'I'll have another' piece of Derby pie
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 08:46
Wanda Rich wasn't actually sipping a mint julep on her veranda while wearing a fancy flower-bedecked hat this past weekend.
|Wanda Rich with her chocolate and bourbon pie. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
But a part of her was deep in Bluegrass country just the same, joining millions of others watching the outcome of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday with great interest.
Rich got into the Derby spirit in one other way - by baking her favorite Run For The Roses Pie, a chocolate and bourbon-laced confection that shows up in multiple variations at restaurants in central Kentucky at this time of year.
"Where I became aware of this recipe is because my daughter Charlotte and her husband live in the Lexington area. He works at IBM; she teaches at Eastern Kentucky University which is south of Lexington."
Charlotte and her family often returned to Bowling Green to visit their parents. Rich and her husband made frequent trips in the opposite direction, during which the children would take them sightseeing and to restaurants in both Lexington and Louisville, home of Churchill Downs where the Derby is run on the first Saturday in May.
On one occasion "we went to a restaurant called Ramsey's and they went into why they couldn't call it Derby Pie. So I had it there."
Turns out a competing restaurant in Louisville called The Melrose Inn "has convinced the natives that it owns the name 'Derby Pie.' Hence we call it the Run for the Roses Pie, named after the Derby's major race," explained Nancy Pappas, food editor at The Louisville Times.
In fact, other restaurants have gotten so creative with their own names for Derby Pie - one restaurant dubbed it Bluegrass Pie, another actually called it That-Day-In-May-When-Horses-Run-In-Kentucky Pie" - that "it's just kind of gotten to be a joke," says Rich. "I think the Melrose Inn has given up on trying to enforce" the name embargo.
The key point to remember here is that a Derby Pie by any other name would taste just as sweet.
As indeed, Rich's pie does. She might as well name it after herself, because it is delightfully, decadently rich.
Rich said she doesn't actually do that much cooking these days, especially since she was widowed last May. But she does have a fun habit of scrounging in unlikely locations for cookbooks to add to her collection.
Some time after first tasting the pie at Ramsey's restaurant "I found this cookbook at Goodwill. It's a great cookbook."
The small 1994 hardback was titled "Food Editors' Hometown Favorites Cookbook" featuring "American regional and local specialties."
"And I was delighted to find that recipe in it. They called it Run for the Roses Pie."
It was submitted by Pappas.
"Since she was the food editor of the Louisville paper I thought she must be fairly closely to having the authentic version."
Rich made just a change or two to the recipe as printed.
"I upped it from two tablespoons to four tablespoons of bourbon just to emphasize that flavor a little bit more."
She chose to use Maker's Mark brand bourbon just because it was what she had on hand. "I'm not a bourbon drinker."
Rich does think it important to use Ghirardelli brand chocolate chips. "It was just a few cents more, and I thought that was worth it for slightly better chocolate."
This is a solid, substantial pie - not an airy, whipped creation.
Thus, "you can serve it with a little whipped topping. But I think it's the kind of pie that deserves real whipped cream."
She offers a cautionary note: "When you melt the butter, let it cool down. You don't want to put hot melted butter in with the eggs. And of course, I like real butter."
One final thing about this year's Kentucky Derby: The horse that ended up winning is named I'll Have Another.
Which is how you'll feel about Rich's Run for the Roses Pie after you taste it.
Rich has never been to a horse race in Kentucky. "I'm a native of Oklahoma, where they raise quarterhorses." She has attended quarterhorse races, which are "very short and explosive" contests run by powerful animals.
Horse-racing, she noted, "is the oldest organized sport in America. Older than baseball.
"They interbred Arabian horses with the bigger, stronger European horses" in the 1700s. The animal that evolved was the Derby-running thoroughbred.
"All of the thoroughbreds in North America are descended from three horses brought over way back in the early 18th century: one was from Turkey, one from Syria and one was brought from North Africa."
It was the pursuit of higher education that lured Rich from Oklahoma to Ohio.
"I came to grad school at Bowling Green when they were just starting the Ph.D. program in English. I met my husband here. Charles was in the geology department."
Besides Charlotte they have a son, Geoffrey, and two grandchildren in Lexington - Sophia, nearly 10, and Alexander, 7.
"Lexington is really a beautiful town, beautifully rolling hills, horse farms.
"You can arrange ahead of time to tour some of the horse farms, but they only take small groups at a time because the horses are pretty high strung."
Run for the Roses Pie
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted and slightly cooled
2 eggs, slightly beaten
4 tablespoons bourbon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup chopped nuts
1 pie shell (9 or 10 inches), unbaked
Combine sugar, flour, butter, eggs, bourbon and vanilla in a mixer bowl; beat until well blended. Stir in chocolate morsels and nuts. Pour filing into pie shell.
Bake in a preheated 325-degree F. oven 50 to 60 minutes, or until pie is set and top cracks.
Cool on rack.
Serves 8 to 10.