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I am usually not a dessert person.

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I’ll indulge in bowl of ice cream on the hottest day of the summer or a slice of birthday cake when I am forced to celebrate that annual rite of passage, but in general, I’ll stick to pizza and pasta if I want to carbo load.  But, once a year, I roll out some dough (store bought or homemade, take your pick) and create some family favorites…PIES.

These flaky, fruity, custard, nutty treats have graced my Thanksgiving table for decades.  They are now the most requested addition to our holiday menu.  I try to change up a few flavor palates each year, just for variety: blueberry pie instead of cherry pie; pumpkin pie in, apple pie out.  You get the picture.  But, the two non-negotiable pies that are Turkey Day mainstays are Chocolate Pecan Pie and Sweet Potato Pie.

When I was in my early 20’s, I bought a blue and white checked notebook with the words “Favorite Recipes” on the cover.  All these years later, it has become the Holy Grail of the best recipes I have.  Chocolate Pecan Pie is on page six.  I honestly don’t know where I got this recipe.  These days, page six has yellowed with age, and sticks together with the back of page five, but when my youthful penmanship on the page with the ingredients greets me each Thanksgiving, it feels like I am getting together with an old friend.  Serve it warm with a little vanilla ice cream, and you’ll skip over the turkey and trimmings, and head straight for dessert.

The origin of the Sweet Potato Pie is known and treasured.  The recipe comes from “Vineyard Seasons,” a cookbook by Susan Branch, that I bought on Martha’s Vineyard in the late 1980’s.  With its gorgeous drawings and whimsical stories about food, it is my favorite cookbook.  A combination of sweet and tangy, crunchy and smooth, this is THE recipe that Thanksgiving guests ask for at the end of the meal.  Although most people think of this as a dessert, I actually like it as a substitute for the candied yams or sweet potato casserole that are often served with the main course. So this holiday season, forget about the cakes and the cookies.  Serve up a few slices of heaven.  PIE!

CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE
1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
3 oz. good quality dark chocolate
2 Tbsp. butter
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Melt chocolate and butter together in a pan over hot water.
Put aside and let it cool down, but not harden.
Beat together eggs, sugar, syrup and chocolate/butter mixture.
Fold in pecan halves.
Pour into pie shell and bake for 40 minutes (depending on oven) just until it sets.

SWEET POTATO PIE

Topping:
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2/3 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
Combine all ingredients together until crumbly. Set aside.
Filling:
1 9-inch pie shell, unbaked
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 cups  cooked sweet potatoes
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp.cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat over to 475 degrees.
Prick the entire bottom of the pie shell with the tines of a fork.
Spread pecans over the pie shell.
Bake for 5 minutes. Cool.
Lower heat to 300 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, mash together remaining ingredients until well blended and smooth.
Pour into pie shell.
Sprinkle the Topping entirely over top of pie.
Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 25-30 minutes till crumbs are golden brown.

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