Pies crown the feast of the year Just desserts: Dinner Thanksgiving day requires planning before -- and a great pie after.

November 19, 1995|By Marilyn Kluger | Marilyn Kluger,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

When the annual responsibility of "having Thanksgiving" for my immediate family and my nearest relatives first passed on to me, I was 26, and my kitchen measured 9 by 14 feet. There was room for only one cook, and I was on my own.

That first Thanksgiving dinner was three hours late because the turkey took longer to cook than the time indicated on the chart. When the bird was finally tender, the hot rolls (punched down twice), sweet potatoes, corn pudding and pumpkin pie still had to be baked. By the time they were finished, the turkey was cold.

Thirty Thanksgivings later, the number of family members has increased, and sometimes there are 20 places at my table. I still have the same kitchen, with a grand total of 11 feet and 6 1/2 inches of counter space. There is a microwave oven in the utility room, but I still have only one regular oven.

To make everything work smoothly, I begin cooking on Monday. Whatever can be done ahead of time, I do. By Thanksgiving Day, I know I can get dinner on the table.

To help in your own Thanksgiving Day preparations: The mince pie can be baked ahead and frozen, then thawed and warmed in the oven after the turkey is on the table. I love the beautiful red color of the cranberry-apple pie, which is best made that day. The chestnut pie is especially for my daughter-in-law, Susie, who brought chestnuts to Thanksgiving Dinner No. 30.

Cranberry-apple pie

Makes 6 large slices

3 cups fresh cranberries

3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

3 cups peeled and sliced apples (about 5 Golden Delicious or Winesap)

pastry for 9-inch double crust pie (to fit pie plate about 1 1/2 inches deep)

milk and sugar for top of crust

Coarsely chop 2 cups cranberries in food processor. Place in bowl along with tapioca, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Add remaining 1 cup whole cranberries, nuts and apples and combine.

Spoon mixture into unbaked pastry shell. Cover with top round of pastry, into which slit or design has been cut. Seal and crimp pastry edges. Brush top of pastry with small amount of milk. Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon sugar to enhance browning.

Bake at 400 degrees about 35 minutes or until top is browned, filling bubbles and apples are tender. Test for tenderness by inserting knife through slit in top crust. Cool and serve.

Chestnut pie

Makes 6 to 8 servings

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

1 1/2 cups chestnut puree (see note)

2 egg whites, beaten until stiff

freshly grated nutmeg

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell

additional whipped cream for topping

Beat egg yolks well. Add sugar, cream, orange juice, liqueur and chestnut puree. Fold egg whites into chestnut mixture. Spoon mixture into pie shell. Sprinkle with grated nutmeg.

Bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes or until center is set. Serve cold with whipped cream.

Note: Use about 5 cups chestnuts to make 3 cups puree. Cut a cross through shell on flat side of each chestnut. Parboil nuts 10 minutes. Drain. Shell and scrape peelings from chestnuts as soon as you can handle them. Then cook peeled chestnuts in simmering water about 20 minutes longer or until tender. Drain and grind them using food processor or meat grinder.

Fruited mince pie

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 2/3 cups ready-to-use fruit mincemeat or 1 (28-ounce) jar

2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped fresh pears or canned peaches (drained)

1/4 cup light rum

1/2 cup chopped pecans or English walnuts

pastry for 9-inch pie pan, plus pastry for lattice or cut-out shapes for top of pie

milk

sugar

Combine mincemeat, pears, rum and pecans. Spoon into prepared pastry shell. Top with lattice crust or with decorative rounds of pastry cut out of dough with cookie cutters (stars, scalloped-edge circles, or others). Brush top of each round with small amount of milk and sprinkle each with a little sugar to promote browning.

Bake pie at 450 degrees 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 400 degrees and bake 35 to 40 minutes longer or until filling bubbles around edges and crust is lightly browned.

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