The MOM 100 Blog
This recipe comes from Bill Smith, long-time chef of Crook’s Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It’s his version of a pie that was commonly served at seafood restaurants on the North Carolina coast when he was growing up.
When I first tasted this pie, all I could say was, “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD.” I went into a pie-induced fugue state of some kind. I have a very patchy memory of finishing the pie, sharing it with my dinner companion, forks gentile-ly nudging each other for the final bites.
The beauty of this pie lies in the play between the salty, dense crust made from saltines, and the creamy sweet-and-tart filling featuring citrus juice. The billows of whipped cream don’t hurt.
For the Crust:
1 ½ sleeves of saltine crackers
8 to 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
For the Filling:
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
½ cup fresh lemon juice or lime juice, or a mix of the two
For the Sweetened Whipped cream:
1 ½ cups heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- For the crust, crush the crackers finely, but not to dust, and place them in a medium bowl. You can use a food processor, but it’s just as easy to use your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press the mixture into an 8 or 9- inch pie pan, as you would for a graham cracker crust. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.
- Remove the crust and while it is cooling slightly, make the Filling. In another medium bowl beat the egg yolks into the milk , then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Immediately pour into the pie shell and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until the filling has set. Let the pie cool on a pie rack, then refrigerate to chill.
- In a large mixing bowl using a whisk or a hand mixer whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar just until slightly firm peaks are formed Pile the whipped cream over the entire filling. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. This will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Old Wives Tales
Bill explained that back in the day, there was a commonly held belief (which his mother still holds to this day) that if you ate sweets after a seafood meal you would get sick. His aunt even went so far as to test this theory by driving to a Dairy Queen after such a meal, and having a milkshake, and nothing actually happened. Bill’s mom still holds staunchly to this belief however. The exception was apparently this citrus pie, which was the only dessert served at many of these coastal seafood joints. It was often served with meringue on top (no doubt using the white from the yolks that are used in the filling), but Bill prefers it with whipped cream, and I am not about to argue. It’s a good story, but it’s an even better pie.