiving dessert parade? I think so. Either a coconut custard or a banana cream pie would be a lovely addition to my pie groaning board.
Finally, I think I feel the need for a pie with some tartness or astringency. A Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie or maybe an Apple-Cranberry Pie would do the trick. I think I'll go with the Key Lime, because serving a cranberry-apple pie might be cranberry overkill given the cranberry relish we'll be serving with the turkey. Steve's also ships all over the country.
There, I feel better now. I have worked out my pie quandary. Six pies for sixteen people:
Ready-to-bake Apple Pie
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Cherry-Peach Crumb Pie
Coconut Custard Pie
Key Lime Pie
It's going to be a lovely Thanksgiving.