Category: Food

Shoo-fly Pie Is Good!

A few days ago, a person who shall remain nameless sent me a recipe for Shoo-fly Pie. This nameless person has a blog, and she lives in Pennsylvania. She’s very proud of her Pennsylvania heritage, especially the Pennsylvania Dutch. However, I don’t think she’s Pennsylvania Dutch. No, I think she’s ferhoodled.

Shoo-fly Pie is thought to have originated from the Pennsylvania Dutch shortly after the Civil War. At first it was a molasses crumb cake. But it evolved into a molasses crumb pie, after cast iron cookware and stoves became popular, and people abandoned the practice of cooking over a hearth. Apparently, cast iron was needed for making pie crusts.

Shoo-fly Pie gets its name from a brand of molasses from Philadelphia in the 1800s. In turn, this brand got its name from Shoofly the Boxing Mule, who was a popular circus animal that toured Pennsylvania in the 19th Century. And the mule itself was named after the song, Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me, which became a popular minstrel show song in the 1860s.

The person who shall remain nameless actually sent this recipe to my wife, and not me. You see, I’ve been teasing this nameless person for several years about Shoo-fly Pie, implying that it’s made from swarms of those pesky, black, flying insects we often find ourselves waving off.

Carolyn Shelton, er, I mean the nameless person, whose blog is at https://joyroses13.wordpress.com/, thought it would be amusing to send the recipe to my wife. She wanted my wife to bake it on the sly, without telling me what kind of pie it was until after I ate it. Then if I admitted I liked it, the joke would be on me.

But alas, this practical joke has fallen into more pieces than Carolyn’s scattered syntax in one of her typical posts. My wife had no interest in baking any pies. My wife is not the pie-baking type, you see, unless it’s one of those frozen types you buy from the supermarket.

However, I’ve been known to bake a few pies from scratch. Therefore, the arduous task fell upon me to bake this goddamned pie. And by baking it, I became acutely aware of each and every frickin’ ingredient that went inside it. So the joke is on Carolyn, I suppose.

And in fact, this recipe was not for one, but for two of these infernal pies. So two jokes are on Carolyn. Ha-ha, Carolyn!

Well, I got off my lazy ass and went ahead and baked them. And I must admit they taste heavenly. So I would like to share the recipe, in case anyone else would like to try the Pasty Pride of Pennsylvania, Shoo-fly Pie.

Ingredients: Actually, there are two sets of ingredients. One is for making a crumb mixture, and the other is for making a syrup mixture, as follow:

Crumb Mixture Ingredients

2 cups flour (I used all-purpose flour).

3/4 cup brown sugar.

1/3 cup butter.

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

1 teaspoon cinnamon.

About 100 or so dead, dewinged flies.

Syrup Mixture Ingredients

1 cup molasses.

1/2 cup brown sugar.

2 eggs.

1 cup hot water. (Get it hotter than your warmest tapwater. Stick it in the microwave and nuke it ’til it boils like a water hole at Yosemite.)

1 teaspoon baking soda (which you dissolve in the hot water just as soon as you take it out of the microwave).

2 unbaked pie crusts are also needed. The recipe says these should be 8″ pie crusts. But the supermarket only sells 9″ pie crusts, so that’s what I used, and they seemed to work fine. In fact, I think if I had used 8″ pie crusts, they would have caused the ingredients to overflow into the oven while baking. When I filled the crusts, the level came up about 3/4 from the bottom to the top. But while baking, the ingredients rose to be level with the top.

I bought two Keebler Ready Crust Graham Pie Crusts. I don’t know if they were baked or unbaked, because the packaging didn’t indicate one way or the other. But I imagine they were baked, or how else could they be sold unrefrigerated, sitting on a store shelf? Nonetheless, the crust came out of the oven okay.

My calculations indicate that these ingredients will produce 2,400 calories per pie.

Pre-Preparation

First, spend about an hour looking high and low in the kitchen and pantry, for the ingredients you’ll need. Cuss a lot, then finally ask your wife for some help locating the stuff. Then scrawl out a shopping list of the ingredients you still need.

Next, head to the supermarket and race your shopping cart up one aisle and down the other, frantically searching for the items on your list, so you can get the hell out of the store as soon as possible. Stores are the pits.

Curse under your breath a lot. Stop other shoppers and ask for help. Scratch your head in puzzlement when some seem to avoid you and scurry away as soon as you make eye contact and draw closer. Oh yeah, Covid.

Once you have everything on your list, wait in the long, dreaded line to purchase your items from the cashier. Or, shoplift them if you’re too impatient to wait. If you get caught, bribe the security guard with a $20 bill.

