The flock of 17 wild turkeys that have frequented the neighborhood these past few weeks are gone. Hopefully they’ve moved onto more lush grazing grounds than paved streets on the edge of suburbia. We kept trying to warn them what month it was – I hope they’ve finally listened and are hiding somewhere safe.
I’ve had a lot going on lately and haven’t thought much about Thanksgiving, but I’m now starting to get excited for the great feast. It’s one of my favorite holidays because the meal is the big deal. No presents or numerous parties, just great food that everyone loves.
The chickens are doing as well as can be expected now that the weather’s turning cooler, the bugs they love are leaving and the grass no longer tastes very sweet. Coco is frankly very crabby these days. The most vocal of the group, she’s going through her first molt and letting us know about each ache and pain as it happens. A litany of complaints comes forth each morning as she scurries out of the coop, feathers flying in her wake. I only hope the neighbors are patient – it will pass.
Judging by the girls’ actions when their feathers start falling out, it must cause the same sense of loss and embarrassment that men (and women) feel upon losing their hair. When they’re molting the girls run desperately away from me, I can’t even get near. They also lose their place in the pecking order, dropping one or two slots temporarily until they regain their plumage. I imagine it must hurt as the stiff shafts of feathers start growing back because at this point the girls often resemble porcupines more than cute fluffy chicks.
The rate and time of molting varies with each bird, Cleo is molting fast making it much more dramatic and more traumatic for her. Ruby seems to be lazily molting, dropping a couple of feathers here and there but maintaining her good looks and good humor. Fast molters get back to the business of laying eggs quicker, so I’d love it if all of the girls molted quickly but I don’t get a say in it. Right now I’m only getting 1 egg a day, if I’m lucky, and each one is extremely precious. I give the girls extra protein to keep up their energy during this difficult period by feeding them dried meal worms, yogurt, cheese and spinach. We all need something special during these dark days of November.
As I start to think about our special Thanksgiving meal, I’m wondering if there’s a way to slip in something new this year. Our families are very tradition-bound and it’s a stretch to change up this classic dinner. Trust me, there is no way I could get by with not serving the Bread Stuffing with Pork Sausage and Fresh Sage created by my grandmother! And my mom’s Pumpkin Pie with heaps of heavy whipped cream is an absolute that must not be tampered with. But I have a feeling that I’d see a lot of happy faces if I also served this fabulous Toasted Pecan-Apple Pie. It’s a combination of two of my favorite pies and a perfect way to introduce something new for this special day.
Toasted Pecan-Apple Pie
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Can’t decide between pecan or apple pie? This pie is the best of both worlds. The tart apples cut the sweetness of the pecans in brown sugar custard, while the egg yolk crust bakes up golden brown and extra-crisp.
Egg Yolk Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut up
1 egg, separated
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups pecan halves, toasted*
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled tart apples, such as Granny Smith, Rome, Sweetango or Braeburn (3/4-inch pieces)
To make the crust: Whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Blend in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the butter is the size of blueberries, with some smaller pieces. Whisk together the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of the ice water. Toss with the flour mixture, adding additional water if necessary, to form a dough. Gather the dough together and press into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
Place the oven rack in the bottom position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll out the dough to a 13-inch round. Line a 10-inch deep-dish glass pie plate. Trim the overhanging dough to 1/2 inch, turn the edge under, and flute. Beat the egg white until loose and frothy. Brush over the bottom and sides of the dough. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
To make the filling: Beat together the eggs, egg yolk, and flour in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended and smooth. Beat in the brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir in the pecans. Arrange the apples over the bottom of the pie shell. Pour the pecan mixture over the apples.
Bake the pie on the bottom oven rack for 45 minutes. Cover the edge of the crust with foil and continue baking for 20 to 25 minutes, or until puffed and a knife inserted into the center comes out moist but clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature, store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to two days.
*Toast the pecans in a 350°F oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until slightly darker in color.
from Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes
Pie photo by Alex Farnum