Monthly Archives: November 2015


You may be tired of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. That’s what Chef Giuseppe Brucia said many years ago. I have written about him before. He is an Italian trained in Switzerland, and was chef of Ristorante Firenze and the Cambridge Club in Shreveport, Louisiana. I attended one of his cooking classes nearly 40 years ago, and there he showed us how to make his substitute for pumpkin pie.

His English was not very good, and the recipe had been transcribed in a sort of shorthand by a volunteer who knew nothing about cooking. On top of that, measurements were either in restaurant terms or approximate, and some of the ingredients were restaurant grade not readily available to the home cook. Nonetheless, I tried to adapt the recipe so that it could be included in the family cookbook. Even with all of those disclaimers, I think you’ll enjoy making the pie – and eating it. Another warning, it is a bit complicated to make, especially the crust. You can save a lot of time and effort by simply using a ready-made pie crust. I’ve used a cake pan with removable bottom to give straight sides and to let the finished pie stand on its own, but without a fluted edge, the crust will shrink. A regular pie pan will work just fine.


Chef Brucia’s Sweet Pie Crust


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 11 ounces (22 tablespoons)  unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon milk


  1. Sift flour directly onto work surface. Make a hollow in the center
  2. Place the butter, salt, sugar, and egg in the hollow. Gently mix together with your fingers, being careful not to mix in the flour. Add 2 ounces of cream and incorporate into the mixture.
  3. With your fingers, gradually draw the flour into the mixture, continuing until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough holds its shape. Add additional cream as needed until the dough is smooth and soft.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. Roll the dough to fit a 9-inch tart or cake pan. Arrange the dough so that it fits snugly without stretching. Run a rolling pin across the edge of the pan to trip the dough. The dough may shrink if you have stretched it while lining the pan.
  5. Bake blind in a 350° F oven for 12 minutes, weighting down the shell with aluminum foil filled with beans or pie weights. Remove from the oven, and remove the pie weights. Paint with a glaze made by mixing the egg yolk and milk together. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes to brown. Remove from the oven and cool.


Chef Brucia’s Yam Pie


  • 1 large yam
  • ½ cup water
  • 10 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 fresh oranges (should yield about ½ cup of stained juice)
  • 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 package (0.25 ounces) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk


  1. Peel and dice the yam into 1 inch cubes. In a saucepan, combine the diced yam with the water and 5 tablespoons of sugar. Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, until the yam is soft. Drain the yam, reserving the cooking liquid. Puree the yam in a potato ricer, food mill, or food processor.
  2. Using a microplane, zest the oranges, setting the zest aside. Juice the two oranges, strain the juice, and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the cooking liquid, orange juice, and butter. Bring to the boil, and heat until the butter is melted.
  4. Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over ¼ cup cold water and let bloom for 5 minutes. Heat gently for 15 seconds in a microwave until the gelatin is dissolved.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar. Add the dissolved gelatin and whisk together.
  6. Combine the orange and egg mixtures and heat gently while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. (About 155°F. Do not heat too fast or too high or you will wind up scrambling the eggs. If you wish, use a double boiler over not in boiling water.) Remove from the heat and stir in the yam puree and reserved orange zest until well incorporated.
  7. Pour the completed filling into the prepared pie shell. You may have some extra filling depending on how high the edge of the crust is. Don’t overfill. Refrigerate for at least one hour or until set.
  8. Cut into 6 to 8 wedges and serve by itself or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants


When Mom Mom and Pop Pop lived on their East Texas farm, Thanksgiving was a holiday that the whole family anticipated. Mom Mom would spend weeks planning the menu and then days setting a festive table. All of the children and their respective families would arrive as early in the week as they could to help with wood chopping, cooking, and schmoozing. The giant turkey was the centerpiece of the celebration, but what everyone was really looking forward to was dessert with pumpkin and pecan pie – enough that everyone could have a slice of both, along with whipped cream, of course.

The pecan pies were a joint effort. Pop Pop would sit on the front porch for days cracking pecans with his trusty impact nut cracker, and Mom Mom would use the freshly-shelled nuts for her famous pecan pie. Her version was well known among the ladies in town, and she did several versions from one-bite tassies to lindividual pies to the real thing. She had a secret that she never passed on to the town ladies, who always made their pies with Karo syrup. Mom Mom used only brown sugar and never passed on the secret to anyone except her daughters.

