Chocolate Chess Pie: Easy, cheap, decadent southern dessert

It can be difficult to cook without a car.

The car is at the shop for a few days and a lot of dollars – she’s getting to be an old lady and these visits are becoming more frequent – so we have to make do with the stock in the larder for now. My husband is game to go marketing if only I would … or could … tell him what ingredients I need, and sometimes I do have a list, but when he is preparing to dash out the door and asks what I need to fix supper I inevitably draw a blank. I’m more of a muller than an action-packed off-the-cuff thinker. So, since Monday, I shrug and mumble “don’t know, whatever you want is fine” which means a LOT of hamburger and packages of hotdogs, although I’ve made a couple of leftover meat & cheese quiches and “Oh, look what I have!” casseroles. It’s been fun, quite frankly, although we are definitely going to need restocked soon. My husband’s Jeep isn’t the best for carrying groceries, but my old lady is just perfect for the job.

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HF works second shift. That means everything I need to do out of the house has to be done by noon. It also means that if the kids or I have a craving after lunch we either have to walk a few miles to the store (not in this weather), suffer, or … mull. And I do love the mulling. I had a rare sweet craving tonight, and because it is an unusual event I don’t keep serious baking items on hand – HF and the kids are fine with Sheetz doughnuts and name brand candy bars. Ah, but of course on an evening with no transportation the Sweet Fairy strikes with a vengeance. There had to be dessert and it had to be tonight, bare baking cupboards be damned. There was no question that some form of sweet was happening but it was going to have to be light on ingredients.

Not only was there a good, easy, cheap dessert to make, it is also one of the richest most decadent southern treat there is – chocolate chess pie. If you’ve never had a slice, be ready with a cold glass of milk. If you aren’t nearly chocolate-nauseous after a piece of it your recipe has gone awry. And texture! Ohhh, let’s talk about all the texture wonders in this one pie: crunchy top, gooey center, and a flavor so chocolatey it’ll cure your craving in one bite (but happily there will be many more bites waiting). It’s not a fluffy pie, or even particularly pretty, but for those of you in the know … you’ll recognize this as one of the treatiest treats of all time.

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 Ingredients:

1 9” unbaked pie crust (if frozen, thaw; if refrigerated, let it sit out for at least 15 minutes before using)

1 – 1-1/2 c. sugar (depending on your taste – the recipe works if you stay within those measures)

¼ c. – 6 Tbsp cocoa (depending on how dark chocolatey you are)

2 eggs

4-1/2 – 5 oz. evaporated milk (use 4 -1/2 oz. if you used only 1 c. sugar, 5 oz. if you used more)

4 Tbsp melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In medium bowl, mix together by hand the sugar and the cocoa until the ingredients are a uniform brown color.

3. Crack the eggs into the sugar and cocoa mixture and mix well with spoon. This will form a wet stiff base. Do not skip this step. Do not add other wet ingredients before doing this!

4. In a small bowl, mix evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Mix well.

5. Add milk mixture to sugar, cocoa, and egg mixture. Mix well with a spoon for 2 minutes. This is not a delicate recipe and it needs mixed longer than we typically mix ingredients. This helps the texture turn out like it should.

6. Pour filling into pie shell. Bake 25 minutes (if using the small measures) or up to 35 minutes (if using larger measures) or until the filling is set in the middle. The knife test works well with this pie, although it is a shame to mess up the lovely crusty crunchy top!

7. Let cool at least 40 minutes prior to serving. The filling will be too lava-like if you don’t wait.

There you have it! An incredible southern dessert out of very few ingredients! I hope you enjoy the pie and I hope you save me a piece!

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Savory cheese & chive quiche

A couple of months ago, after reading a list of ideas for quick and cheap kitchen makeovers on Alana Chernila’s blog “Eating from the Ground Up”, I realized that my wood and bamboo cooking utensils needed conditioned, some of them so far beyond dry they were on to parched cracking and splintering. In the past I threw these pieces away, unaware of how easily they could be fixed and oblivious to the utter Zen of bringing them back into a state of usefulness. All it takes is food grade wax and a little time.

