Fried Apple Pie and Booty Shaking
I am head over the highest of heels for Treme, HBO’s newest television series that takes place in New Orleans three months after Hurricane Katrina. By following the lives of a chef, musician, and Indian Chief (the Mardi Gras kind) among many others, the show incorporates a delightful agglomeration of three of my favorite things: Creole and Cajun cuisine, funky, soulful music, and serious reveling.
Treme has inspired me to explore the uniquely preserved culture of New Orleans, and I believe the best way for me to do so is by making the food. For one, I’m naturally obsessed with understanding the anthropological context of any food I bake/cook, because I believe it is the only way to capture its essence. And two, the food of New Orleans is integrally tied to its music and celebration, which collectively, provide a gateway to much of NOLA’s past and present. So my plan is to make at least one dish referenced on the show each week, whether it be a traditional étouffée, or a local mass produced snack, and to go from there!
As American as Fried Apple Pie
I have always approached New Orleans fare with particular deference, because I believe it is the tastiest representation of the true Melting Pot. And let me tell you, when it comes to the American, multicultural synergy, I get uber patriotic and nonsensically emotional, much like how I get when listening to “God Bless the USA”. But in all seriousness, I take pride, as an American, in anything fundamentally American (except maybe American Apparel). And New Orleans Cuisine, to me, is just that; it has beautifully preserved the cooking techniques and ingredients of its countless cultures, all the while “making do” with the natural resources of the land and bayou, in the best possible way.
Reformed by the NYC Public Library
Under normal circumstances, I gather much of my culinary research from books purchased at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square, which are promptly, and tastefully, returned after a quick trip to the copiers at the nearby Staples. But I didn’t have the heart to take, semi-inappropriately, from Paul Prudhomme, Jamie Shannon, and John Besh. So I finally paid a well-past-due visit to the New York City Library, which I had postponed since first moving to the city.
Oh, holy crap. I still cannot believe how much unnecessary trouble (and guilt) I had put myself through with the aforementioned method, and for almost three whole years! The culinary collection is absolutely fabulous. And there are tons of gorgeous reading rooms with truly free wifi that come without the purchase of shitty coffee. In the second episode of Treme, Albert Lambreaux, (the Indian Chief played by Lester Freaman Clarke Peters) says “people do a lot of dumb shit because it’s easier”. Not too sure what he would say about this.
Anyways, I walked out of the library with “The Commander’s Kitchen”, a compilation of over 150 recipes by the chefs of Commander’s Palace, and “Creole Nouvelle”, a cookbook with contemporary Creole recipes, and last but not least, a fly New York City Public Library card to add to my key ring charmingly full of rewards cards from Duane Reade, D’Agastino, Loehmann’s, and Sephora.
Lemon Ice, Ice Baby? Nah.
In the season premiere of Treme, Janette Desautel (played by Kim Dickens), owner and chef of a newly re-opened restaurant, runs out of every dessert except lemon ice, which she offers to Creighton Bernette (played by John Goodman), an English professor at Tulane, and a passionate lover of New Orleans. Creighton refuses the offer to remain loyal to his regular lemon-ice joint, Angelo Brocato’s Italian Ice Cream Parlor, which remained closed for a full 13 months after the storm. So Janette runs back to the kitchen, and orders her sous-chef to serve a Hubig’s fried pie pulled from her purse, drizzled with something nice.
I planned to write about lemon ice, because I had always perceived it as the ice-ification of me (since vanilla ice was a mildly funkdafied white dude). But I had to remain loyal to Natchitoches, Louisiana, home to my parents, and nationally recognized for its delicious fried pies (in savory, meat-filled form). Furthermore, I felt compelled to take advantage of the opportunity to share the glory of the fried apple pie, which not only highlighted my childhood, but served as an inspiration for the infamous McDonald’s baked apple pie, which originally debuted in fried form in 1968, and permanently (?) transformed to baked form in 1992.
The concept of the portable pie is a prime example of convergent evolution. These self-contained treats emerged independently, all over the world, as a convenient and inexpensive way to consume anywhere with little mess. But of course, colonization also played a role. The fried pie was introduced to New Orleans under its Spanish rule in the late 18th century in the form of the empanada. Hence the popularity of “hotta” meat pies in the state of Louisiana.
