While I was careening through boggy farm fields in Southwest Missouri (in the intrepid John Deere Gator, no less!) this past weekend, my daughter and her friend Jenn were on their own road trip exploring some of the rural mountain communities of north Georgia. They called me on Sunday morning, excited to report about an event they chanced upon in the twee town Dahlonega: a Pie Tasting.
Now, this was not your ordinary country pie tasting, but Dahlonega is no ordinary country place. Set in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, it was the site of our first gold rush. (That’s where “There’s gold in them thar hills!” originated..and you can still pan for it, for a price.) Today its rustic setting is the hub of several wineries, and boasts a creative spirit: with performing and visual arts, festivals, and recreational activities.
And, if the Pie Tasting is any indication, there is also some very good food.
Designed as a fundraiser for their local Literacy Council, this Pie Tasting featured 75 varieties of both sweet and savory concoctions. With names to set you salivating: Strawberry-Rhubarb with Brown Sugar Crumble. Rustic Spinach-Feta-Red Pepper Phyllo Tart. Upside-Down Key Lime Pie. Roasted Herbed Vegetables in Puff Pastry. Mile High Chocolate Meringue Pie.
The girls set their cell on speakerphone so that we could have a conference on the tasting.
“They charged $10.00, which entitled you to 5 different slices,” Madeleine said. “I figured, there’s no way we could possibly eat that. But we were wrong.”
“Soooooo very wrong,” said Jenn.
The girls’ favorite pie, hands-down, was the Vidalia Onion with a Cornbread crust.
“We had to have a second slice. It was Crazy Good.”
I’ve made onion tarts, traditional French model, with a basic pate-brisee crust, never with cornmeal. I had never considered that as a possibility. With Vidalias now readily available, this decidedly southern twist was worth replicating.
“The crust was really more like cornbread,” Madeleine explained. “And the filling had kernels of corn in it.”
“And, it was a little custardy,” Jenn continued.
“Quiche-like?” I asked.
“Yes, but, packed with vidalias!” Madeleine said.
“So sweet!” Jenn said.
“Mmmmm. I think I’ve got the picture,” I said.
Vidalia Onion Pie with Cornbread Crust
½ cup Cornmeal ( I used white cornmeal, but either work)
½ cup All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Butter
4 Tablespoons Ice-Cold Water
1 9 inch pie pan, coated with baking spray
Sift dry ingredients together and place in food processor fitted with pastry cutter blade. Add egg, butter, and pulse until mixed. Add water, a tablespoon at a time. This will form a sticky mass of dough.
Press into the prepared pie pan. If the dough is too sticky, add a little cornmeal.
Vidalia Onions are naturally sweet, but lightly caramelizing makes them outstanding.
3 medium Vidalia Onions, sliced
1 Tablespoon Butter
½ cup kernel Sweet Corn (can be fresh or frozen)
1 cup shredded White Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Half-and-Half
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
4 sprigs Fresh Thyme
Heat a large skillet, then melt butter. Add onions and toss until lightly coated. On medium heat, saute the onions for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. Remove from heat.
In a bowl, beat the eggs and half-and-half together well–no traces of yolk.
Layer the bottom the pie with about half of the shredded cheese. Sprinkle with corn kernels, then add the onions. Pour the egg custard mixture over this. Top with remaining cheddar, the leaves from the sprigs of thyme, and a few grindings of black pepper.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes—top will feel set and be nicely browned.