Get home and decide that you’re too tired, and need a nap, and that you’ll make the pie tomorrow.

The next morning, realize that you forgot to put eggs on your shopping list, the day before. Sigh mournfully and loudly until your wife takes pity and goes to the store to buy the eggs, for you.

They don’t sell dead flies at the supermarket, so while your wife is out buying the eggs, grab a flyswatter and head over to the Porta-Potty at the construction site where they’re building a house down the street.

My experience tells me that it only takes about 15 minutes to swat all the flies you’ll need, if the Porta-Potty is ripe for the pumping. The tedious part is pulling off all the wings. You don’t want any wings in your pie mixture, as they stick to the roof of your mouth, and sometimes cram between your teeth, requiring lots of gouging and digging with a toothpick to get the frigging little bastards out.

Preparing

Now you’re ready for some pie-making.

Mix the crumb ingredients together, in a moderately-sized bowl. I used a big ol’ spoon, and was careful to swat down the big lumps, turning them into smaller, crumb-sized lumps. I got a lot of swatting practice while catching the flies. By the way, the dead flies are optional, so I hope you have completely read these instructions before beginning.

If you do use the flies, be warned that they come with the risk of catching several diseases, such as cholera, dysentery, gastroenteritis, salmonellosis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, lumpjaw, tongue rot, projectile vomit, projectile diarrhea, sillybrainhemorrhage, and magatosis.

Now mix the syrup ingredients together. Don’t forget to make sure the water is heated to a scalding temperature of, let’s say, 5,000 degrees Kelvin. It’s got to be warm to melt all that molasses. And for God’s sake, don’t forget to dissolve the baking powder into the water, before pouring it into the syrup mixture.

Use the same big, ol’ gigantic spoon to swirl the mixture around until the syrup is thin and watery. And don’t forget the eggs, for Chrissake.

Throw some logs under your oven, and preheat it to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While it’s a’heatin’ up, pour the syrup into the pie crusts. You’ll want to divvy it up evenly, using whatever divvying method seems fair to you. Then dump the crumb mixture over the tops of the syrup fillings, again divvying it up evenly. Dump it judiciously, so that you achieve a relatively smooth layer of crumbs spread completely over the top of the syrup, basically hiding the syrup.

Finally, shove the pies into the 400 degree oven. Well actually, place them in gingerly. The filling will want to slosh out a lot, as you move the pies around. Do not bake the pies if you’re expecting an earthquake. Bake for 10 minutes, and not a second more. Then turn the oven down to 350 Fahrenheit, by removing one or two logs from the fire. Bake for an additional 50 minutes, at 350.

After baking, try to remove the pies from the oven, then holler, “Ow! Shit! Fuck!” Then grab a couple of hot pads your wife stores in the drawer next to the oven, and try again to remove the pies.

They will be a little flimsy while hot, so ensure they are carefully supported as you transport them with your burnt, shaky hands to the top of the stove, or a countertop, or a windowsill. Leave them there to cool down. Do not cut the pies until they cool down, or you’ll have a runny mess of hot molasses lava. The pie filling needs to cool down in order to harden.

After cooling, wave your hands over the pies to shoo the flies away, then cover and store in the fridge. But before you do that, you might want to try a slice. As you’re eating it, with your mouth watering and your spirit on Cloud 9, reflect on the fact that you are not just eating Shoo-fly Pie. If you’re me, you are also eating crow.

Shoo-fly Pie is good!

One of my Shoo-fly Pies cooling on the stovetop. My oven must not be perfectly level, as you can see that some of the pie filling collected on the near side. But at least it didn’t overflow.

Savoring a Grapefruit

One hot day, I decided to savor a grapefruit. I plucked the chilled fruit out of the refrigerator and cut it into eight semicircular slices. I held each slice between the fingers of both my hands, but did not immediately bite into it. Savoring involves all the senses.

I examined it first. I observed its chatoyance. I saw how light glistened off the moist carnelian facets of this gem of a fruit. I spread the rind so that sections of the meat separated from each other, and I inhaled the citrus scent that sprayed from the parting sections.

I tasted the texture and tanginess, but without yet biting into it. I just ran my tongue along the glossy, bittersweet surface.

Then I bit it. And the piquant tartness bit back. It made my lips pucker.

I chewed slowly and winced as each astringent droplet coursed down the back of my throat, burning like a Fourth of July sparkler. It forced me to pause in mid-chew, to allow the bitter to fade into sweetness.

