Meta Given's Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Every week on, we're digging up Genius Recipes -- the ones that make us rethink cooking myths, get us talking, and change the way we cook.

Today: Perfect pumpkin pie in half the time of your average back-of-the-can recipe.

- Kristen Miglore, Senior Editor,

At a recent photo shoot, a few of us were standing around lamenting that we don't have a go-to pumpkin pie. Or that our go-to is so involved that it's more akin to an awkwardly choreographed square dance, and stresses us out and furrows our faces just reading it. Feast day recipes shouldn't require memorizing three steps ahead for success -- it won't end well (and so on with the lamenting).

>> RELATED: See our day-by-day guide for a stress-free Thanksgiving on Shine.

Then along comes Amanda's mother Judy Hesser, an untouchable cook (we're talkingChocolate Dump-It Cake and Peach Tart untouchable). She casually said she was fond of an old recipe that has you cook down the pumpkin to caramelize it.

Pumpkin Pie

That alone was enough to sell me -- it sounded like a pie with guts, that wouldn't just sit there phoning in the pumpkin flavor, and burying it under lots of spice. But when I made Amanda dig up the recipe -- in the two-volume gem Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking(the overlooked step-sister of The Joy of Cooking and Fannie Farmer) -- the genius of the recipe was much more than that.

Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking

You don't have to blind bake the crust. You use real milk and cream instead of evaporated milk, with predictably way-better results. And because you blast it at 400 degrees the whole time, it bakes in 25 minutes -- less than half the time of your average back-of-the-can recipe.

Are you thinking, "But it's a custard pie! How can it sustain such abuse?" I told you this was a pie with guts. I credit the cream, and the chilled pie shell.

A few words of caution -- if your crust is rolled especially thick, or your pie dish is glass instead of tin, or you loathe underdone bottom crust, you might still want to blind bake it a little. But if none of these apply, you (and your bottom crust) are golden.

>> RELATED: Cut your grocery list in half with 5-ingredient Thanksgiving recipes on Shine.

Pumpkin Pie

Caramelizing the pumpkin doesn't stick to the dry saucepan like you may worry it will (it's moist enough that it basically keeps deglazing itself -- that's real science). And it does everything you'd hope for the flavor -- pumpkin, and proud of it.

The creamy custard base puts this pie less in the league of its sturdy-jiggly evaporated milk brethren, and more on the way to a regal chiffon mousse (without the gelatin and whipped egg whites and fear). Which means at the end of all the Thanksgiving brouhaha, you may only want a small slice, and you might not even need the whipped cream (but make sure you have a bowlful, just to be safe). And -- oh well! -- that just means more left to eat cold for breakfast on Friday.

>> RELATED: See 9 Thanksgiving Sides Get a Simple, Modern Makeover on Shine.

Pumpkin Pie

Meta Given's Pumpkin Pie

Adapted slightly from Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking

Serves 6

1 3/4 cups canned or fresh cooked pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 eggs
1 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
Unbaked, unpricked, chilled 9-inch pie shell
(we like lapadia's simple Himalayan Blackberry Pie crust, also on FOOD52)

1. Turn pumpkin into aluminum saucepan and stir over direct heat for 10 minutes until somewhat dry and slightly caramelized, stirring frequently. Remove from heat but keep hot.

2. Mix thoroughly together the sugar, salt, and spices, and stir into hot pumpkin.

3. Beat eggs, add cream and milk, and beat into pumpkin mixture until smooth.

4. Pour immediately into unpricked pastry-lined pie pan and bake in a moderately hot oven (400° F) for 25 to 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and only an inch circle in the center of the filling remains liquid. Cool thoroughly on cake rack before cutting.

Note: Perfectly baked pumpkin pie has no cracks on its surface. Baking hot filling in a chilled crust at 400° F for 25 to 30 minutes produces a smooth, shiny good textured custard and a well-baked crust free from soaking.

See a slideshow (and save and print the recipe) on FOOD52 here.

Want more genius recipes? Try Nancy Silverton's Whipped Cream or Russ Parsons' Dry-Brined Turkey

Photos by James Ransom

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