Welcome to Cooking the Books (where we try recipes found in, well, books!)
Ruth Reichl’s memoir, Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures from the Table, follows a burgeoning restaurant critic in the late 1970’s. Reichl, born in New York, starts her career as a chef in San Francisco with her artist husband. The memoir takes a frank look at relationships, occupational hazards, and of course, food. Reichl accounts meeting celebrities such as Wolfgang Puck and comedian Danny Kaye, details unusual experiences (like a 6 hour meal made entirely with garlic) and madcap adventures in the front (and back) rooms of restaurants far and wide. As would be expected in a memoir by a foodie, each chapter entails one or more extraordinary meals, and Reichl’s prose elicits the aromas, flavors and emotions (from sentimental to hilarious) of good food.
Recipes are sprinkled throughout the text – including sweet potato pie – that Reichl baked over and over again as therapy after being mugged near Berkley, California. It is this recipe that I brought to work for review by colleagues.
Sweet Potato Pie
From Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl
1 medium sweet potatoes (1.25 lbs)
¼ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup whole milk
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1 TB dark rum
1 TB flour
1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and roast them in a shallow pan in the oven until tender, about 1.25 hours. Cool to room temperature. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees and place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack. Scoop the flesh from the potatoes into a bowl and discard the skins. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the sugar. Add the melted butter mixture to the sweet potatoes with the milk and eggs and beat with a whisk until smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients (will be quite liquidy). Pour the filling into the pie shell. Carefully transfer the pie to the heated cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and bake until filling is just set, about 40 minutes. Put on a pie rack to cool.
My colleagues’ reactions: “This is utterly delightful. Sweet potato pie is one of my favorite desserts, and it reminds me of my grandma.” “OMG delicious.” “Reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but with a milder, more subtle flavor and wetter texture. 9/10”
Another colleague, originally suspicious of a sweet potato pie recipe from an east coast native, noted “I owe an apology to the New Yorker. The pie was quite delicious.”
My verdict: The pie came out a vibrant amber color, smooth on top and in texture, and I thought, absolutely delicious, if not a bit on the sweet side. I plan to substitute sweet potato for pumpkin pie for the foreseeable future, perhaps using less sugar depending on the flavor of the potatoes. The book was entertaining and educational – so I recommend both!
Pie: 5 stars. Book: 5 stars.