I swallowed, and each fleshy lump of citrus burned and cooled my stomach, all at the same time.

That is how I immersed my hot summer day in zingy cool sweetness.

(This post is meaningless. But I hope it helps you feel a little cooler today.)

Macaroni & Cheese

Guglielmo Macaroni, 1874-1937. I don't have any pictures of my macaroni and cheese dish, so you'll have to settle for a photo of the inventor of this dish. Guglielmo Macaroni was not just a chef, but also a scientist. He invented wireless radio transmission, which revolutionized the way we communicate.

Guglielmo Macaroni, 1874-1937. I don’t have any pictures of my macaroni and cheese dish, so you’ll have to settle for a photo of the inventor of this dish. Guglielmo Macaroni was not just a chef, but also a scientist. He invented wireless radio transmission, which revolutionized the way we communicate.

Dr. Victo Dolore, at the blog “Behind The White Coat” asked me to write a post on macaroni and cheese. I don’t like cooking-themed blogs, and tend to avoid them. Who wants to read a boring old recipe? Not me.

But I’ve learned that it’s always best to follow a doctor’s orders. So at the risk of turning this into a cooking blog, here is my recipe for macaroni and cheese. This recipe should feed a family of three gluttons for about two days:

Well, it’s actually three recipes in one. So let’s start with the first. First you have to make bechamel sauce (pronounced BAY-shum-el). Bechamel sauce is a standard sauce used in many different dishes, so this is a handy recipe to have.

BECHAMEL SAUCE

Step 1: Grab a large, white onion. Yank it out of your garden, steal it from a produce stand, or pilfer it at the grocery store. You need an onion.

Step 2: Reach into your pocket and dig out your pocketknife. Slice about a quarter of that onion out of the bulb, then toss the rest in the fridge for something you might make later. Such as hot dogs.

Step 3: Make an onion piquet. Piquet is French for puke. But never mind that. Just make an onion piquet. Don’t know how? Here’s how: Get into your spice rack and look for the cloves. Not the damned powdered cloves, but the whole ones. They look like little pins. Get just one little clove; you don’t need more. Then find a bay leaf. Those are the things that look like little leaves. Put the bay leaf over the onion, then stab it with the clove, so that the clove clings the bay leaf to the onion. This is brutal, violent stuff. Be careful not to poke yourself in the process.

Step 4: Throw the onion piquet into a heavy saucepan. Then pour in 36 ounces of milk. That’s 4.5 cups. Light a big fire under the saucepan, then wait. When that milk starts a’boilin’ turn the fire down until the milk is just a’simmerin’. A simmer is a kind of light boil. It’s when you see little bubbles coming up, but not great big bursting, roiling bubbles. Now simmer that damned onion piquet in the milk for a whole 20 minutes. Stir it a lot, because nothing sticks worse to the side of a pan than cooked milk.

Step 5: In a separate pot, make a white roux out of flour and butter. What the hell is a roux, you ask? Beats the shit out of me. I can’t speak French. Just follow this recipe: Slice off 2.2 ounces of butter from that cube in the fridge. And you do use real butter don’t you? You sure as hell better, or this won’t taste so good. Use an electronic food scale to measure out this butter. I don’t like using measuring cups much. Scales are a lot more precise. Toss the butter into a saucepan. Now weigh out 2.2 ounces of flour, and throw that into the saucepan. Light a medium-sized flame under the pan. Grab yourself a spoon, or fork, or some sort of stirring implement, and stir the crap out of this concoction, until the butter is melted and a thick paste has formed. Then take it off the flame before the white roux gets too hot and then turns into a blond roux or a brown roux. But if it does, don’t worry. It should still work out well.

Step 6: After 20 minutes, remove the onion piquet from the milk, and throw it in the slop bucket for the pigs. You’ll probably find that the damned clove has come loose, and the bay leaf is floating around in there. If you want, fish the clove and bay leaf out. Or just leave them in, and amuse yourself watching someone’s reaction when they find a leaf in their macaroni. And a loose clove looks a bit like a booger, and that can educe even more amusing reactions.

Step 7: Put a flame under the white roux you made in Step 5, then gradually add the hot milk to it, while stirring constantly with a whisk to avoid lumps. Nobody likes lumps in their macaroni. Bring this concoction up to a good boil. Then reduce to a simmer, and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir a lot because, you know, cooked milk just loves the sides of pans. Whilst it’s simmering, add salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste. “To taste” means just that. Imagine what the finished dish will taste like, as you’re sprinkling these ingredients into the milk. And make sure you have a conservative imagination, or you might overdo it and everyone will throw up at the dinner table.

