On Thursday night Mrs. Curtiss came to dinner. Bob is up from DC for the week on vacation, which made preparations much easier. He did the flowers, for example, much better than I would have. I go out into the field and snip a few Black-eyed Susans and some Queen Anne's Lace and bingo, I'm done. He gets a huge handful, an immense bouquet, comprising six or seven different blooms, and then tucks ferns around the edges. It's like having my own florist. He also did 90 percent of the cleaning up, some of which can be fairly unpleasant, since it involves removing dog products with hot water and a scrub brush.
Then there was the question of the menu. As a Frenchwoman, Mrs. Curtiss appreciates good food, but she's not into fancy. She also doesn't have the appetite she might have had 20 years ago. So we settled on lambchops, cold tomato soup, spinach salad, and rum pie for dessert. Rum pie is from the great state of Louisiana. Right now, in New England, I am down to kosher recipes and cold weather desserts. There is another recipe in the cookbook which I made 29 years ago come October, chocolate rum pie, which I think I like better. This is just rum, egg yolks, sugar, gelatin and heavy cream. It does require an egg beater, which Bob finally discovered in the third hardware store we inquired at.
The search for the egg beater went as follows. On Sunday, we had lunch in Lee, a nice, unpretentious little town with a hardware store, which lies east of Stockbridge, and looked into a junk shop for a used egg beater. We managed to unearth one amidst the statues of the Virgin Mary, ugly lamps, etc. It was clearly old, probably dating from my child hood, and odd looking. However, the tag said 85 cents, so the price was right. But when I took it to the cashier, he informed us that it cost $4.50. The whole point of buying stuff in a junk store is that you can save substantial money. No way, we said, politely.
We went on our way down the street to Carr Hardware, where we did buy an outdoor table to hold our glasses when we sat out on the grass in front of the apartment. But again, no egg beater. However, Bob tracked the egg beater to earth at another Carr Hardware in Great Barrington on Monday.
Since I am attempting to live gluten free, and graham cracker crusts contain gluten, Bob suggested crushed almonds as a crust. It worked really well. I buzzed two cups of sliced almonds in the blender, added a tablespoon of butter and a little sugar, and there was the crust. This recipe has the best method for dissolving gelatin that I have ever run across. Most of the recipes that call for gelatin end up with the gelatin not really dissolved at all, so the dish is not really gelled, but kind of mushy. This recipe intends the cook to use a double boiler. Well, summer rental limitations and all that, there was no double boiler. So I took a small glass bowl, put it in a small pan containing an inch or so of water and turned the gas on low. The gelatin dissolved beautifully.
I had to save our one mixing bowl for the whipped cream, so I ended up beating egg yolks with a fork in my sister's glass serving bowls from her catering business. Bob passed through the kitchen and inquired reasonably why I wasn't using the egg beater. I replied that it was impossible to use an egg beater in a flat bottomed bowl. The egg yolks which came from eggs from a farm stand, were huge and dark yellow to start with. I did not beat them until they were lemon colored, but they did lighten a bit.
Then, it was time to put the egg beater into play to whip the cream. It is not difficult to whip cream with an egg beater. If you ever decide you want to live off the grid, but are into cooking, you don't need an electric mixer. I folded in the whipped cream and came up with a lovely looking pale yellow substance which I poured into my gluten free, and tastier pie shell, and shoved into the refrigerator. It met with Mrs. C's approval.
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup dark rum
2 cups heavy cream
1 baked nine-inch graham cracker pie shell
(or unbaked pie shell made of ground almonds, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon butter)
3 tablespoons raw sugar
1. Beat the egg yolks until they are thick and lemon-colored. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar.
2. Soften the gelatin in the water and add one-quarter cup of the rum. Heat over boiling water until gelatin dissolves. Pour the gelatin mixture into the yolks, stirring briskly. Stir in the remaining rum.
3. Whip the cream and fold it into the custard. Pour the filling into the pie shell and chill.
4. When filling is set, sprinkle the pie with the raw sugar and serve. Makes 6 servings.