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The most fabulous pumpkin pie in the universe

I woke up this morning thinking about the pumpkin pie discussion, and whether there could be a fabulous pumpkin pie. I decided if anyone could make one, it would be James Beard. Which is why I was in the basement going through my old cookbooks at 5:30 a.m.

One of my favorite cookbooks of his is Menus for Entertaining, first published in 1965. I only have it in a small paperback, and the pages are quite yellow and brittle now. Each menu is more interesting to read than the last, and the recipes are excellent (although in this day and age useless for many people because of their fat content). ...

This search also led me to Amazon just now to see if Menus for Entertaining is out of print, which indeed it is. There are, however, used copies available -- some of them staggeringly expensive. But I also found a hardcover edition "Like New" for $10, which I promptly bought.

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The search for the quintessential pumpkin pie so far this morning has cost me $14. I need another cookbook like I need more leaves in my yard.

Anyway, I found a Rich Pumpkin Pie recipe under Beard's menu for Thanksgiving dinner.  In fact, I better give you the whole menu. It's quite unconventional, because he thinks cranberries interfere with the taste of the wine. It's expensive to make and elegantly simple, with a first course to have with cocktails and champagne. With the turkey and cheese courses, he suggests a fine Bordeaux, a Lascombes or Chateau Haut Brion, and a sweet sauterne for dessert:

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Caviar or smoked salmon

Buttered pumpernickel or rye

Turkey with tarragon crumb and spiced sausage stuffing

Pan sauce with giblets

Mashed yellow turnips with butter

Salad

Cheese

Rich pumpkin pie

Now for the pie itself. I don't know how a pumpkin pie with candied ginger and cognac would go over if any children were being served. This is obviously a most adult Thanksgiving.

2 9-inch rich pastry shells [I've always had good luck making a crust with half sweet butter, half shortening; but he gives a recipe with egg as well. EL]

2 cups mashed pumpkin (canned is "ideal")

6 eggs

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2 cups heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoons ground cloves

1/2 cup finely cut preserved or candied ginger

1/2 cup cognac

1/4 teaspoon mace

Fill pie shells with foil and beans and bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove foil and beans.

Place pumpkin in a bowl and make a well in center. Add lightly beaten eggs combined with the heavy cream, seasonings and ginger. Blend thoroughly. Correct the seasoning -- you may want a spicier pie. Pour into the partially baked pie shells and bake at 375 degrees till the custard is just set.

Beard serves it slightly warm with cognac-flavored, sweetened whipped cream.

(Los Angeles Times photo by Kirk McKoy)

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