Here’s the real chess pie — Southern-style — the way Wichita’s MeMe used to make it. Except I left out the vinegar because I misplaced the recipe I was given (which included the now extinct perhaps, Hilco olio). I made both minis and full-sized, at my mother’s insistence. I cheated and used Betty Crocker mix for the crust which makes it a million times easier to roll out. Is it thanks to transfats? I’m not sure I want to know.
The big one got much darker than the minis. I think, in retrospect, with my mother’s new, nuclear hot oven, we should have cooked the big pie longer at a lower heat. The consistency is of the filling in a nut pie — sans nuts. There is a huge controversy as to why it’s called “Chess” pie when there is nothing chess-y about it. And what’s with the nut versions that are just wrong? I think the story that someone misheard the name “Jes'” pie is vaguely anti-Southern or at least sounds pretty condescending. I wonder if it’s true though?
My nephews have threatened to frost the minis with a chessboard (my older nephew is a grandmaster in training — or probably just about one tournament away from that level). I have told them we will invent our own chess pie that includes a chessboard in frosting but these are too toothsome to be frosted. It would be gilding the lily says my mother and she is right.
Proper Southern Chess Pie
1/2 cup butter or Earth Balance (melted)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
unbaked crust to fill a 9″ pie pan
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare but do not bake crust in a 9″ pie pan.
Mix melted butter and sugar till blended. Set aside to cool. Mix eggs till frothy in mixer and then gradually add cooled butter and sugar mixture. Add vanilla and beat till smooth. Pour in unbaked pie shell and bake about 40 minutes to an hour till top is golden. As with all mostly egg confections, don’t open the oven door if you can help it lest the pie fall.
I ignored the recipes with cornmeal and/or vinegar but now I’m tempted to try them. This recipe is almost psychotically easy if you don’t count the anxiety over my mother’s hyper-hot oven.
Bringing the pies to Wichita Sims’ house for New Year’s Eve festivities. Will let you know if they live up to her family traditions or if I have brought shame on her whole line.