Not Your Mother’s Thanksgiving Pies

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Here are a couple of great pie recipes courtesy of Arthur Schwartz (aka The Food Maven), that are easy to make for your Thanksgiving table, or to bring to a Thanksgiving table that are sure to impress everyone with your baking prowess.  The first is Harvest Fruit pie, but the crust of this one is filo pastry. And you’ll really kick that same old pumpkin pie up a notch with this recipe that includes cognac!

Not Your Mother’s Thanksgiving Pies, the three tomatoes

Harvest Pie

I’ve been getting requests for the following recipe: Harvest Fruit Pie. I think I created it myself. Iris, my assistant, says I did, but I can’t honestly remember. I have no notes on it. I have only vague memories of it. I’m just happy I have the recipe in my computer. That being the case, I know I must have baked it at least once, and that I liked it well enough to pass it along to Food Talk listeners.

It’s made with filo (instead of pie pastry), the thin sheets of pastry traditionally used in the Middle Eastern kitchen, and these days by stylish pastry chefs. Try to buy fresh filo, rather than frozen. Among other things, it’s easier to work with. I hope you can still find the fresh prune plums needed for it. I saw some last week, so I suppose they’re still around this week. If you can’t find the plums, please save the recipe for next year. (Well, god willing, it’ll still be on The Food Maven web-site next year – in the Diary Archive.)

Harvest Fruit Pie
Serves 6

For the pastry:
12 13-inch filo sheets
4 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:
12 prune plums, pitted and cut into eighths
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pear, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup currants
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons flour

With a pastry brush, lightly brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch Pyrex pie plate with melted butter.

Line the pie plate with a sheet of filo, fitting it in place on the bottom and sides of the plate, and letting the corners hang over the sides. Lightly brush the bottom and sides with melted butter. Place another sheet of filo on top, again letting the corners hang over the sides. Do not worry if it isn’t smooth. Lightly brush the bottom and sides with melted butter. Continue layering the remaining sheets of filo, brushing each layer with melted butter. Cover with a lightly damp dish towel while preparing the filling.

In a mixing bowl combine all the filling ingredients and toss to mix well. Pour into the pie plate fitted with filo pastry.

Turn over the hanging points of pastry on top of the filling, brushing each corner with butter before turning the next one over it. There should be some exposed fruit in the center of the pie.

Bake in a pre-heated 375-degree oven until the top pastry is nicely browned, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and cover it with aluminum foil. Return it to the oven for another half hour. Let it cool at least slightly before serving.

Pumpkin Custard Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie

Pastry for a 9-inch pie shell

For filling:
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup mashed pumpkin, canned is perfect
2 slightly rounded tablespoons finely cut preserved or candied ginger
1/4 cup cognac (use at least V.S.O.P.-level, real French cognac or substitute armagnac or dark Haitian rum, or bourbon)

To prebake the pie shell: Prick the bottom of the pastry in 8 to 10 places with the tines of a table fork. Line the shell with foil and fill with dried beans. (Warning: Do not press the beans into the shell or the foil will stick.)

Using a baking sheet to slide it onto the middle rack of the oven, bake the bean-filled shell in a preheated 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Using the baking sheet again as a pallet, remove the shell from the oven and remove the foil liner and all the beans. Return the shell to the oven for 2 minutes longer. It’s all right to let it cool if you intend to fill it later.

To prepare filling: In a medium or large mixing bowl, using a whisk, beat the eggs lightly to mix well, then gently beat in all the remaining ingredients in the order given.

To bake: Place the pastry shell on the baking sheet and fill the shell with all but 1/4 cup or so of the filling.

Place the filled shell, still on the sheet, in a 375-degree oven, then spoon the last of the filling into the shell, while it is in the oven, on the pulled-out middle rack. (If the oven was previously preheated to 425, it’s perfect. Otherwise preheat to 425 because working in front of the open oven door will reduce the heat, then set it at 375.)

Bake about 30 minutes, or until a knife point inserted in the center of the pie is clean when removed. The pumpkin custard will still jiggle.

The pie can be served warm but I prefer to serve it at room temperature. Since the center often cracks as it cools, you can use that as an excuse to pipe-on rosettes of whipped cream. If a slightly cracked pie really bothers you — makes you feel that you did something wrong — you could also cut the pie in the kitchen and serve wedges with a big dollop of whipped cream.

Custard Variation: The filling can be baked without crust in an 8-inch terracotta casserole — the kind from Spain you see in catalogues. It takes five minutes longer.




  • Arthur Schwartz

    About Arthur: The New York Times Magazine called Arthur Schwartz “a walking Google of food and restaurant knowledge.” As the restaurant critic and executive food editor of the New York Daily News, which he was for 18 years, he was called The Schwartz Who Ate New York. Nowadays, he is best known as The Food Maven, the name of his website. Whatever the sobriquet, he is acknowledged as one of the country’s foremost experts on food, cooking, culinary history, restaurants, and restaurant history. Visit Arthur At:

1 Response

  1. Ellen Easton says:

    The pumpkin custard with the added Cognac is an interesting variation of my recipe . I look forward to trying Arthur’s. Reads delicious.

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