HALVERSON’S HUMBLE PIE

This pie is perfect if you want to do the cooking in advance of Thanksgiving Day and impress everyone with a decadent and beautiful dessert.

Graham cracker crust (or other favorite cookie crust)

For rum-spiked pastry cream:

¾ cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

5 egg yolks

1½ cups milk

1 tablespoon good quality rum

1 tablespoon diced butter

½ cup cold heavy cream

For Mexican chocolate bottom layer:

½ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter, diced

¾ cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Whipped cream

Grated chocolate

Bake your favorite cookie crumb pie crust (I like to use cinnamon graham crackers for this). Let the crust cool.

For the pastry cream: Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in a bowl. Whisk in the milk and egg yolks. Cook the mixture in a sauce pan over medium heat and whisk constantly until it starts to thicken and boil – about 5 to 6 minutes. When the pastry cream is thick, take it off the heat and whisk in the rum and butter. Pour pastry cream into a shallow pan and place a layer of plastic wrap over the pastry cream (if the cream is not smooth, you can strain it into the shallow pan). Place the covered pastry cream into the refrigerator until chilled – about one hour.

While the pastry cream is chilling, make your Mexican chocolate layer. Combine cream and butter in a sauce pan and stir constantly over medium heat until butter melts. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips, making sure that the warm cream and butter cover the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until chocolate is melted. Whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne pepper until smooth. Pour into the cooled pie shell and refrigerate until cool – about 40 minutes.

When the pastry cream is cool, beat 1/2 cup cold heavy cream until stiff. Fold into the pastry cream until even. Smooth the now fluffy pastry cream on top of the chocolate layer already in the pie shell. Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (until firm).

Before serving, top with homemade or store-bought whipped cream and garnish with chocolate shavings or cookie crumbs.

Hint: You can do any of these steps one to two days before Thanksgiving. That means that on Thanksgiving morning, you can assemble the layers and put back in the refrigerator until it’s time for dessert – it saves you prep during the busy cooking day of Thanksgiving and is sure to impress all of your guests.

THE PORTLANDER HAND PIES

Serves 6

These hand pies are perfect if you are looking to make something special for that vegetarian attending your Thanksgiving dinner this year. Your meat-eating guests will wish that they requested their own.

3 pie crusts (use your favorite pie crust – I use a half whole wheat crust)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 yellow onions

6 portobello mushrooms

1 sprig rosemary

½ cup dried cranberries

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

6 ounces local goat cheese

3 beaten eggs

Make your caramelized onions: Thinly slice onions. Add butter to a pan and cook until melted over medium heat. Add onions and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Stir the onions every 5 to 10 minutes, or if they look like they are starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add a small amount of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan about 15 minutes into the cooking. (Note: Make sure that you do not over-stir the onions – it’s important that they have a chance to slightly brown – it brings out a wonderful sweet onion flavor that you can’t get if they aren’t given the time to fully caramelize.) Let cool to room temperature.

Cook mushrooms: Chop mushrooms into ½-inch pieces. Finely chop rosemary. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat until hot – about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and rosemary to oil and cook until soft – about 5 minutes. Add dried cranberries to mushroom mixture and cook for another 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, set aside and cool to room temperature.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Make pastry rounds: Cut pie crusts into six 7-inch circles. (You can cut a 7-inch round cardboard piece and cut the rounds by tracing the cardboard piece with a knife or use a small bowl or Tupperware to mark 7-inch circles.)

Stuff the pies: Place prepared mushrooms in one half of the pastry round, making sure not to overstuff as it will make it hard to close and seal. Place the caramelized onions and 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the mushroom mixture.

Fold the pies: Brush the outside edge of the pies with the beaten eggs and fold the top of the round over the filling. Press the pastry together, adding pressure to the egg-washed seam to make sure the pie is sealed. Crimp the edge of the crust to help ensure that the filling does not seep out of the pie. Cut a vent in the top of the pie.

Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil and place the pies on the pan. Brush the top of each pie with the rest of the egg wash. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes and serve.

Hint: If you want to get the preparation out of the way early, you can make these pies up to a week in advance and freeze them before the final egg-wash step. Transfer them directly from the freezer to the sheet pan, brush with the egg wash, and put them directly in the oven. The frozen pies will cook about 15 minutes longer than the non-frozen pies.