Everyone who knows me knows this: I am a pie fanatic.
Pies, pies, pies
I am a fan of pies of all shapes and sizes, of all textures and intriguing blends of sweetness and tartness. Whenever I encounter a slice of cake, I always think: I wish this saccharine strumpet were instead a delicious slice of pie. When I get married, I want my guests to indulge in Pecan Wedding Pie. When I die, before my body is consumed by some kind of magnificent and self-aggrandizing funeral pyre, I want my friends and family to commiserate over my awesomeness while enjoying forkful after forkful of fine, fine pie.
So you know I was delighted to encounter the new cookbook from Melville House, Pies and Tarts for Dinner and Dessert by Stéphane Reynaud. This straightforward guide is on the simple side of things, beginning with a brief blueprint for creating the perfect piecrust followed by a series of recipes, which are organized by pie type:
- Vegetable and mushrooms
- Poultry and rabbit
- Fish and seafood
Now as an American and born-and-raised vegetarian to me a pie is always a sweet dish reserved for dessert. Here, however, we find recipes for a variety of dinner pies, including the Chanterelle Feuilleté, Pigeon Pastilla, and Rainbow Trout and Horseradish Pie. As one who does not delve into carnivorousness, a lot of these recipes were useless to me. The pictures still looked appetizing (sort of)—there are the golden crusts glazed with egg and the wondrous shots of pies fresh out of the oven, but then there’s the meat and fish and poultry and rabbit and seafood, none of which I’m interested in stuffing down my gullet. So keep in mind this cookbook is a better fit for those of you looking to enjoy a meal of Duck and Foie Gras Pie with a side of Veal Kidney Pie and Rabbit Leek Pie for dessert than it is for us effete vegetarians.
The Only Way to Review a Cookbook
There is only one way to review a cookbook. Unlike novels or poetry collections, the quality of a cookbook can actually be put to the test. We can see what kind of magic is being proffered. We can bake a motherfucking pie.
I’m going to make the Poirat Du Berry, both because its name is fancy and French, and because it has only five ingredients on top of the piecrust.
Now I’m no Saehee Cho—I don’t often indulge in the culinary arts. I don’t own a rolling pin or a dishwasher. I keep it simple and sometimes have cold cereal for dinner. I’m telling you this so you understand why, instead of preparing the pâte sablée as I’m supposed to, I’m using a premade Pillsbury Pie Crust. It’s so uncivilized I know, so uncouth, so boorish and American, but I’m being practical. And anyway, this premade piecrust will probably taste better than whatever I could mangle together.
I’m also using Anjou Pears instead of Williams Pears because a pear is a pear is a pear, as the poets say. The only other significant difference between what Reynaud commands and what I’m actually doing is that I’m using normal old store-brand sugar instead of “caster (superfine) sugar,” since I could not find the latter at Stop&Shop. I hope this doesn’t cause any mishaps with my pie, though it’s nothing to fret over. We all know it’s impossible to truly mess up with sugar.
For those of you trying this at home, don’t forget the most important ingredient in any recipe: something to drink while you’re preparing it. I’m sipping on this nip of Hennessy—30 mL of which are for the filling and 20 mL of which are for my mouth. I’m also enjoying a Narragansett Lovecraft Honey Ale. Cheers, Cthulhu!
Into the oven you go.
Pies vs. Poetry
If only it were so easy to review a poetry collection just like this—if only we could purchase a smattering of ingredients, mix them together, and then wait while the oven did it’s thing. If only we could judge a poem by how it tasted. And I don’t mean that in some sort of bullshit metaphorical way.
Sure, Billy Collins might say, “I think a love of language and a sense of gratitude would be two ingredients in the recipe for making a poet.” But you know what’s a better recipe than the one for making a poet? Any recipe for any pie.
Because while a pie is a poem, a poem is most certainly not a pie. And who would want to eat a poet? They’re a smelly lot, by and large, that no amount of sugar or cognac can improve the flavor of. Give me a pie any day, instead of smelly poets with their poetry.
Now let’s see how our Poirat Du Berry is doing.
When my roommate Stephen first saw this pear pie, he said, “You need one of those pie things, bro.” By which he meant a pie tin. Of course foolish philistine that he is, Stephen thinks a pie must be made in such a pan, when in fact a pie is not a specific genre of raised, circular baked good. A pie is a dream. A pie is an ideal for what humanity could accomplish if we were not wrecked with agony and worry. A pie is always synonymous with deliciousness.
So yeah. Not quite like what Reynaud shows, but not bad for my first attempt. I used a bit too much sugar, so my filling bubbled out and made a carmelized mess across the parchment paper. Still, if you were sitting here with me, surely you’d say this was a scrumptious treat. I imagine you’d ask for seconds. Let us indulge ourselves for once and for always.