The sweet fried pie became a go-to snack in New Orleans, and many other cities below the Mason-Dixon (including La Marque, TX where I grew up), as a tasty way to consume less than fresh fruit. Many fruits, particularly apples, were not available year round in the South until cold storage and imports were developed. So before the off season, people dried their fruit (which could be reconstituted), or jarred them to make preserves. And both happened to taste wonderfully in fried pie, which was graced with the capacity to optimally contain moisture and flavor. This is why many old school recipes call for dried fruit.
But I will be using fresh apples, well, because they are available. And also because they are 1/10 the cost of dried apples. However, I will be a purist in every other regard. I plan to make my own fried pie crust (quite different in composition from traditional pie crust), which is actually beyond the efforts of most Southern home cooks who have adapted store bought biscuit dough as their standard encapsulators. Finally, I plan to replicate the old school glaze covering Hubrig’s fried pies, and Mrs. Baird’s fried pies (the brand I am personally familiar with), which is actually rarely found on the homemade variety.
Fried Pie and Booty Shaking
Why did the fried pie, unlike the open-faced pie, become a regional treat? The south was certainly not the only part of the country that lacked cold storage and produce imports back in the day!
My theory is that New Orleanians (and La Marquinz) like to shake their asses, watch themselves, all the while showing others what they are working with, as often as possible. And the fried pie brilliantly enables them to do so whilst eating delicious pie. This simultaneous act is also reproductively advantageous (only for women, unfortunately), because it enlarges the ass, which is considered the universal ideal in these two particular cities, at least when paired with its rhythmic bouncing/shaking.
To my delight, the music of Michael Lawrence Tyler (aka Mystikal) was featured in the pilot of Treme. Mystikal, native to the 12th Ward of New Orleans, was my favorite rapper in Master P’s original No Limit crew (Silkk the Shocker was a notably close second). Now, you might have noticed that Mystikal has actually become quite mystical. That’s because he’s been chillin’ in the Louisiana State Prison, grubbin’ on Hubig’s fried pies, of course! **the Orleans Parish jail has traditionally been one of the largest buyers of Hubig’s pies**
But those days are no more. **fingers crossed** Mystikal was released mid January of this year, and I predict that he will make an impressive come back. So lets prepare ourselves for some new ass/pie shaking by re-visiting with some old ass/pie shaking:
Let’s get pie fryin’ and booty shakin’! Or booty fryin’ and pie shakin’.
HHC’s Fried Apple Pie
Ingredients (makes 6 pies)
• 5 granny smith apples
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 2 tbsp butter
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1/8 tsp of nutmeg
• 2 tsp of flour
• ¼ tsp of salt
• 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
• ½ tsp of vanilla extract
• Oil for frying (preferably Canola)
• 3 cups of flour
• ½ cup of shortening
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 tbsp baking powder
• 3/4 cup of milk
• 1 egg (for glue)
• 2 cups of powdered sugar
• ¼ cup hot water
1. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder (for the crust) in a large bowl. Cut the shortening into the mixture until it resembles corn meal.
2. Work in the chilled milk. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions, wrap them in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator while making the filling.
3. Peel, core, and dice the apples.
4. Add the apples, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, salt, and lemon juice to a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and browned, about 15 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and add the vanilla extract. Set aside.
5. While the filling cools, place the chilled rounds of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll them out until each one forms a ~ 7 inch circle. Use a bowl and knife to cut smooth, rounded edges.
6. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling onto one side of a dough circle. Brush the edges of the dough with egg wash, and then fold the uncovered flap of dough over the filling. Press the edges closed, and use a fork to crimp. Repeat for the remaining rounds of dough.
7. Add the oil to deep skillet to a depth of at least 1 inch and place over high heat until the oil reaches 350º F. Gently place the pies into the oil and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about a minute per side. Remove pies with a slotted spoon and drain on crumpled paper towels.
8. While waiting for the pies to cool, combine the powdered sugar and hot water to make the glaze. Once the pies have completely cooled, paint them with the glaze using a pastry. Allow the glaze to set, and flip the pies over to pain their bottom sides.
*nom nom nom* *drop it like it’s hot* *mmm mmm mmm* *drop it like it’s hot*
Wow, this is pure genius.
The crust is super tender and flaky, and the glaze gives it a sweet, delicately crunchy, protective shell (trust me, I know… the pie hit the floor along with my booty).
Too bad big booties aren’t the universal ideal in Manhattan. Or I wouldn’t stop eating/dancing.
I need some distraction. Wanna watch some Treme?
Until next time…..