My wife, Bev, and I just got back from a week long road trip through Georgia. We had a wonderful time: the people of Georgia are warm and gracious, the landscape is lovely, and there’s good food – and a rich culinary heritage – wherever you go.
My radar, of course, was trained on the pies and other baked goods along our route. Georgians, it is abundantly clear, love their sweets which – unsurprisingly – often include the state’s premier culinary treasures, peaches and pecans.
The latter show up in more clever ways than you can imagine: in fish breading, on glazed chicken, in salads with blue cheese, and – naturally – in pie fillings and toppings, in and on layer cakes, and bread puddings. Indeed, I feel like I’ve been pecan-ed to death this week. But in a good way.
My immersion in pecan cuisine inspired me to add a couple of Georgia touches to our featured pie this week – coconut cream pie. I’ve scattered pecans on top, for an attractive garnish. And I’ve included finely ground pecans in the graham cracker crust, lending an unmistakeable nuttiness. I love the flavor. And it’s a fitting tribute to a state that doesn’t shy away from down home, traditional American baking.
Making a crumb crust may be simple, but I think it makes a big difference – and shows you care – if you take your time and do it right. By “right” I mean trying to make the entire crust uniformly thick, including the top edge. The best way to do this is to spread the crumbs around as evenly as possible, including up the sides, before you start pressing. Try it and see if you don’t agree.
In case you’re wondering about Joe Licata – the fellow who shares top billing in the title – he’s my brother-in-law. Joe’s a great guy and incredibly talented home builder – not a pie maker, mind you, but an expert on diner food. He says this is the best coconut cream pie he’s ever eaten. How could you not name a pie for a guy who paid you that sort of compliment?
Incidentally, if you can’t get to Georgia but you’re looking for good pecans from the source, we stopped at a place called The Orchards in Wrens, Georgia where they sell pecans by the pound and by the box, not to mention all sorts of delicious pecan confections. Nice place, and friendly people. If you like, you can visit them online at TheOrchardsGourmet.com.