This fall has been a busy one for me, with lots of travel especially in October. A highlight was the Southern Foodways Alliance annual Symposium, a gathering I look forward to every year. It takes place on the campus of the University of Mississippi, in the small and fascinating town of Oxford, and it brings together a noisy, lively, curious, generous, food-obsessed crowd, which generally includes a whole slew of folks I know and love. Plus I always make new friends among the fellow travelers attracted to an event focused on history, stories, cooking, and the food culture that lights up and sustains the American South. Here is a great little summation of this year’s Symposium to give you the idea.
Each year’s SFA Symposium has a theme, which for 2016 was “The Cornfed South: Corn as Symbol, Sustenance, and Problem”. This year was very special for me, because instead of simply showing up to eat, drink, be merry, listen, learn, repeat, I had a job to do. A big job. They asked me to put together the Welcome Supper on Thursday night, which is the first communal meal of the weekend. One of the marvelous things about the Symposium is that everybody eats together, and each meal has special meaning within the context of the theme and the SFA in general. The challenge of being part of this for me is that the meal needs to serve 400+ people, all at one time, and SFA people are big eaters so that number needs a nudge up to tell the truth. I have a lot to tell you and show you about that wonderful gathering and the meal I cooked with a LOT of help from my wonderful friend Chef Bill Smith and a whole crew of other fine folks; but this-here post is about one thing: Sweet Corn Custard Pie. (Scroll down for the recipe.)
The menu centered around a traditional feeds-a-crowd dish, Brunswick stew. There were deviled eggs and watermelon rind pickles on the table to start with, along with cornmeal cream biscuits stuffed with country ham and pimento cheese and a bowl of spiced pecans. Everybody passed around platters and big bowls of Brunswick stew, with skillets of sweet potato spoon-bread on the side.
There was a lot of food and some might say that nobody needed dessert, but that person is not a regular at SFA events. I planned on Sweet Potato Pie and Buttermilk Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream — the bourbon a sly attempt to get corn based ingredients into every course. Then I got to thinking: What about a corn-centric pie? There’s sweet corn ice cream, and vegetable pies abound in winter, sweet potato and pumpkin being two of them we know and love. I got out my egg custard pie recipe, buzzed up the milk with some frozen corn in the blender, and then made a pie. I loved it, and decided to swap out the Buttermilk and embrace our cornfed theme.
It’s simple to stir up, and easy to like. I tried it in food processor and blender and both worked fine. I also tried straining it, thinking the texture might be too much, but both my husband and I loved it with every big of the corny-corn goodness left in.
I started with frozen, and tried it with canned corn, too, and both worked well. I look forward to trying it next summer with fresh sweet corn from the farmer’s market. I do love the whipped cream with this pie, spiked with bourbon or not; and I am wondering how it might work with some of that sweet corn ice cream I’ve heard so much about. Corn squared!
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I hope you gather with good people, and find much to be grateful for, and eat some wonderful pie.
- 1 9-inch piecrust
- 1 ¼ cups whole milk
- 2 cups sweet corn, white or yellow, fresh or frozen
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, combine the milk and the corn. Process until the kernels have broken down into a coarse but even texture, losing their shape. The mixture will be very thick.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Beat well until the mixture is smooth and evenly combined. Add the corn mixture and stir to combine everything evenly and well.
- Pour the corn custard into the parbaked piecrust, and place the pie on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Continue baking until the custard filling has puffed up and is firm, but still a little jiggly in the center, 20 to 30 minutes more. Place the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let cool to room temperature.