August 6, 2012

Key Lime Pie

My younger sister and my older cousin are 10 years apart. When we were younger, that difference felt huge. My sister wasn't even allowed to cross the street by herself when my cousin started driving. Now that we’re a little (ahem!) older, the age difference doesn’t seem nearly as significant.

For many years now, the three of us have been talking about taking a girl’s trip. For one reason or another, we’ve had to keep putting it off. This year, we finally made it happen. We all got on the phone in April and chose a weekend. Within a few days, we’d picked a destination. By the end of that week, we’d booked a hotel and made plane reservations.

And so it was, at the end of July, we arrived in Miami. We spent three blissful days laying out by the pool, relaxing on the beach and hanging out in the warm ocean water. We explored the city and drank plenty of wine and caipirinhas.

And we ate. A lot. Because one of the many things we have in common is our love of good food. It must be genetic.

stone crabs
We had delicious churrasco and pan-Latin food and an insanely good Southern brunch (chicken and biscuits!). And of course we went to the famous Joe’s Stone Crab. Stone crabs are a specialty of the area. When harvesting stone crabs, fishermen pull off the large claws and then throw the relatively scrawny body back in the water. Stone crabs can re-grow their lost claws, making them very sustainable. At Joe’s the stone crabs are steamed and chilled, then served with a creamy mustard dipping sauce. 

key limes and a regular lime
I’ve never seen stone crabs up in Boston so I can’t replicate that dining experience. But luckily stone crabs aren’t the only thing Joe’s is famous for. They also serve a killer key lime pie. Key lime pie is another Florida specialty. It’s named for key limes, the small, tart limes that grow in the Florida Keys. Key lime pie has a graham cracker crust, topped with a creamy, intensely tangy lime filling.

I’ve never been a huge fan of key lime pie. Or so I thought. It turns out I’m just not a fan of mediocre key lime pie. Because the key lime pie at Joe’s blew me away. Tart and tangy, incredibly limey, and not overly sweet. So good that all three of us just kept digging in our spoons for more and more and more. And even that wasn’t enough. I found the recipe online and made it at home a week after I got back.

First make the crust. Process graham crackers into crumbs.

Combine the crumbs with sugar and melted butter.

Press the mixture into the bottom of a pie pan or tart pan and bake until just set.

Now the filling, which has only four ingredients: lime zest, lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk. The first thing you’ll want to do is zest and juice the limes. I used a combination of regular limes and key limes (which I found a little bitter).

In a mixer, beat the egg yolks and lime zest until fluffy. (I accidentally used the beater blade instead of the whisk, but it still turned out fine.)

Add the sweetened condensed milk and continue to beat until the mixture is thick.

Finally, add the lime juice and mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the crust, then bake until the filling is just set.

Cool and refrigerate thoroughly. Garnish with whipped cream and lime zest and serve!

Key Lime Pie

Recipe very slightly adapted from Joe's Stone Crab

1 wax paper-wrapped package (or 1/3 pound) graham crackers
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp grated lime zest, plus extra for garnish
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (I used a combination of key limes and regular limes)
lightly sweetened whipped cream

1.    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan.

2.    Break up the graham crackers; place in a food processor and process to crumbs. (If you don't have a food processor, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin.) Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined.

3.    Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pie pan, forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on.

4.    Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer.

5.    Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes or until the filling has just set.

6.    Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate thoroughly.

7.    Garnish with whipped cream and lime zest.

Makes 1 9-inch pie

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