The car trip down to Los Angeles was uneventful. AJ was cycling down for the AIDS Lifecycle and I was heading down there to pick him up and to spend a little time with my friends in Southern California. As usual, we were staying with our friend Rita and Damon, in their condo over in Santa Monica. They were the usual gracious hosts, letting us take over their second bedroom and hosting another one of our pie and pie parties, inviting friends from all over the greater Los Angeles metro area to come and partake of the food we made. AJ made pizza of course, and I made a couple of pies, including this Boozy Blueberry Cherry Red Wine Pie. It was, as the guests at the party said, a total winner.
AJ’s AIDS ride went well without any major mishaps. I had been developing tons of recipes for a company while he was gone and had no one to eat them, so I made sure to bring along plenty of my baked goods to Los Angeles for his cycling buddies to eat. I had brought a “version 1.0” test cookie (that I wasn’t super thrilled with) for a dinner party that they all had before the ride, so I was glad to arrive with the final version of the baked good in hand. They all agreed that it was vastly improved, with most of them reaching for a second (and third) helping.
One cyclist turned to me and said “I’m SO glad you aren’t my husband. I’d be the size of a house.” And then proceeded to reach for another baked good. I’m going to take that as a compliment, though AJ wasn’t sure if the guy was implying he was the size of a house or not. I assured him that he was not.
When I went to pick up AJ at the closing ceremonies, AJ had decided, after doing the ride for 11 years, that he didn’t need to attend. I was fine with that, and we loaded up our car with his luggage. AJ said he would just cycle back to Rita and Damon’s place (it was only three or four miles away… which is nothing compared to the 545 miles that he had just cycled) and meet me there. As I drove off, a man in cycling gear waved me down and asked me if I was heading in the direction of Wilshire Blvd. As he stood in front of my car, he asked if I could give him a ride down there, as his friend had been stopped by the police for an expired license plate, driving to pick him up.
I figured that he was fairly harmless, being in spandex which doesn’t really allow you to hide any concealed weapons, and clearly an AIDS Lifecycle rider. Plus he was standing in front of my car. So I told him to hop in and we drove down to the Wilshire Blvd. He had me turn left onto Wilshire Blvd…the opposite direction of where Rita and Damon lived, and assured me that his friend was only a little bit down the road. And then we drove. Past Westwood. Past Beverly Hills. Into La Brea, south of West Hollywood, all the while craning our necks left and right trying to spot his friend pulled over with police cars surrounding him. When Raphael (my car guest) finally got ahold of his friend, he was somewhere over in Beverly Hills, not on Wilshire and things were not looking good (apparently his friend didn’t have a driver’s license with him either). I dropped off Raphael, who it turns out is a private chef living and working in Los Angeles and wished him the best, as I zoomed off to meet up with AJ (who had arrived at Rita and Damon’s awhile ago and had called me to ask me where the heck I was).
I arrived back and AJ and I settled into the our Los Angeles trip. We ate so much food there, our first stop being Jitlada (where I was able to snag a table for ten of us by tweeting to the restaurant, who no longer takes reservations – ah the power of Twitter) which is one my favorite Thai restaurants. We had actually taken AJ’s cycling buddies to Jitlada two years prior post-ride and they had been clamoring to go back ever since (one cyclist said he had been dreaming about his meal for the past two years and absolutely insisted we go after the ride this year). We had Korean food twice, BBQ one day, noodles the next day. And we visited Yogurtland three times, due to the fact that our friend Mok is obsessed with it and had to go everytime we got together.
Though we didn’t want to put Rita and Damon out, we ended up cajoling them into letting us host another pie and pie party, where AJ made pizza and I made dessert pies. Then we basically invite over a hodge podge of friends and we all gorged ourselves silly. AJ made three pizzas, each with a whole wheat crust, and one of which was vegetarian for our vegetarian friends (thankfully we had no vegan friends coming over, that would have required vegan cheese, something I’m just not too fond of).
