Monday, January 25, 2010

Onion pie and resurrection

Because we live under an oak canopy, we're surrounded by graceful curtains of silvery Spanish moss and have a variety of flowers that grow happily: impatiens and begonias, kalanchoe in many colors, wedelia...all those shade-lovers whose colors brighten the shadows where they dwell. And the oak trees are covered with other mosses and lichens and with this amazing stuff. It's called resurrection fern, because it dries up, turns brown and seems to almost disappear from the tree trunks in warm, dry weather. Until it rains. And within hours of moisture in the air, the bright green of the delicate leaves is visible again, and there is the fern, magically alive again, almost as though it had never disappeared. On evenings when the rain has pushed through and left achiningly bright blue skies and cooler air in its wake, you might be lucky enough to sit under trees, kissed with resurrection ferns, and have a glass of good wine and a slice of onion pie.

I'd better tell you how to make the onion pie, in case you don't have a recipe of your own. The one I used comes from my treasured copy of Southern Sideboards and is attributed to Katherine Anne Porter, by Miss Eudora Welty herself. If you don't have a copy of this amazing book, go look for the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi and get yourself one. You'll never regret it. Here, more or less, is how I learned the recipe, but for the exact thing you'll need to consult the book.

Miss Welty gives a recipe for the crust, which sounds delicious, but here is one of my shortcuts, my loves: I don't really make pie crust anymore. It's one of the shortcuts you can take if you can live with it, and if you can't, go get Miss Welty's recipe and make the crust. For myself, I use s storebought crust, which I proof just a bit with dried beans. (If you don't know how to do this, you can ask me.) The filling is 3 or 4 onions - the recipe calls for Spanish onions, but I user any old kind I have as long as they're not too sweet, and they're big enough. You put a lump of butter in your cast iron skillet and put those onions, thinly sliced, into the skillet and cook for a long, LONG time, longer than you think, until they have reduced greatly and are deliciously browned. (You did salt and pepper those, didn't you?) Mix together two nice big eggs, preferably from Ms. Moon's hens, but we do what we have to and whip in about a cup of cream. Add the onions, and perhaps a touch more salt and pepper, according to your own judgement. Don't be tempted to add sugar to caramelize the onions. I promise you they will be as sweet as sugar and if you use any sugar, or onions like Vidalias, the resulting pie will be so sweet you'll hardly be able to eat it. Bake it at 350 or so in whatever pie crust you've decided on, until it's nicely browned and looks like a finished quiche, which it more or less is. Slice and serve with your preferred wine. It's really good with beaujolais nouveau in the years when it's good, but any wine you like will be fine.

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