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November 24th, 2009:

Recipes for a New Majority: Pies, Potluck and Politics

Kentucky pie

KentuckyPieSlicedIt’s been 14 years since Recipes for a New Majority: Cooking From All Your Favorite Democrats was published, so I can’t remember for certain, but I think I helped proofread it. Recipes for a New Majority is a compilation assembled by the Democratic Party of Oregon, and Scott and I were friends with one of the co-editors. In fact, Scott’s illustrations are featured CookbookGraphic1prominently in the book.

I believe Recipes for a New Majority was done as a fundraiser, but I don’t remember whether it was sold or given away as part of a bigger project. It does feature a lot of recipes from leading Democratic figures, from all over the country; some are still prominent, such as Ron Wyden, then Congressman, now Senator (Democratic Chicken Chili), and Hillary Clinton, then First Lady, subsequently Senator, now PieCrustSecretary of State (Chocolate Chip Cookies). A few contributors have several entries, most notably then-Sen. Paul Simon. He must have had more free time than you’d expect. The recipes are varied; New England corn chowder, barbecued baby beef ribs, Cajun deep fried turkey, vegetarian lasagna. I briefly toyed with the idea of making “Mike’s Nutritious Snack,” a contribution from former Congressman Mike CookbookGraphic4Kopetski, which makes up in simplicity what it lacks in elegance.

Put Rice Krispies in a bowl, like you would if you were going to have a bowl of cereal. Arrange half spoonfuls of peanut butter (gourmets call it “dollops”) FillingIngredsover cereal. 8-10 dollops should do. Pour a cereal size portion of milk over all. Eat and enjoy.

Instead, I chose to make Kentucky pie, a contribution from Sen. Wendell H. Ford. I had no particular attachment to Sen. Ford, but I thought that the recipe sounded like it would produce something similar to FilledPieCrustDerby Pie, which is a Kentucky specialty; I’ve enjoyed it on both of my trips to Louisville. Of course Derby Pie is trademarked and carefully guarded, but it’s not surprising that there are lots of variations out there, and I thought the combination of pecans and chocolate in a dense filling would be well-received by my co-workers at today’s potluck and cooking contest.

BakedPieThe pie itself is easy to prepare. I started by making a pie crust — two, actually, so I could have one for the potluck and one for Thanskgiving — using a recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (but I’ve used that recipe before, so it doesn’t enable me to knock off that book too). For the filling I chopped pecans, melted butter, beat eggs, blended flour and sugar, and then mixed it TheSpreadall together with chocolate chunks and vanilla extract. I turned the mixture into the pie shells and baked them at 325 for a bit over an hour. Once the pies had cooled I put them in the freezer. One is to keep until Thursday; I wanted the other to be good and cold this morning, because I was also bringing an ice-cream pumpkin pie to the office and wanted to make sure it was well insulated against melting. And it worked: Tupperware salad bowl, Kentucky pie underneath, bag of ice cubes on top, and by the end of a half-hour commute the ice-cream and pumpkin concoction had barely begun to soften. I set the Kentucky pie to thaw so it would be easy to serve when the potluck began at 4.

MostlyDessertsThe potluck was a tremendous display of talent and skill. The spread included dips, muffins, mac and cheese, and loads of dessert. The offerings ranged from simple — peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut into triangles — to elaborate — flourless chocolate cake umolded and dusted with sugar just before showtime. And the drinks! We all learned about the cocktail called PouringDrinkthe bee’s knees, which blends gin and honey syrup and bitters and lemon and did I mention gin? There was definitely gin in there. The elaborate mixology was in fact the bee’s knees. A bit of gin later, I agreed to be one of the judges for the appetizers and sides category, and happily sampled more food. This tasting duty also had the advantage of helping offset the gin, which was MacNCheeseimportant since I still had work to do before leaving for the day.

After we’d all made some dents in the non-sweets categories, I got things started by cutting a wedge of the pumpkin ice-cream pie, then one of the Kentucky pie. This encouraged others, and soon people were digging in. The TiropitaKentucky pie went over well; people liked the chocolate and the nuts, the dense filing, and the contrast of the sweet interior with the plain pie crust. I think they also appreciated the fact that it wasn’t as drippy as the gradually melting ice cream pie, though they seemed to be enjoying that one too.

The potluck rolled on, the PBJco-workers wandered in and out of the room nibbling more food, and at some point we remembered that we never got around to finishing the judging. Category judges were instructed to confer and get the results in tomorrow. So stay tuned; I’ll let you know if the Kentucky pie came away with the ribbon.

Verdict: Success, even without the votes in. Really, I think we’re all winners today.

(FYI, there are lots more pictures from the cooking and the potluck on my Flickr page. And you can find pictures from all the blog recipes tried so far in the 107 Cookbooks set on Flickr.)