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Friday, July 25, 2014

Not-Quite Pennsylvania Dutch Corn Pie

For as long as I can remember, my favorite vegetable has been corn. Whenever my mother asked me what vegetable I wanted for dinner the answer was always the same, "corn".

I did eat other vegetables when I was a child, and coming from a home where my dad loved having his meat and potatoes every dinner, my mom did a great job feeding us whatever vegetables she could manage.  My dad was second generation Ukranian, so meat and potatoes played a large role in every dinner.  To his mind, dinner was not dinner without meat.

My mom, on the other hand is German, Pennsylvania Dutch Welsh and English, and grew up in a mostly Pennsylvania Dutch household.  I have to say I never really cared from my maternal grandmother's cooking.  It was very plain, and unexciting as far as I was concerned, and she had a tendency to boil lots of things. 

Both my parents grew up during the depression years but the difference in their diets was profound.  My dad's parents always had butter on the table, my grandma always had a huge garden and she canned vegetables, meat was served at every dinner accompanied by mashed potatoes or home made pierogies.  My mom's parents raised chickens, so there were always eggs and eventually, chicken to eat.  My mom told me stories of how she used to help knead the yellow coloring into the margarine they used.  Meat, however, was not served at every dinner.

Summer Corn

Corn has always been abundantly grown in the Pennsylvania countryside, and when corn season arrives, people buy it up as fast as it hits the farmstands and grocery stores.  My mom remembers them all having corn on the cob for dinner.  They would butter a slice of bread and roll the corn in the butter; it sounds like a tidy way to handle the buttering aspect.

If you eat at any Pennsylvania Dutch establishment, be it a homestead or a restaurant, you will always find fresh corn pie on the menu during corn season.  I remember attending our local fair when I was growing up, and every church stand featured little individual corn pies.  It was the best!  Today you have to visit restaurants in the Lancaster, PA area, or visit a diner in a town where there are still considerable Pennsylvania Dutch people residing.

Traditional Recipe

When I was a child growing up my mom would make corn pie using fresh sweet corn she cut off the cob.  She would first make a 2 crust pie crust, fit a pie pan with one crust and then fill it with fresh-cut corn, sprinkle it over with a bit of sugar and salt, pour milk over the top (not to cover, but not too skimpy), dot the top with butter and then place the top crust on the pie and bake it.  When it was finished baking, much of the milk was absorbed so you could pour a bit more over the top of your slice when it was in your dish.  It was, to my mom and me, a complete meal.

Now, for the purists who may be familiar with corn pie, sometimes a diced potato was included in the corn along with diced hard boiled egg.  We preferred our pie sans potato and egg (the egg white always seemed to toughen up in the pie).  If fresh corn isn't in season canned corn can be used and I've even seen creamed corn used along with whole kernel corn.  You can find many recipes for corn pie in any good Amish cookbook, or Amish cooking website.  Although plain cooking, the Amish and Mennonite housewives produced many delectable dishes!  If you ever visit Lancaster County, you can take your pick of Amish/Pennsylvania Dutch Smorgasbords!  

As I mentioned, my dad would not accept eating corn pie for his main dinner...unless my mom prepared some sort of meat to go with it.  She would often serve hamburgers with it, sometimes country sausage; but my mom and I would stick with just the pie.

My own non-traditional corn pie

I wanted to find another way to make my favorite pie without using a traditional pie crust.  I usually keep frozen pie crusts in the freezer because I cannot construct a flaky crust to save my life.  I've tried.  I really have!  It doesn't matter what recipe I use, or what method I use, it never seems to be really flaky enough to suit me.  I believe I over-handle the dough in the rolling out process.  

Years ago I discovered the most wonderful invention Betty Crocker ever invented: the "Impossible Pie".  Oh, I was in heaven with this discovery.  It's perfect for a non-making pie crust person like myself.  I started out making the traditional coconut custard impossible pies and graduated to all sorts of savory or sweet concoctions.  Give me a box of Bisquick, some eggs and milk and I am set!  

For the uninitiated, impossible pie is a crustless custard pie.  The Bisquick in the egg and milk mixture actually sets up during the baking process into a very light "crust" on the bottom of the pie.  They are super easy and quick to bake, and taste delicious.  I often whip one up with left-over meat and or veggies when looking for a quick dinner.  If you Google "Bisquick Impossible Pie" you will find an endless list of recipes to suit any occasion.  Meat, savory or sweet, and Impossible Pie is hard to beat!  Even people who claim to "hate" coconut custard pie, absolutely love an Impossible Coconut Pie.
 (I can give you names).

Tonight I found myself with fresh corn on the cob and no frozen pie crusts.  I wanted to make a corn pie so I thought "Impossible Pie"!  Bisquick to the rescue!  (You can even buy low fat Bisquick now.)

I husked the corn and cut it off the cob (I used 4 cobs).  Then, for something different, I pan fried the corn in an iron skillet with a bit of salt, Adobo seasoning and black pepper sprinkled over it.  I placed the corn mixture into a 10" quiche pan, spread it out and sprinkled a combination of grated sharp cheddar cheese along with some smoked cheddar cheese.  Over that I poured my impossible mixture:  3/4 c Bisquick, 3 eggs and 1-1/2 cups milk.  Easy, peasy and popped it into the oven at 400 degrees F until the custard "set". And there you have it, my version of Pennsylvania Dutch Corn Pie. (A touch brown, but very tasty!"