High on Fried Pies at 4000-plus Feet in Marfa
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I suppose you could call it a working vacation, but since I’m in Marfa (staying at the Paisano Hotel, loafing around, going to see Donald Judd’s magical aluminum boxes, hanging out at the bookstore), the vacation part seems to have priority. But, still, after dessert today at the cooking class by chef Lou Lambert (owner of Lambert’s in Austin and Fort Worth), I’ve got to do this post and share his pear and ginger fried pie recipe. You will thank me for the rest of your life. Lambert used to serve these awesome pies at the restaurants, but they went off the menu a long time ago. When I saw he was going to teach them today, I couldn’t believe my luck. (They’ll be in the cookbook that’s he’s just finished, Big Ranch, Big City Cookbook, co-written with Fort worth food writer June Naylor, due out from Ten Speed Press on September 6.) The class was part of a West Texas jaunt organized by the culinary tour group Texas Toast and was held at the indefinable place in Marfa called El Cosmico, which is part event venue, part teaching kitchen, and part lodging site (you stay in Airstream trailers, yurts, and other offbeat accommodations—all fun). Anyway, before I fall into a slobbering food coma (it’s about 5:15 in the afternoon and it must be 80 degrees here in the laundromat/coffeeshop that is one of the few WiFi locations in town), here is Lou’s fried pie recipe. DOUGH 2 cups unsalted butter 1/2 cup sugar 4 eggs 5 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons salt PEAR FILLING 8 medium-sized pears, Comice or other firm, ripe variety, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch dice 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 1/2 cup finely diced crystallized ginger (don’t leave it out—this makes the pies) 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1/4 apple juice (or water) 1 egg 1 tablespoon water Pinch of salt Vegetable oil, for frying Powdered sugar, for dusting In the bowl of your stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down and add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix slowly until just incorporated. Add the second half of the flour mixture and continue mixing until a soft dough has formed. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour. Meanwhile, prepare the fruit. In a large sauté pan, combine the pears, sugar, vanilla, ginger, and butter and cook over medium-high heat until pears have softened, about 4 minutes. Make a slurry by mixing together the cornstarch and apple juice in a small bowl. Add slurry to pears and cook until liquid has thickened and become clear, about 1 minute. Transfer pear mixture to a bowl, cover, and chill for at least 30 minutes. Before assembling the pies, making an egg wash by whisking together the egg, water and salt in a small bowl. Divide dough into fourths. On a lightly floured work surface, roll one section of dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch and cut into 8-inch rounds. Place about 1/2 cup of pear filling in center of each round. Brush edges of dough with egg wash, fold in half, and press tines of a fork along the edges to seal. Refrigerate the assembled pies for 1 hour to chill through. To fry pies, fill a large, deep skillet with the vegetable oil to a depth of 3 inches and heat to 350 degrees (the right temperature is important; don’t just guess). Carefully add a few of the pies and fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving. Makes 16.