Though not equal to the grand dame of Southern piedom, pecan pie, peanut pie has long had a loyal and enthusiastic following, and it quickly earns a place of honor anytime it’s given a chance. Peanut pie is another variation on the chess pie theme, with coarsely-chopped dry-roasted peanuts stirred into a sugar-butter-eggs mixture. Baked until the nuts create a handsome textured covering for a sweetly silken filling, it makes for a salty-sweet flavor that was cherished long before salted caramel came into its current vogue on the sweet culinary stage. You’ll find peanut pie throughout the South, wherever peanuts are grown, but the state of Virginia has a particular affection for this fine confection. One place to enjoy this classic is the Virginia Diner in Wakefield, Virginia, about sixty miles southwest of Richmond on Route 460. Family-owned since 1929, the Virginia Diner serves up homestyle Southern cooking everyday except Christmas, and is particularly famous for its classic peanut pie. A visit to their website at http://www.vadinerrestaurant.com/ will give you a virtual taste of their cooking and ambience, and may cause you to look for your car keys if you are homesick for good old-time Southern food. They serve their signature peanut pie warm with both whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream; I like peanut pie with whipped cream or just plain, speaking for myself. Like its fellow pies in the chess pie family, peanut pie will puff up and seem dry around the edges, and be fairly firm all the way through once it is done. The puffy quality fades away, but no matter, the finished pie evens out to a beautiful and tasty state.
Nancie’s Peanut Pie
1 unbaked piecrust
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons molasses, or 2 additional tablespoons dark corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted (1/2 stick/4 tablespoons)
*1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts (if unsalted, add about 1/4 teaspoon salt)
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Stir with a fork to mix them together well. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the dark corn syrup, molasses, and melted butter and stir with a fork or a whisk to mix them together evenly. Add the sugar mixture and stir to dissolve the sugar and combine everything together evenly and well. Stir in the chopped peanuts and mix well. Pour the filling into the piecrust. Place in the 375 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and bake until the filling is puffed up all over, fairly firm throughout, and crust and filling are nicely browned, 40 to 50 minutes. Place on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towl, and cool to room temperature.
*Note on Peanuts:
You can leave them whole, but most recipes suggest coarsely chopping them. You can do this with a cleaver or a chef’s knife, or use a rolling pin or large unopened can to crush them. First place about 1/3 of the peanuts inside a sturdy resealable plastic bag. Have them at the bottom of the bag and lay bag on its side. Leave it unsealed. Roll over the peanuts with the rolling pin or unopened can, so that many of the nuts are crushed, or partly crushed, while a few remain whole. Pour into a small bowl and set aside until needed.