Thursday, August 7, 2008

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Rowley’s Lemon Punsch Pie

I live in California where the mixers grow on trees. In some places, the lanes are so lousy with oranges or lemons that they truly are gutter trash. I’m still fascinated by it all.

When I had a sample of Erik Ellestad’s lemon-infused Swedish punsch at Tales of the Cocktail during the panel “Making Your Own Cocktail Ingredients” I realized I wanted to play around with the liqueur. So I tweaked one of his recipes to come up with a one-liter batch and am very pleased with it.

What to call this thing…I like “lemon punsch pie” but then “punch drunk pie” works or “punsch debris pie” or even “enhooched pie” since my take on an old Shaker recipe definitely carries a strong smell of delicious Swedish punsch from the enhooched lemons slices used to flavor it.

Call it what you want, this is a tasty pie—if prepared with the thinnest-sliced lemons. Honest, if your slices are thicker than, say, your knife blade, they’re too thick and will never be tender enough for the pie, no matter how low and slowly you bake it. Use a mandoline or a Benriner if you've got one.

Go on and gild the lily with a fat dollop of whipped cream, flavored with vanilla extract and a knifepoint of salt (which in small enough doses doesn’t taste of salt but enhances the creaminess of the cream. Seriously. Try it.).

Rowley’s Lemon Punsch Pie

Start by using the sliced lemons from a recipe of Swedish punsch (such as Erik's or mine). If you use either recipe, you’ll have too many slices, so discard about one-third of the volume.

  • 9 oz/250g thinly sliced punsch lemons, seeded
  • 2 cups/14.5 oz/420g granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbl Swedish punsch (in addition to whatever clings to the lemons)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • Egg white, beaten (to seal the edges and brush the top)
  • Two 10” pie crusts, uncooked*

In a nonreactive container, mix the sugar, lemon slices, and additional tablespoon of punsch. Let rest overnight until a thick, sludgy syrup forms (not all the sugar will dissolve).

The next day, mix together the lemon slice sludge with the four beaten eggs and salt until the sugar and eggs are combined. The sugar still won’t all dissolve. If you were worried about such things, you wouldn’t be making this pie, so hush.

Preheat your oven to 450°F/230°C.

Lay a pie crust in a 10” pan add the filling. Wet the edges of the crust with the egg white wash. Place the other 10” crust on top, pressing to seal the edges. Trim the excess dough. Lightly brush the egg while across the top and, using a sharp knife, puncture the top crust only with a dozen or so small slits to let steam escape.

Cook the pie for 15 minutes, turn down the heat to 375°F/190°C and cook another 30 minutes or so until the top is golden brown and the custard is lightly set.

Cool on a wire rack and serve with that fat dollop of cream. Go on, you know you want to.

*Usually I make my own pie crusts, but it's been so frackin' hot I wanted to be in the kitchen as little a possible and cheated by using a box of Trader Joe's frozen crusts. Eh. They're ok. You'll notice that I'm no photographer. I'll make it properly when it cools off. Lord knows I'll run out of the punsch soon enough.



erik.ellestad said...

Sounds great! When I make Fish Provencal-ish I'm always chewing on the roasted lemon slices that were under the fish. This pie sounds right up my alley.

Matthew Rowley said...

Ha! I do the same thing to the lemons under my catfish and thyme. Good call.

Anonymous said...

That pie sounds amazing. I dunno, but the mad-scientist booze stuff is normally a cold-weather thing for me. When I get futzy in the summer, it's usually with the grill and the smoker.

A trick I learned from Mrs. Bitters is to slip thin lemon slices under the skin of a chicken before grilling or roasting so it bastes the meat with lemon juice. I love biting into a chicken thigh and eating the lemon slice, rind and all, along with the meat.

I want to make Swedish Punsch this fall, and I'll have to remember the pie for the leftover lemons.

Good work, Mr. Rowley!

Matthew Rowley said...

Mister D ~

Mmmmmm...lemon-bathed roasted chicken. I love the sound of that. Once you get the skin loosened, all kinds of things can go between it and the flesh; a mess of chopped herbs, flavored butters, or even truffles (we do it on the cheap and use the broken truffle shavings that come in a jar; as long as they are French and not the flavorless Chinese truffles, the taste is pretty damn fine).

I'm with you on grilling; except for the pie and some baked catfish-n-tomatoes, I haven't turned on the oven nearly all summer. Lots of tri-tip, sausages, kebabs, and chicken on the grill.

Although, since it never really gets cold here (e.g., upper 50F's in the night in the dead of winter), I'm compelled to futz with drinks year round and rely on the more subtle changes of season by using whatever is ripe that week at the farmers' market. Or, ahem, whatever bottle of whiskey looks tempting...