from Chicago, Angel, who has lived in Sweden, posted:
It is no surprise you were born on the light-bringer’s day. Happiest of Birthdays. I love you. Mille Besos.
even if you lie about your age—in this case, I publicly turned 95—the experience of birthdays via facebook is an almost overwhelming thing. A dinner party, however, is less so. On the eve of my personal new year, which is also the feast of Saint Lucy, the saint of light (a coincidence my Sicilian Catholic great grandmother rapturously believed blessed), this radical muffin put out big time.
the preacher eater made the grand finale possible. His cousin, the cook from Sun in Bloom, might argue that the Rosemary Remembrance cake was the grandest thing on the buffet, selling it to everyone sidling up to the table and slipping the end bit in foil to go. Her aunt perhaps the white lasagna, with hand pulled noodles and slimly sliced marinated artichokes. Many were enthralled with the “prehistoric, fractal, underwater, alien” romanesca served whole like pine forested mini-mountains. For me, it was, as it always is, the pie.
this particular pie being Ohio Pie or Shaker Pie, a thing from the heartland, my homeland, humble and weird, sweet and tart. Made with whole lemons, sliced paper-thin. The recipe called from old church cookbooks and Joy, irresistible. So I raved and hinted and promised a winter of root veggies au gratin all the while with pie in mind thus the benevolent preacher eater gifted me a mandolin.
oh! this simple machine! I cannot oversell its virtues: swift and easy precision cutting; easy to clean; mad fine julienne potential; small, i.e. easy to store in teeny urban kitchens. The grace of fine design. If you’re most beloved kitchen witch doesn’t have one, find one for their tool box. ‘Tis the season.
offered presents early enough for cooking (the other being a seltzer maker; big party hit), I merrily slid three Meyer lemons down my new plane, shedding translucent sunny circles, pith and all. If you also have a fabulous mandolin then slice them right into a big glass bowl. Poke out the seed bits. Dump a cup of sugar and a bit of salt over the lemons, and let the whole mess sit. Hours. Overnight. In this case, as long as it took to make everything else with wonderful kitchen help from the preacher eater plus our charming guests from Takoma Park.
make pastry for a covered pie. Roll it out for your pan accordingly. Pat the bottom into place in your pan; cover its surface directly with something, like parchment paper. Roll out the top and likewise wrap it. Stash both in the freezer.
bring out four eggs to come to room temperature. Set ½ stick of butter, four tablespoons, in an ovenproof bowl to melt in your oven as it heats to 425˚. When mostly melted, pull it out, stir and let cool a bit.
whisk together the eggs. In a fine stream, pour in the butter, and sprinkle in three tablespoons of flour (a small fistful). Stir the macerated lemons into the egginess, pull out your pie pan, and pour it all in. Smooth out the lemons in the custard, and top.
to ventilate, cut out shapes into the crust with cookie cutters. We used a peace dove for this, with sweeping slices at its wings.
bake for half an hour. Lower to 350˚, and bake for another 20 minutes or so, until the crust is puffed and browned. Bring out to cool on a rack before serving. The custard has to set up, and if you cut into it right away, you’ll have lemon lava mess.
hopefully, the others ate their fill, because, admittedly, I ate the lion’s share the next day, Saint Lucia’s day, heaped in a bowl and drizzled with heavy cream. Eaten in bed under thick covers against the first snow and its accompanying shattering cold. Although not brought by girls with candles in their hair and no charming men sang the Star Boy song, Brooklyn being far from Stockholm, it felt as domestically magical.