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Craig Claiborne's Chess Pie



 Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

"Cooking is at once one of the simplest and most gratifying of
the arts, but to cook well, one must love and respect food."

~ Craig Claiborne

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Confession time. I absolutely LOVE chess pie. Beyond all reason. When I look
at chess pie recipes, they  really do not appear all that scrumptious. Perhaps you agree. But do yourself a favor by keeping an open mind here. You just might be
pleasantly surprised.
For some time now, I have intended to write a feature on chess pie, as it appears
to be a matter of great interest to an inordinate number of people such as myself.
And I have more chess pie recipes in my files than I am willing to admit. Which
one is the best? Aye, there’s the rub. Since I could not answer that question to my satisfaction, the Chess Pie Feature took up residence on the very back burner…
I can tell you where I used to buy the best Chess Pie I’ve ever eaten, though, back
in the good ole days. Please note the past tense here. Alas. It is no more. Sort of. Jackson, MS, Jitney Jungle No. 14, on Fortification Street. (Yes, Fortification St., because of the war. THE War. You know. The War Between the States…) Where Eudora Welty used to buy her groceries. Where the genteel Southern ladies of Belhaven shopped and gossiped. The building is still there, and they still sell groceries, but the personality went out of Jitney 14 years ago. Long before
Winn Dixie took over.
But I digress. Jitney 14 used to make THE BEST chess pie. Period. Bar none.
You could ask anybody. A Florida gal I used to work with (in my Delta Air Lines days) was under strict instructions from her mother NOT to fly home for a visit without the Jitney's Chess Pie. Dottie, of course, being brilliant, complied. Every time. And she told us she was very, very careful not to let the flight attendants
know what she was carrying, else there would have been not one morsel left for mom… (Dottie, are you out there???)
Craig Claiborne has yet to let me down, so I have made the Big Decision. Since
I do not have Jitney 14’s recipe, we shall just call this recipe the definitive one.
So far…


Chess Pie

Craig Claiborne's
Southern Cooking

by Craig Claiborne, 1987, Times Books/
2007 Univ. of Georgia Press

“The origin of the name ‘chess pie’ was explained to me on a visit to Kentucky
as follows: A visitor to the South went to a dining establishment. At the time for
dessert, the waitress told him that pie was included. He said he would like apple
pie and she replied that it was not served. ‘Then I’ll take peach,’ he said. No
peach either. ‘What kind of pie do you serve?’ he asked. ‘Jes’ pie,’ she told him.
When in the course of reporting recipes for publication in The New York Times I have mentioned the dessert known as chess pie, the response has always been impressive beyond my wildest imagination. I have been told repeatedly in each
letter that I did not know how to prepare the genuine article. The following
recipe came to me anonymously. It was signed ‘A True Southern Belle.’ "

Pastry for a 9-inch pie
1/4 pound [1 stick] butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons white cornmeal
Salt to taste, if desired
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon rind [zest]
Sweetened whipped cream for garnish, optional
Freshly grated nutmeg for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees [F].
2. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the pastry and flute the rim.
3. Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and
beat until creamy. Beat in the flour, cornmeal and salt. Add
the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition.
Beat in the milk,  lemon juice, and lemon rind [zest].
4. Pour and scrape the mixture into the pastry-lined pie plate and
place on the lowest shelf of the oven. Bake 45 minutes, or until
the filling is golden and firm. Let cool to room temperature.
5. Serve cut into very small wedges with, if desired, a dollop of
sweetened whipped cream on each serving.

A Tribute to Craig Claiborne

Featured Archive Recipes:
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Plain Ole Dixie Chocolate Pie
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