Thankfully Rita and Damon have a double oven, which allowed for AJ and me to simultaneously bake the multiple pizzas and pies. I decided to make two pies from the fruit that Damon had picked up from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The aforementioned Boozy Blueberry Cherry Wino pie and an apricot peach plum pie were made, for all to enjoy. And though the apricot peach plum pie was good, I think it was the addition of the red wine, to go with the cherry and blueberry filling that really gave that pie the kick that everyone loved. In the end the party was quite the success, with a nice mix of new and old friends all wining and dining and laughing and feasting on pie and pie.
The addition of a fruity big red wine to this pie adds a hidden depth and complexity that you wouldn’t otherwise get. Don’t be fooled by the name though, as most of the alcohol has burnt off after the pie had baked. Crust adapted from More Best Recipes (America’s Test Kitchen) by the Editor’s of Cook Illustrated.
Whole Wheat Pie crust
155 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour
225 (1 1/2 cups) of all purpose flour
25 g (2 tablespoons) white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
285 g (1 1/4 cups or 2 1/2 stick) of cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1/4 cup of cold vodka
1/4 cup of cold ice water
Blueberry Cherry Red Wine Filling
3 cups of sweet bing cherries
3 cups blueberries
1/2 cup red wine (pick something big and juicy)
35 g (1/4 cup) cornstarch
200 g (1 cup) white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
zest of a medium lemon
1 large egg, separated for wash
granulated white sugar to sprinkle on top
1. Place the flours, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Take a balloon whisk and vigorously stir the dry ingredients until they are uniform in color. Sprinkle the cubes of butter over the flour, and then, using your hands, toss the cubes with flour, coating them with the flour. Using your hands again, squeeze the cubes of butter flat, until all the butter has been flattened. Then start rubbing and squeezing the flour and butter together, until the ingredients start to clump together.
2. Sprinkle the water and vodka over the flour butter mixture and toss with a fork until it forms a dough. If the dough seems too wet, sprinkle a little more flour onto it and fold it in, but the dough is meant to be tacky wet. Gather 1/2 of the dough and flatten into a 1/2” thick disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and repeat with the other half of the dough. Place both disks in the refrigerator for an hour or overnight.
3. While dough is chilling, pit the cherries and add them with the blueberries, along with any accumulated cherry juice, into a large mixing bowl. Place the red wine in a glass measuring cup or small bowl, and then add the cornstarch and sugar to it. Stir to dissolve (the sugar won’t completely dissolve). Pour the red wine mixture (scraping out any sugar on the bottom) over the cherries and blueberries and add the vanilla, almond, cinnamon and lemon zest. Toss to coat the fruit.
4. Once the pie dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 425˚F. Take one disk of the dough out and roll it out on a generously floured surface to form a 10” disk. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour to the rolling surface and the dough surface as well (this dough is really forgiving because of the vodka and can take as much flour as you want to add to it). Fit the disk into a 9” pie pan. Take the second disk and repeat the process by rolling it out to a 10” disk. Cut the disk into 10 to 12 strips.
5. Take the egg white and add 1 tablespoon of water to it. Using a fork, whisk the egg white until it foams. Then brush the inside of the pie dough completely. This will help keep the dough from getting soggy. Pour the cherry-blueberry filling into the pie shell.
6. Place the longest strip of pie crust over the filling in the center and turn the pie 90˚ and place the second longest strip perpendicular to that in the center of the pie. You should have an “X” on the pie. Turn another 90˚ and place the third and fourth strips of dough on the right and left of the center strip. Now turn another 90˚ and place two more strips of dough, lifting up the strips to “weave” the strips above and below the placed strips. Continue until you have topped the entire pie, saving the short pastry strips for the ends of the pie top. Decoratively crimp the sides of the pie, folding the ends of the top crust into the edges.
7. Take the egg yolk and add 1 tablespoon of water to it. Using a fork whisk the egg yolk until it foams. Then brush the top of the pie crust completely with the egg wash. Sprinkle white sugar over the top of the pie crust (I never measure, I just sort of sprinkle until there is an even coating of the sugar on top).
8. Place the pie on a baking sheet with edges to help facilitate easy removal of the pie and to catch any drips. Bake the pie at 425˚F for 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 350˚F and bake for an additional 45 minutes to an hour. You want the filling to be thick and bubbling in the middle. If the crust edges are getting too brown, put a piece of aluminum foil over the edges to prevent it from burning. Cool to room temperature before serving.