Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Twitter demands: WTF is Red Bean Pie?!

Wow! I posted a picture of my red beans soaking for my annual Thanksgiving Red Bean Pie and Twitter went kind of crazy. People seemed confused, grossed out and even angry.* So I thought I'd take a minute out of my holiday preparations to post the recipe and the history of the sweet -- but not too sweet -- Red Bean Pie.

In New Orleans in the early 1980s I was a huge fan of Omar the Pie Man. Omar Aziz was a humble, energetic, sweet guy who made some heavenly pies. I'd see him at the University of New Orleans campus and events hawking his pies off a big tray or a box carried on his shoulder and every year I'd get his pies at the Jazz Fest. By the good grace of some friends in the radio biz, I'd get onto the Fairgrounds before the gates opened. The first order of business: go look for Omar's little white van to get a bean pie for breakfast. Bean Pies were not his most popular (that was sweet potato), so he never had very many. I wanted to get mine early. I loved the bean pie -- for its earthy not-too-sweetness, its wholesomeness and its uniqueness.

When I heard that Omar had passed away in the early 2000s, I thought about how sad it was that his great energy and pies had passed too. I searched for information on the recipes, but learned that they were a cherished family secret (As his legacy, they should be!)

I poked around and thought about it for a long time. I learned about the tradition of bean pies in the Black Muslim community. I looked for other bean pie recipes. I tried to remember a pie I hadn't tasted for twenty years. And then I tried to make my own bean pie: sort of a cross between sweet potato and custard pie. It came out fine. Not a duplicate of Omar's, but a good pie. And everyone who tried it, liked it and learned about my respect and fond memories of Omar. The pie itself is not a "New Orleans thing" but Omar, the man -- with his great vibe and talent -- was a beautiful part of the New Orleans of my youth. He was a great representative of the New Orleans I am proud to call my hometown.

So now, filled with thanks for all Omar's good food and inspiration, I offer my recipe for Red Bean Pie:

Kate's Red Bean Pie

  • 2-1/2 cups red beans - soaked overnight 
  • 2 Tbs Steens Cane Syrup or Molasses
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp each: cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, all spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • Pie crust - Of course, homemade is best, but frozen will do too. Prepare it per the instructions for a custard-style pie. Some people pre-bake their crusts, some do not. It is up to you or your frozen pie crust manufacturer.
My 2014 pie crust last year lost its sides, but the pie was still a hit :)

Sort, rinse and soak the beans in water overnight.

Gently simmer beans in ample water for an hour or more until very tender. Don't let them boil; it toughens the skins.

Reserve a cup of the beans' cooking water and set aside two cups of drained beans. (Use left over beans in a salad. Yum.)

Combine beans and all other ingredients in a blender and process until completely smooth. If the mix is too thick, use the reserved bean water to help smooth things out.

Pour into the pie shell and bake at 350 ° for about 1 hour or until pie is set and a pick comes out clean.

Pie will set further as it rests. Rest for at least 15 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream.

I hope you enjoy it! Happy Thanksgiving to Twitter and to all. Love, K

*Postscript: Tweeps were also laughing at me and my dowdy-looking pie. I'm cool with that, too. The world is full of so much hateful garbage right now. If anybody gets a good laugh from some old white woman and her goofy pie, I say laugh on, friends, laugh on.