NPR Pie {citrus custard pie}

I think most of you know that I am an NPR junkie. Which is relatively ironic. I remember as a child being in the car on road trips (usually for one of my soccer tournaments) and dreading when 4:00 rolled around and we had to switch the radio from whatever station was likely to play Bobby Brown to the local NPR station. As soon as the “All Things Considered” music would come on, I knew Linda Wertheimer’s drone wasn’t far behind and I receded into my yellow Sony sports walkman to replay my single of “Glamour Boys” by Living Colour over and over again.

Fast forward to the present. I wake up in the morning and after a quick hello to Al Roker, off goes the TV and on comes the radio. And it stays on all day. Through “Morning Edition,” past the classical music that plays from 9:00 to 3:00, onto the BBC News Hour and then lo and behold, it’s 4:00 and I jump up, make sure the volume is loud enough, and I settle in for my afternoon fix. I even whistle the theme song.

This past week, I was on my own work-related road trip and heard one of NPR”s “found recipes” segments on the air. The story described a restaurant in North Carolina that served something called Atlantic Beach Pie. (I know there are some of you who read this blog regularly with ties to Atlantic Beach and I hope you’ll let me know whether or not you’ve heard of this.) The description reminded a bit of key lime pie – a citrus custard inside a quick crust and often served as the only dessert you can eat after having a seafood dinner. Growing up in Florida, this sounded familiar. But the stand out to this recipe was the crust. Rather than a graham cracker crumb crust like you’ll find in a traditional key lime pie, this particular pie has a crust made from saltines. Something I’d never heard nor even thought of before.

I had to try it. Within 48 hours, I was standing up at the kitchen counter enjoying a slice. I’ll let you decide for yourself whether or not this is better than, equal to, or not quite as great as a key lime pie – one of my all-time favorites. It’s not a hard recipe to follow or pie to make and chances are, you probably have a good number of these ingredients in your home already.

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers (if they’re not in your pantry, they’re on the boat near the Vienna sausages)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice (or a mixture of both – I did half and half)
  • 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 1-2 teaspoons confectioners sugar

Let’s get this party started. Preheat your oven to 350°F. If you find you’ve recently given away all of your pie dishes (where are they?), run up to the store and buy one quickly.

Let’s start with the crust. You’ll need the saltines, butter and sugar.

DSC_0651Using a food processor or a large, heavy ziploc bag and something useful for smashing, crush the crackers finely but not into cracker-powder.

DSC_0668Until they look a bit like this. Some of my crackers wouldn’t break down – dare I say it was the slightly older sleeve hiding in the back of the cabinet? No matter.

DSC_0671Add the sugar to the saltines and then with your hands, knead the softened butter into the cracker crumbs until you have something that might stick in the bottom of a pie dish. Once you’re there, grab your dish and press away.

DSC_0680I am not good at making pies. This was not hard. You can do this very easily. Pop the saltinated crustiness into the fridge or freezer to chill for about 15 minutes before you stick it into the oven and bake for 18 minutes or until you have a bit of color to the crust. I found that my crust ended up doing something a bit weird. Basically, the bottom puffed up and the sides slid down to create a nice, flat platform. Not ideal for a pie crust. I rectified this by taking a small juice glass and while the crust was still warm, using it to tamp down the bottom and gently push the crust back up the sides of the dish. It worked fine! Problem solved.

DSC_0707While the crust is cooling a bit more, let’s make the filling. Figure out what fruits you’re using and juice 1/2 cup worth of their goodness.

DSC_0700In a small bowl, combine the juice, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Pour into your crust.

DSC_0716Bake for 16 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the custard is set.

DSC_0732Let the pie cool on the counter and then put in the fridge for an hour or two. You’ll find it’s a lot easier to slice when it’s cold. And you’ll want to eat it that way too.

Before you’re ready to serve, grab your heavy whipping cream and confectioners sugar (if you want to use it – I don’t like much sugar, if any, in my whipped cream). Beat the whipping cream until it’s nearly thick enough and add the sugar at the end. Continue beating to combine the sugar and stiffen up the cream just a bit more. Don’t use fake stuff from a tub or can if you can help it. I just can’t abide that business.