Before we head into this holiday weekend, I wanted to tell you about two important things that happened this past week. One, our favorite chef, good friend and fellow food blogger, Chef Josh, is the latest in the line of esteemed Chopped Champions! Last Tuesday the Food Network aired his episode of the chefly cooking competition in which, unsurprisingly, Mr. Grill A Chef himself grilled those other contenders into charred, smoking submission. If you missed it, you can watch it when it re-airs on July 16th at 8pm on the Food Network.
And secondly, just as excitingly, though surprisingly, not aired on national television: I made this pie. It was delicious.
If you're a food blog reader, or a NY Times dining section reader or a Bon Appetit subscriber (RIP Gourmet), you may have noticed that everyone and their mother is having a conniption over sour cherries and their magical ability to transform into delectable preserves and pies. From the rooftops you can hear the cries of "they have such a short season!" and "get to your farmer's market NOW before you miss them!" Usually I am entirely deterred by this alarmist mentality (as are you). It's just too precious for me, and reminds me of car commercials which every SINGLE time claim that NOW is the best time to buy. Oh really? Better than last month when you said that same thing? Crap--someone get me to my local Hyundai dealer STAT!
But this time, I fell for it. I was shopping for a dinner with our cousins and I spied a crate of these tiny little garnet gems at the greenmarket and before I knew it I was spending way too much on a bag-full. I drew the line at buying what our cousins call a "unitasker", a cherry pitter, which would have sped things up considerably but then sat in the drawer for the rest of the year, laughing at me and crying "Didn't you HEAR they have a short season?"
The apartment was hot as hell. The pie dough stuck to the roller, got goopy with perspiration, refused to cooperate. The cherry pitting took forever and gave me a shoulder cramp. But the pie. Oh, the pie.
Let's just say that when served a slice a day later, post-refrigeration, the actual MOTHER of the CHOPPED CHAMPION declared it the best cherry pie she'd ever had. Period. BOOYAH.
Classic Sour Cherry Pie (adapted from Bon Appetit)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tablespoons (or more) ice water
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole pitted sour cherries (about 2 pounds whole unpitted cherries)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (if using sour cherries)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon (about) milk
Vanilla ice cream
Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until small pea-size clumps form. Add 5 tablespoons ice water; mix lightly with fork until dough holds together when small pieces are pressed between fingertips, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough together; divide into 2 pieces. Form each piece into ball, then flatten into disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Do ahead Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly before rolling out.
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla; set aside.
Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. (At this point, Bon Appetit will have you make strips to create a lattice top, but f-that. You just hand-pitted 2 lbs of cherries. A standard crust will look just fine, thank you.) Transfer filling to dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in center. Dot with butter. Lay top crust over filling; trim dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold bottom crust up over ends of strips and crimp edges to seal. Brush crust (not edges) with milk. Sprinkle crust with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
Place pie on rimmed baking sheet (I highlight this because it's so crucial to you not wanting to die when you discover your oven floor coated in molten syrup) and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour longer. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.