Simplicity and a Humble Pie
By Chef Deb Traylor
Sometimes the uncomplicated, quiet things offer the best surprises. No one can argue that a bouquet of flowers is beautiful, but a single daisy presented by your child outshines that bouquet any day. And the quiet person in a room rarely gets the same attention as the charismatic storyteller. Only when you get to hear that quiet person speak about a project or topic they’re passionate about do you see them in a different light.
I don’t know about you, but food photos that show an abundance of bright colors and textures often enamor me. I’m drawn in by the perfectly arranged and expertly lit offerings on Pinterest and Instagram. Creating beautiful, flavorful food is a large part of what I do on a daily basis and it’s easy to get caught up in the over-the-top-throw-everything-on-the-plate food selfie trend that’s everywhere. While I’ve always held on to the fact that I do “simple” food, I’ve also been told that there is nothing simple about my food at all. So I admit it, I may be guilty of overcomplicating food and I’m usually drawn in by a charismatic storyteller.
So when a popular food magazine published a series of Depression-era recipes, I was intrigued by the Vinegar Pie… and a bit befuddled. I loved the idea of using only a few ingredients, but I kept trying to think of things to add to it. I wanted more color and textures. I wanted additional flavors. I wanted… well, more.
In preparing this humble little pie I was forced to show restraint. I fussed and worried about the simplicity of how it would photograph. I fretted that it wouldn’t catch the interest of the pie lovers. In my mind, I just knew we needed a pie recipe with more appeal. Then something wonderful happened. I slowed down, and I took my time prepping the dough and decorating the edges. I carefully thought about each ingredient in the filling. I decided to update only one component and switched out the plain vinegar with white balsamic vinegar. By the time I baked the pie, and the custard formed an almost burnt sugar crust, I could tell this was going to be special.
This simple little pie is that quiet person in the room that most people will overlook. I know I did. When it came time to slice the first serving and place it on the plate, it didn’t shout “wow”. The revelation came as I took that first tentative taste… it was simple perfection. The crust was buttery, the filling had a custardy, toasted sugar topping, and the white balsamic added just a touch of floral tartness that made it different. It’s the “single daisy presented by your child” kind of different. Of course you can add adornments like whipped cream or a few berries when you plate this pie… but I think you’ll find all it needs is a quiet corner and cup of coffee or tea. I hope you will give this one a try… and let me know what you think.
White Balsamic Vinegar Pie
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 ½ Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (or raspberry, Champagne or white vinegar)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. sea salt
- 1 unbaked pie shell (9 inches)
Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Spray a shallow pie pan with cooking spray and press pie dough to fit the pan. Pinch, crimp or flute the edges.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, butter, vinegar and vanilla. Whisk until thoroughly combined, and pour mixture into the unbaked pie shell. (We always put our pie pans on a rimmed sheet pan. It makes moving the pie easier, and it also catches any spills.) Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the custard no longer jiggles.