This particular pie came about at the previously mentioned Olympics party, during which I was — in the same conversation — discussing jello shots and invited to a pie contest. This led to the inevitable (in the FJ world) jokes about jello shot pie (jello shots, dumped into a pie crust), which led to talk of margarita pie (frozen margarita, again dumped into a pie crust). But then, in that same discussion on that same brownstone stoop, I got to thinking — margarita pie, that’s a pretty good idea.
Once the concept was born, it was easy enough to make it reality. What are the key elements of a margarita? Lime, tequila, salt, and often triple sec. What is a margarita pie? A key lime pie, with tequila in the lime custard filling, topped with triple sec whipped cream, with fleur de sel (my new favorite product) sprinkled over the whole lot. Perfection! (And with a canteen of tequila served on the side, as we were competing in the public space of Prospect Park.)
In an incredibly good showing of 20+ pies (including an amazing chicken pot pie, numerous delicious peach pies, a fig tart, and another concept mango-based pie named “exotica”), mine tied for first place. As pies go, it’s really easy to make, since it uses a graham cracker crust instead of your usual pie crust. And, even though I love fruit pie best, it was fun to mix it up a little, and I think much appreciated by everyone who was od’ing at the competition. And a little added alcohol — even just a few tablespoons, that cooks right out — never hurts.
(Makes one 9-inch pie)
With help from the Key Lime Pie recipe in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, by Matt and Ted Lee
– 8 graham crackers, pulsed in a food processor (or closed in a Ziploc bag and beaten senseless by a glass bottle), until fine crumbs OR 1 ½ c. store-bought graham cracker crumbs (I have yet to ever see these in a supermarket, they’re elusive)
– 3 tbsp. sugar
– 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (warm or cool)
– 5 large egg yolks
– 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed whole milk
– 2 tbsp. heavy cream
– ½ c. fresh lime juice
– 1 ½ tbsp. fresh lime zest
– 1 tbsp. tequila
For whipped cream:
– 2 c. heavy cream
– 2 tbsp. triple sec
– 2 tsp. sugar
– Extra lime zest (1 tsp), for garnish
– Fleur de sel, to sprinkle over
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a large mixing bowl (or, if you’re me, in the food processor – watch out for the blade). Add the melted butter (or, again, if you’re me, you’ll add the crumbs and sugar to the melted butter straight in the pot). Stir mixture until butter is mixed in thoroughly (all the crumbs should be slightly moist).
3. This is tricky (and trickier than the cookbook made it seem): now you need to get this crumb mixture into the pie pan (9 inches, preferably). The way I did this was by pouring the whole thing into the center, and then spreading it out with my hands. I used the bottom of a juice glass to smash down the crumbs on the flat part of the pie pan, and the back of a spoon to do the sides. It worked pretty well; you could also probably use your fingers. The sides are the tricky part, and you can give up if you have to, but pie is better with side crust, of course.
4. Bake crust on the oven’s middle rack until it has darkened to – as the Lee brothers describe it – “the brown of a pecan shell.” The sugar and butter should have melded with the crumbs to form a cohesive crust, which should take 15-20 minutes. Remove crust from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
5. While the crust is baking, you can make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with a whisk until they have lightened in color, about 1 minute (they will get slightly lighter; you will notice it, I promise). Add the condensed milk and 2 tbsp. of cream and stir until incorporated. Add the lime juice, tequila, and 1 ½ tbsp. lime zest, and stir until the filling has a consistently creamy texture, about 1 minute. It should be light yellow.
6. Pour the filling into the crust (the cookbook says the crust has to be completely cool, but I only let mine cool for about 20 minutes and it was fine). Bake on middle rack until surface is more set but still quivery, about 16 minutes (to check, pull the rack out of the oven, using potholders mind you, and give the pie a little shake; the middle should still quiver slightly, while the periphery should be more set). Cool for 30 minutes, letting the pie set completely.
7. Transfer to the refrigerator, where pie can cool completely, for at least 4 hours. Again, the book says you should eat within 24 hours, but mine is still fine 72 hours later. I wouldn’t recommend making it that far in advance, but leftovers and such still taste fine.
8. Before serving, whip 2 cups cream with 2 tbsp. triple sec and 2 tsp. sugar (it will be a little harder to whip because of the alcohol in there). Spread whipped cream over pie and sprinkle the additional teaspoon of lime zest over the top. Immediately before serving (you don’t want to let it dissolve too much), sprinkle a generous but careful serving of fleur de sel over the top.
9. Optional: serve with tequila, taking a shot of tequila and chasing it with the pie.