The pictures of rounded bricks of amber beeswax wrapped in brown crinkly paper were irresistably pretty but trying to locate a block at local stores proved fruitless (I prefer to buy local). The Internet is loaded with beeswax sellers but the shipping prices tend to cost more than the product. We are a one-income family, and despite the intense desire to possess my own beautiful wax brick I couldn’t justify the cost. But oy. I really really really wanted to wax the wood (sounds dirty, huh?). And because I really really really wanted to do it, I eventually found a perfect substitute in a tube of John Boos Board and Block Cream, a mixture of food grade mineral oil and beeswax, and it shipped for free. Problem solved.

The package arrived close to suppertime on the day my son had dance so I put off the task for “a day or two.” And, as typical, the next day was too hectic, and the day after that was too busy, the next day was overscheduled … and the poor dehydrated wood spoons and spatulas were forgotten, wasting away in the drawer under the cooktop. My little bit of counter space was frenetic with holiday cooking and candy making and the little tube of magical elixir got buried in the holiday rubble. The morning after Christmas, though, unable to tolerate the visual kitchen cacophony for one more second, I put everything away and re-found the forgotten board cream, not realizing it was missing until then.

Bing!

After a cup of coffee and many lingering glances, I hand-slathered each piece of cookware with board cream. After they were dried and buffed, the texture was luxurious beyond expectation. The process was so pleasurable that I took an unhurried inventory of the pantry, cabinets, and fridge to decide on what kind of cooking joy could match this moment; and the only thing that could possibly match the magnitude of self-indulgery (don’t use that word in Scrabble) was … QUICHE!

Our little backyard flock gives us a few fresh eggs per week during the dark months and about two dozen eggs a week when the days are longer. Always having fresh eggs is a delight even though the cost of feed probably exceeds output. The biggest payoff is in watching their silly chicken antics (yeah, we don’t have cable and are pretty easily entertained) and the darling way they rid the yard of scary things and bitey things and gross things (bugs, spiders, and the occasional little snake).

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But let’s get back to the day in the kitchen! Like the freshly oiled and waxed woodenware, quiche is silky, smooth, rich, and it was a nice follow-up the chore that was a meander in spoony serenity. The sensuous feel of the utensils and the contentment of making (and eating!) quiche chased the rainy day out of the house. Quiche doesn’t ask for much – just a few ingredients based solely on your mood. It’s a very forgiving dish. I opted to keep it simple in flavor just because going minimalist seemed fitting.

Cheese chive quiche

 

Savory cheese & chive quiche

Uncooked pie crust for 9” pie

6 eggs

3 over-heaping Tbsp sour cream + milk to make ½ c.

¾ c. buttermilk (regular milk works fine if you don’t have buttermilk)

3 c. grated cheese (I used 1-1/2 c. cheddar and 1-1/2 c. Swiss)

3-1/2 Tbsp flour

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

4 Tbsp (or to taste) snipped tops of green onions or 2 tsp dried chives, optional

Instructions:

1. Bring all ingredients to room temp

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

3. Press crust into 9” pie plate.

4. Combine sour cream and milk mixture with buttermilk or sour cream / milk mixture and mix well. Fabulous tool for the job: sauce whisk.

5. Add eggs, salt, pepper and flour to milk / sour cream mixture. Mix till combined well. Fabulous tool for the job: spring whisk.

6. Add cheese and green onion tops or dried chives. Stir till evenly distributed.

7. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until middle is set and the top is golden brown. Since this recipe contains an abundance of cheese, the knife test doesn’t work well. When you shake the pie plate there should be no lava-like bobble.

Notes and suggestions:

1. Fat free milk and buttermilk seem to work just fine with this recipe, probably owing to the fat in the cheese (I do not buy fat free cheese). Reduced fat sour cream also works well.

2. If you don’t like green onions or chives you can try different savory ingredients, like mushrooms pieces and well-drained chopped olives. Adding ingredients may affect cooking time.

3. Using 3 cups of nothing but cheddar may make your quiche very oily. If you use cheddar, consider pairing it with Swiss or finely-grated parmesan.

4. While it’s in the oven, the filling in the middle of the quiche may be lower than that on the sides. This is fine. The filling will level as it cools.

There you have it! Simple fine ingredients combining to make a savory decadent meal couldn’t be much easier or more satisfying to make. Quiche is inexpensive, quick to bring together, and pretty difficult to mess up. It’s a versatile meal that can stand by itself or paired with soup and crostini, spinach salad, fruit salad, or a full-flavored meat like ham.

Thank you, Ladies, for the main ingredient. The next time you molt I’ll lay off the FrankenHen jokes.

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