I used to be a complete Food Network junkie, back in the dark ages when I had something called "free time" and I could afford to spend my Saturday mornings strung out on cooking shows and taking comfort in knowing no one was there to see my spill cereal milk down the front of my shirt. Sadly, those days are long gone and have since been replaced with early Saturday mornings in Towson, sitting in a musty classroom debating the merits of classical rhetoric and rolling my eyes at whack-biscuit feminist authors who insist our entire society is built on phallocentrism. Shenanigans, I say.
I grew up without cable t.v. in a regrettable time when the only cooking shows were on PBS and it was usually reruns of Julia Child or Jacques Torres building a white chocolate castle, a feat that was impossible for a young-gun like myself, although I have developed an obsession with the French since his accent first trickled into my ears. At any rate, my first dose of the Food Network came in 2001 when my aunt and uncle were in a terrible car accident and I spent a few days with them, blending macaroni and cheese smoothies (all his teeth were loose, bless his heart) and pumping them with narcotics but hey, that meant they slept all afternoon and I stayed glued to a marathon of Gale Gand's Sweet Dreams until my eyes went bloodshot. I tell you, I think that's what Heaven will be like, only I think there will be pancakes and fresh pineapple and overstuffed sofas to boot.
Gale eventually disappeared and was replaced with a sexier generation of television chefs like Nigella Lawson and Giada De Laurentiis. The former (along with Jamie and Tyler, you two gents can stay as long as you like) I was enticed by, with her matching sweater sets and ability to make you feel like you were watching something sort of naughty but it was okay because it was actually just food, but the latter, oh no, I couldn't hardly stand it. The second Giada flashed her double set of teeth across the screen, I had to change the channel. I couldn't pinpoint what it was at first - the way she stops what she's doing, pauses, looks straight into the camera and gives an enormously huge, fake smile; that we have to be subjected to 4 inches of cleavage to learn how to make pasta; how she rapidly switches between her Italian accent and her normal voice as if any of us are going to trill the letter R as we grocery shop for her recipes; or how she clocks in at 110 pounds despite her self-proclaimed love of all things chocolate. Just the other day I caught a glimpse of her, drinking Sangria watching a Polo match. A Polo match. Because that's what average folks do.
In a particular episode of Giada Is Hotter Than You, she was strolling around South Beach in her bikini, watching the waves wistfully and I nearly hurled the remote through the television screen when she stepped in Joe's Stone Crab for a lunch of (what else?) stone crab and key lime pie. I didn't have much interest in the crab, which is a little embarrassing for a Maryland girl, but we're about sweets here at Fleur d'Elise, and the pie held my attention long enough to file it into the back of my brain and move on to the History channel before I lost my head completely.
That was quite some time ago, but this past week the recipe floated to the top of my mental index when a bag of real key limes appeared at the grocery store. I've made Key Lime Pie on more than one occasion, even in the form of a cookie, but tracking down real key limes is like asking Giada to wear a shirt that fits her - it's just not gonna happen. Real key limes are smaller, similar to a golf ball, and are an absolute pain in the neck to squeeze (arthritis, anyone?). Most recipes tout the importance of using real key limes, but for the amount of work it took and the barely noticeable difference in taste, I'd just as soon use regular limes, but it's up to you. A whole mesh sack of these only produced half the amount of juice required for the recipe and I had to cap it off with bottled juice, so arm yourself with extra juice, my friends.
This pie is super rich on its own, but my Mom is sort of crazy and puts whipped cream on it to balance out the tart lime.
Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Joe's Stone Crab
Graham Cracker Crust
8 whole graham crackers, finely crushed (about 1-1/4 cups crumbs)
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix all ingredients until well blended. Press firmly onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly before filling. (Leave the oven on for the pie, that's next.)
Key Lime Pie
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons key lime zest
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup key lime juice
In an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and zest on high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, gradually drizzle in the sweetened condensed milk and raise the speed back up to high. Beat until thick, about 4 minutes.
Lower the mixer speed back to low and whisk in the lime juice until just combined and no further. Poor the mixture into the pie crust and bake for 10 minutes (filling will be just set). Cool to room temperature on wire rack and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.