Of course, there must be hundreds of recipes for pecan pie, and there will be plenty more in newspapers and magazines as Thanksgiving gets closer. This recipe, though, is special. It comes from Jessica Maher and was published in the November, 2015 issue of Texas Monthly.

Jessica and Sarah have been close friends since college days. They rowed together in the women’s eights at the University of Texas at Austin. But unbeknownst to one another, their lives followed amazingly similar paths. After college, both were casting about for careers (Sarah decided it was hard to make a living with a major in Spanish and a minor in Italian.) They both wound up going to culinary school in New York, and then their paths crossed again. They both worked for a time at Bouley in Lower Manhattan. Subsequently they both moved on to other New York restaurants, but they kept in close touch. Then they both married chefs, moved away from New York, opened up restaurants while having two kids each, and wondering what to do with their spare time. To this day, though, they stay in touch, often calling one another at least every week.

Jessica and Todd have a very successful restaurant in Austin, Texas, named Lenoir. For a number of years they have been prominent in the Austin restaurant scene, and their place has gotten excellent reviews in Texas Monthly, a publication no good Texan does without. (They call themselves the “National Magazine of Texas.”) This recipe, complete with a gorgeous image, comes from the November issue.


Jessica Maher’s Perfect Pecan Pie


  • pie crust for 9 inch pie, unbaked
  • 2 cups pecans (45 halves reserved for top)
  • 1 cup dark-brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup Lyle’s golden syrup*
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • big pinch salt

*Note: Lyle’s golden syrup may be a bit hard to find in the US. It is one of the most popular brands of an English product made during the production of cane sugar. Dark treacle is a thick syrup that has some of the characteristics of molasses. When it is filtered and decolorized it becomes light treacle, also known as golden syrup. Unfortunately there are no good substitutes. Light Karo has added vanilla. Dark Karo may have too much flavor. Maple syrup is not as thick. Some suggest mixtures of honey and Karo or straight agave syrup. The short answer is there is no substitute. Supposedly Lyle’s is carried at Whole Foods and World Market, but if all else fails, you can order it online.


  1. Use your favorite pie dough recipe or a prepared, unbaked crust
  2. Spread the pecans in a rimmed baking pan and toast in the middle of an oven preheated to 250° F for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the oils begin to release and the pecans become fragrant. Watch carefully to avoid scorching. Remove from the oven, cool, set aside 45 halves for the top and chop the remaining pecans coarsely.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, syrup, bourbon, and butter. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
  4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, and salt together. Then whisk into the sugar mixture.
  5. Spread the chopped pecans over the bottom of the pie crust fitted to a 9 inch pie pan. Then pour in the batter. Arrange the pecan halves on top of the pie in concentric circles, starting from the middle.
  6. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 350° F for 45 to 50 minutes or until the filling is just set and the crust is golden brown.
  7. Rest for at least one hour on a cooling rack or overnight. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants


Here is another simple, delicious recipe from the cookbook, Genius Recipes (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, Kristen Miglore, editor.)

The recipe comes from José Pizarro, a Spanish restaurateur who owns and cooks in two London restaurants: José, a tapas bar, and Pizarro, a full restaurant. The focus of the dish is fingerling potatoes boiled in heavily salted water until the water is boiled off, and the salt coats the potatoes. Pizarro accompanies the potatoes with cilantro mojo as a dipping sauce, but you can just as easily substitute horseradish aioli or your own favorite dipping sauce. Or, you can do as I did and just serve the potatoes as a side dish with grilled meat and a green vegetable. I chose boneless pork ribs and broccoli with pine nuts and brown butter.

At first, the salt-coated potatoes look a bit daunting, but don’t worry. There is just enough salt to flavor the potatoes, and the creamy insides are a perfect complement. In my version, the extra brown butter from the broccoli was perfect with the potatoes. But with a dipping sauce, tiny fingerlings could even serve as an hors d’oeuvre.


Salt-Crusted Potatoes


  • fingerling potatoes, enough to make a single layer in a shallow pan
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • enough water to just cover the potatoes


  1. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer in a wide, shallow pan. Add the sea salt, and just cover with water.
  2. Over high heat, bring the potatoes to the boil. Continue to boil, uncovered,  adjusting the heat as necessary, until the water has completely boiled off.
  3. Be careful not to burn the potatoes. Remove from the heat and serve while still warm, or cool and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants