Sometimes a pie comes about in response to a request. I’ve never had any experience with Chess Pies, but after making the Hoosier Pie (milk, sugar, flour) I became intrigued with these old fashioned American”desperation” pies, made without fruit or nuts, relying on pantry staples. Then I heard through the ever effective KCRW grapevine that one of the volunteers wanted a Chess Pie. So I started combing through my expanding Pie Library and settled on Ken Haedrich’s voluminous book Pie. In my mind I had been thinking of doing something lemon with a chocolate crust so I chose his Lemon Chess pie filling and combined it with Dorie’s Chocolate Shortbread Crust, which I could eat all day as a giant cookie. It’s perfectly short and so not sweet. Just really chocolaty. You can find the crust recipe online here.
As for the filling, I loved it. It’s simply sugar, melted butter, eggs, yellow cornmeal, lemon juice, half-half. (Okay, not such a desperation pie. Sort of a “The Farm is Flush Today Pie”). There are millions of recipes on the internet. I ended up eating it after it had been refrigerated so the filling was dense and smooth a lightly lemony without being too sweet. Mom loved it, a rarity as you know. I want to make it again and try it while its barely warm. Must be very sexy.
As for the name? Some say it’s because it sat in the Pie Chest, other’s say it’s from “It’s jess pie”. I would never diss Chess Pie in this way.