Kentucky in New York
All this week, Blue Moon's beautiful giant garlic braids gleam behind the frantic antics of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and the clutch of cooks-in-training on either side of him, otherwise known as the anchors and hosts of the NBC Today Show. Ignore the cooking and admire the perfection of those garlic braids. They combine sensual curves with orderly rows, chaste white with the promise of fiery taste. Quite rich, those braids. Michelle Slatalla, the savvy writer of the New York Times weekly column Online Shopper, today encouraged her readers to order a Kentucky favorite, Derby-Pie, partly because of its unusual quality of keeping well when frozen. Slatalla gamely makes sure to spell it "Derby-Pie," with a hyphen. This pie is one of those food products that picks up advertising and name recognition partly through taking a pugnacious posture on trademarking.
I like Slatalla's fine, clean writing a lot better than I like the pie she recommends. I find the "bought" version of Derby-Pie over-rated - kind of dry and dull. (Its dry texture does make it freeze well, though, and that's Slatalla's point.) But plenty of home cooks and restaurants in Kentucky make astonishing versions of a great pecan or walnut pie with add-ins of first-rate chocolate chips or chunks. When Homeland Security is not listening, we just call these plain old un-hyphenated Derby pie.
These pies feature a chocolate-spiked version of that silky custard we love so much in perfect pecan pie. Some end up being a butter/sugar custard accented with chocolate regions, and others yield a unitary chocolate-y custard. The wonderful Alfalfa Restaurant in Lexington makes the latter type sometimes (though they don't dare use the word "Derby" in its moniker.)
Slatalla has Kentucky roots, something fellow Nougat writer Julie Wrinn told me recently. I should have known this myself, because Slatalla has a new book out, The Town on Beaver Creek, about Martin, Kentucky, where her mother was born. Slatalla's blog includes other Kentucky food references, including the cream candy available at both Ruth Hunt and Rebecca Ruth candy companies.