Brown Butter Pie Crust

Before I tried this recipe, if someone said the word “pie,” I’d leap off my couch and zip into my kitchen to put some butter in the freezer. I remember the first time my mom taught me how to make pie crust. We used blunt knives to cut flour into frozen cubes of butter. A cup of ice cold water stood by, ready to dribble into the dough. She taught me to pour just enough water to get the dough to hold together in pea-sized crumbles. We’d then wrap the dough up into disks and quickly stick it into the fridge for chilling. Don’t overwork the dough with your hands, she’d stress. Their warmth will melt the butter and you can kiss any flakiness goodbye!

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One thing I never thought about, though, was that this method of pie crust production made one, very specific kind of pie crust. It was perfect for your all-American apple pie, or a weekend quiche. The crust flakes apart perfectly when you dig in, but still has a bit of a bite to it– like al dente pasta. But a lovely chocolate tart? This isn’t the crust for that.

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Turns out, the way you make a crust for that (well, one of the ways) is by PUTTING YOUR BUTTER IN THE OVEN UNTIL IT MELTS AND STARTS TO BROWN. I don’t like typing in all caps (except for constantly on Twitter), but this was an all-caps bombshell for me. Pies used to take hours because of all the freezing and chilling and resting of the dough. With this brown butter pie crust recipe, pie exists in your immediate future. Say, 30 minutes.

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I like to fill this shell with chocolate pudding, or any other kind of custard. The crust is flaky, but in a different way from the pie crust my mom taught me. While the version my mom taught me (a traditional Pâte Brisée) is moist and flaky in a pastry-sort-of-way, this brown butter tart shell has a pleasant, dry crispiness– imagine the difference between a moist-yet-crumbly chocolate chip cookie versus a crisp, dry Oreo.

Hm, debating whether or not that was helpful… welp!

Anyway, the drier and very light texture works so well with a mound of pudding as its filling, but would also be nice with a rich ganache or lemon curd.

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Since I always feel funky about republishing recipes that aren’t mine, here are a couple links for ya to check out. If you’re a boring rule-follower like me, opening up the hot oven to find a bowl of hot butter into which you mix your flour will have you feeling bad to the bone. B-b-b-b-b-bad. Have fun!

Parm Upper West Side

Earlier today, an Italian friend of mine posted a link on Facebook; the headline was “17 Italian foods that aren’t Italian at all.” Things like Fettuccine Alfredo, Spaghetti and Meatballs and Chicken Parmesan are called out for being impostors.

My favorite comment on the post went, “these may not be real Italian foods but they are damn delicious!” 

I won’t try to pretend I’m some expert on what authentic Italian food is or isn’t. I only know what I’ve been told by Italians or read in books and articles by Italians. But I am an expert in the delicacies of the Tri-State Area, and I will say that authentic Long Island cuisine includes lots of Fettuccine Alfredo, Spaghetti and Meatballs and Chicken Parmesan.

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(By the way, this is what the Tri-State Area is if you’re unfamiliar. It’s a term all the traffic reporters and meteorologists use to talk about NYC and surrounding areas when there’s a snowstorm and it’s taking an hour to get across the GWB.) (Update: I just Googled it, and apparently there are lots of Tri State Areas, for example Alabama/Florida/Georgia. Um, what?) (Last parenthetical, I swear. Do you watch The Mindy Project? There’s an episode where Danny Castellano is awkwardly hitting on a girl and says something like, “I grew up in the Tri-State Area… Did you grow up in any particular cluster of states?” It made me laaaugh and laaaugh.)

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I’m betting that the majority of my blog readers are people who also grew up on Long Island/Staten Island/Jersey/Brooklyn/Queens, so let me just preach for the sake of those unlucky few in the minority. When you grow up on Long Island (or, y’know, the Tri-State Area), the default meal at a party is an Italian-American buffet feast. And there are a lot of parties. Every weekend was dotted with christenings, weddings, confirmations, bar/bat mitzvahs and sweet 16s. Imagine all of the aluminum trays of “Sunday Salad,” eggplant rollatini, and ziti that you could possibly want, warming over Sternos. I recall one bat mitzvah where I had motzah ball soup. Otherwise, ziti.

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You always got these party meals catered by a pizzeria, not a fancy restaurant. Everyone had a favorite pizzeria, every one named after a dude.

“Did they get the food from Mario’s?”

“No, I think they got it from Jimmy’s.”

“Oh, Vincent’s would have been better.”

There was always way too much food and so if the party was at your house, you were eating soggy eggplant for like a week– and it was fantastic.

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Parm, a project by two guys from Queens, is trying to capture these flavors, and this nostalgia. If we’re measuring success by how tasty the food is and how lovely it is to sit inside the large, warmly-lit restaurant, then, yes, they are very successful. The eggplant parm, perfectly fried and tender without being mushy, gives way to your fork without the cheesy tower ever toppling over. The calamari is the best I’ve ever had. I don’t really have much else to say cause it’s perfect and there’s no use writing words; you should just go eat it. The most nostalgic moment was the Sunday Salad, which is probably repulsive to actual Italians, but I love the iceberg lettuce drenched-in-dressing. Also, the brownie with espresso ice cream was so cute and so American. I loved it. Our server was very sweet and dressed in a starched white shirt. An elderly couple sitting behind us complained to each other about everything in a very Upper West Side way. It feels like home.

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If I have a complaint, Parm is kind of overpriced. I could definitely get four times the amount of eggplant from Vinny’s for half the price and it would be equally soul-pleasing. But perhaps it’s justified by the obvious care they put into every plate of food and the added time it certainly takes to get it all Goldilocks levels of just right.