Saturday, July 17, 2010

Eat, Drink, Cook: Chicken fries and buttermilk pies

I still remember my first taste of buttermilk pie.

It happened last year at the Pikes Peak or Bust chuckwagon cook-off.

During competitions, chuckwagon cooks are all provided with a few common ingredients and allowed to improvise. Twice this month, Ranch Foods Direct provided competing teams with beef and let them work their rustic magic. Over Fourth of July weekend, prior to the Ride for the Brand Ranch Rodeo, the contestants cooked up melt-in-your-mouth tender chicken-fried steak and whisked up gravy in their cast iron cookery.

For the Pikes Peak or Bust competition, cooks had their choice of working with cube steaks or a chuck roll.

Teams tend to have their preferences and specialties.

Kit and Phil Haddock with the Heart Bar Wagon from over at Monument — who often cater events featuring Callicrate Beef — are masters at turning simple peaches into a perfectly cooked fruit-studded golden brown bread pudding.

One of the teams last year introduced me to a favorite of theirs, buttermilk pie, which at the time didn't sound particularly appealing (despite the fact that I consider buttermilk indispensable for baking), but, wow, it was dreamy good.

I still haven't gotten around to making it myself but when I do I will probably turn to one of the many great pie recipes contributed by Amy Graham (owner of Smiley's Cafe, 323 N. Tejon) to Top of the Range: A Recipe Collection, a stellar cookbook put together last year by award-winning and perennially popular Front Range Barbeque. Looks to be luscious, but with minimal effort. 

Lemon Buttermilk Pie

3 large eggs, room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 9-inch partially baked pie shell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat 3 large eggs until creamy and lemon colored. Gradually add, while beating, 1 cup sugar and beat until thick. Blend in, in this order: 1/8 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons flour, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. 
Turn beater to low speed and slowly add 1 1/2 cups buttermilk. Beat until well mixed. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon powdered sugar over the pie crust bottom. (This is to help prevent the crust from becoming soggy.)
Pour filling into partially baked shell. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Refrigerate any leftovers. Garnish with whipped cream and lemon twists.