A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.
My mother-in-love is one of the best cooks on the planet. I learned that the first time I met her. Then, a college student sustained mostly by starchy, mysterious, dining hall fare, I devoured everything she put on the table; even squash casserole, a subversive compliment to her. I remember her telling me she was glad I was the kind of girl who would eat instead of picking around her plate. I suppose in its own way, that was a compliment, too, but I blushed, worried I must’ve eaten like a hog. Those glorious calories shoved in my mouth were worth the red cheeks.
Sarah was known far and wide for her cooking, and if she knew your favorite thing, she’d be sure to include it if you were coming for dinner. I’m not sure I could choose just one favorite of hers, but her Cowboy Cookies were magical, and try as I might, I couldn’t come close to her fried chicken. Plenty of her recipes found their way into my kitchen, though, and she delighted in my phone calls when I needed to clarify a process–like making sure if one cup flour, sifted is the same thing as one cup of sifted flour (it’s not). She also insisted that it made a different to “start with flour and end with flour” when adding ingredients for her famed pound cake—I have never put it to the test, though. I think it’s best to trust the cook.
Sarah’s desserts were legendary, and everyone had their favorite (mine was her Italian Cream Cake. sigh…). A diplomat and pleaser at heart, she made sure to rotate whose favorites showed up for holiday meals when our family gathered together.
I learned how to make The Best Apple Pie in the World. Undeniably, Sarah was the Queen of the Kitchen, but with a single recipe I was crowned Princess of The Pie. (Maybe it’s an excuse to wear The Dress?)
Every time our family gathered, it was understood that I was to bring an apple pie. If everyone was able to come, I learned to make two (one of which my darling father-in-law hid away for later).
And I’ll tell you something I’m not ashamed to admit: I like being known for making a wicked apple pie. It’s fun to have a signature dish or two attached to your culinary reputation. You don’t have to be a gourmet cook or great at everything to be known for something.
I’ll be honest: the first time I tried making an apple pie it wasn’t that great. But since that humble beginning, I corrected my mistakes (hint: READ the recipe), did NOT omit important ingredients the next time (oy) and now I’m known far and wide for my pie-makin’ prowess. Or at least my family behaves as if I’m a “sorceress dispensing happiness.”
So what’s your something? What dessert or side, appetizer or entrée are you known for? I’m interested in the back story of your recipe, too–every good recipe has a story, yes? You see, my apple pie recipe isn’t anything I conjured; it’s from a recipe shared by a friend. Dina showed up for a visit years ago with apple and pecan pies, the family went coo-koo, she graciously shared her recipes, and the rest is the stuff on which family legends are made.
I’m sharing my Best Apple Pie in the World recipe below (but the secret sauce is its homemade crust according to my family, recipe and method from Dina as well) along with an invitation: Please share your signature dishes, stories and recipes alike!
- 5-6 cups sliced Rome apples (or your faves)
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 heaping tbsp flour
- Sprinkling of cinnamon
- About 5-6 pats of REAL butter
- 2 pie crusts (There's no shame in store-bought crusts, but homemade is easier than you ever thought with this recipe!)
- VERY complicated step: Mix the above together in a large bowl, reserving butter.
- Pour the apple mixture on top of your bottom pie crust and dot with the butter; layer the second crust on top and be sure to make ½" incisions to vent it.
- Bake at 375°, edges covered with aluminum foil or a pie saver for 20-25 minutes; remove cover and cook for an additional 20-25 minutes.
- Cool slightly. Add a ginormous scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream. Inhale. Avoid bathroom scales.