Step 8: After 30 minutes of simmering, you’re done. Congratulations! You’ve just made bechamel sauce. But now it’s time to convert your bechamel sauce into a bechamel cheese sauce, with the following recipe:

BECHAMEL CHEESE SAUCE

Step 1: Add to the bechamel sauce, 2.2 ounces of grated cheddar or American cheese. Then add a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and a teaspoon of dry mustard.

Step 2: You should have added these ingredients a few minutes before your bechamel sauce was completed. Surprise! I hope you read these instructions completely, first, before embarking on making this gourmet macaroni and cheese dish. So let’s say you did, and you wisely added the ingredients in a timely manner. The cheese should all be melted by now, and so by now you have yourself a fine batch of bechamel cheese sauce. Now let’s move on to the main recipe:

MACARONI AND CHEESE

Step 1: Do you like to make your own pasta? Then go find a book and learn how. I’m not teaching it here.

Step 2: Get down to the dry goods store and buy or steal yourself some already-made macaroni noodles. It comes dry, in a box or plastic bag. Check the ingredients out. If you want the best stuff, get the macaroni that’s made from semolina flour.

Step 3: This recipe calls for 16 ounces of dry macaroni. The rule, when it comes to boiling pasta, is to use one gallon of water for every pound of pasta. Therefore, find yourself a big enough pot to hold one gallon of water. Get that water up to a rolling boil. Toss some salt into the water. Pasta absorbs salt only when it’s being boiled, so that’s the time to salt it. Unless you have high blood pressure that’s caused by salt. Then don’t salt it. I don’t like much salt myself. Really, you can do without the salt. Now once the water is a’boilin’, grab a handful of macaroni and just toss it in. Make sure your handful contains exactly 16 ounces of this curly pasta. Use the scale.

Step 4: Boil the 16 ounces of macaroni until al dente, or tender. Al dente is a fancy Italian word that means slightly firm. How do you know it’s al dente, or tender? You have to fish around in the water with a spoon, and snag a boiling piece of macaroni on the fly. Then bite into it. That’s the only way to tell if pasta is done. You must bite it. However, it should only take about 7 or 8 minutes of boiling to make it nice and done and tender. Slightly less time for al dente.

Step 5: Strain the cooked macaroni through a china cap or colander. A china cap is a large conical contraption with holes in it, and it works just like a colander. It seems like a racist term that perpetuates a Chinese stereotype. But this term persists in the field of the culinary arts, where apparently, nobody gets out of the kitchen long enough to be enlightened by our modern world. After straining, run some cold tapwater over the noodles to cool them down. You have to cool them down or the damn stuff will just keep cooking, even when there’s no fire under it. Then pour the macaroni back into that big old pot you boiled it in.

Step 6: Throw the bechamel cheese sauce into the pot of cooked macaroni noodles and stir like hell for a while, until every noodle is coated with the sauce.

Step 7: Dump 16 ounces of grated Cheddar or American cheese into this mixture of sauce and noodles. By the way, you have been keeping yourself busy grating all this damned cheese, while the bechamel sauce was cooking, haven’t you? It’s a lot of grating. It will wear your arms out. You will feel exhausted by now. But you can’t rest. Because now you have to mix all this cheese into the macaroni. Use a great big spoon that you can wrap both forearms around, and stir by swaying your body in a large, swirling motion.

Step 8: Grab a big slice of that fattening, heart-attack-inducing, real butter you keep stored in the fridge, and use it to butter the bottom and sides of a large casserole pan. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Step 9: Pour the macaroni, sauce, and cheese mixture into the casserole pan. It should pour out in one or two big oozing glumps. Careful, don’t let any tumble over the pan and onto the floor, or you’ll have to scoop it up and put it into the pan with your bare hands, while no one is looking. Smooth out the top of the mac and cheese so that you have an even surface.

Step 10: Slice off some more of that life-ending butter and put it into a saucepan. Throw four ounces of bread crumbs after it, turn up the heat, and stir this around. By the way, you can get the bread crumbs in a can, at the store. DO NOT crumble up some fresh bread, and consider that to be bread crumbs. Okay, as the butter melts it will coat the bread crumbs. Stirring will keep clumps from forming.

Step 11: When the bread crumbs are thoroughly coated with all that delicious, deadly butter, turn off the heat, then spread the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the macaroni.

Step 12: Slam the macaroni into the oven and bake at 350 degrees, until hot. This should take about 30 minutes.

Step 13: Yank it out of the oven and serve. At long last, dinner is done! Bravissimo!

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