Last week I was walking my dog Dexter down to the vet in the midst of a huge shared pity party. Dex had a nasty ear infection that was making him miserable. I was limping along with pain from my torn hip labrum, on which I will have surgery in a week. I was focused on our agony; feeling helpless and pathetic.
For those just joining the blog…almost 30 years ago, I was hit by a car and took the impact very close to the spot that is torn, breaking my femur and shattering my pelvis. The labrum is a type of cartilage that forms a ring around the edge of the bony socket of the joint. When it is torn, the femur (thigh bone) can slide around or pop out and cause a lot of discomfort.
Since my accident I have always felt pain of one sort or another in my left hip. I figured that that was my lot in life. It was only when my femur popped out of the socket two months ago, (which it has done before but with less prolonged pain) that I went to a doctor and discovered there was an actual problem and an actual cure. I was obsessing about all of this, while walking down the street staring at my sad dog, when it hit me… my word.
I have an amazing friend named Colleen who has a tradition every New Year. She comes up with a word for the year to come. Just one word and it can be anything; a noun, a verb, an adjective, whatever. I think the task is brilliant because it lets you take stock of the year that’s ending, without fixating too much, and then refocuses your attention on the year to come. You are empowered to choose whatever word you like- designating yourself both a prophet and architect of your own future.
The year I moved back to New York, my word was “leap”, the next year my word was “sprout”. I like verbs because I love to feel like I am challenging myself. There are always times in the year where I feel hopeless and then suddenly remember the word I chose. I find I can push myself a little harder when I reconnect with the spark of intuition I felt when I found that word.
So now you’re all on the edge of your seats to hear my word right?
My word for 2012 is RUN.
Because I haven’t run without pain since I was 13. And, while I know that my surgery isn’t guaranteeing a pain-free life, my word inspires and motivates me to set that as an attainable goal. And no, I have no aspirations to join Shannon as an Ultra-Marathoner. I’d just like to be able to catch a fucking bus once in a while.
Now then, food… I am, after all, committed to one recipe per blog post.
Shannon and I spent Christmas Eve at my parent’s house with a gaggle of their friends. My parents are Italophiles – they love all things Italian. We celebrated with the feast of the seven fishes, an Italian tradition wherein seven fishes are consumed over the course of the night. I offered to be responsible for one of the fishes, knowing that it would be ok if it didn’t actually contain fish.
Behold the pecan fish!
This is an outstanding pie no matter what shape it’s in. It would be a true showstopper for any New Year’s eve party.
Have a safe and happy New Year – and let me know your word if you think of one!
Pecan Pie (in any shape you choose)
Makes one 9-inch pie
FOR THE CRUST
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1/8 cup sugar
- ¾ teaspoons salt
- 1 ¼ sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons non-hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces, frozen
- 3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
FOR THE FILLING
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Zest of one orange
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 22 pecan halves, for garnish
- Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening; cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 6 tablespoons ice water and blend just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball. Flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 3 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Soften dough 15 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Butter 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured work surface to 12- to 13-inch round. Transfer dough to prepared pie dish and press dough onto bottom , leaving about an extra inch hanging over the rim. Flute edge as desired. Freeze pie shell for 30 minutes.
- Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pie shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake shell on top of a baking sheet for about 20 minutes until the shell is set. Remove the weights and the parchment and bake for another 10 minutes until the shell is golden brown.
- Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.
While the shell is baking, you can make the filling:
- In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring consistently for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in nuts, vanilla, almond extract, and orange zest. When it has cooled for 5 minutes, whisk in the beaten eggs until smooth. Pour filling into pie crust. Top with pecans by evenly spacing 14 of them around the outer edge of pie filling. Make a second row by evenly spacing seven pecans in a smaller circle in the center; place 1 pecan in center.
- Transfer pie to oven; bake for 40 to 45 minutes. If edges get very dark, cover them with aluminum foil halfway during baking. Cool on a rack and then serve slightly warm or at room temperature.