Sometimes, it doesn't get better than introducing friends in France to a traditional American dessert. My maple pecan and pumpkin pies have always been a success, with everyone--myself definitely inclued--coming back for thirds.
In my quest to show just how tasty American classics can be, my mind drifted to a summery pie. Fresh, yet creamy, key lime pie is a true traditional dessert. France is the country of tarts, and deep dish pies are something relatively unknown unless you're thinking of a thick, savory slice of quiche. Add the fact that a lot of pies are made with sweetened condensed milk, and you'll get the eyebrow raise. If you've ever spent some time in France (or with my Maman, the eyebrow champ), you've undoubtedly noticed just how expressive an eyebrow can be. Both can be raised when skepticism arises, but more drama comes from a single eyebrow lift. Apparently, I do this without even realizing it, even when I'm filled with trust and acceptance. Must be a hereditary thing.
Back to the pie: sweetened condensed milk, in France, rings a bell for many as "that sweet stuff in the Nestlé tube I used to scarf down when I was a kid". Few people this side of the ocean know sweetened condensed milk is the key to great fudge, and can even be a key component in Asian shaved ice desserts.
So, there I was, pretty set on making a key lime pie. Then, it hit me: there are no key limes here. Not a problem, I thought. I'll just use normal limes. However, limes at the grocery store here are absolutely ridiculous both in price and in juice yield...ridiculous in a bad way. Not wanting to go all the way to the 13th to buy non-untreated (read, probably covered in chemical) limes from Tang Freres even though they are surprisingly juicy, I simply decided to use lemons.
I think I'm well on my way to trying out every single variation on a lemon pie / tart / bar that exist sin both countries, and I've got to say I've been pretty satisfied so far. Replacing the key limes with lemons yields a perfectly creamy, flavorful pie that I would make again anytime. But watch out: maybe you shouldn't tell anyone about the sweetened condensed milk, because then they will realize how easy this pie is to make. And then, nothing would be able to justify that raised eyebrow--well, unless you're French. In that case, it's just part of your heritage.
serves 6 to 8
Graham Cracker Crust
8 whole graham cracker sheets, finely crushed
5 TB butter, melted and cooled
2 TB sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C.
Mix all ingredients together in a food processor. Press against a buttered pie pan with your fingers or a measuring cup. Bake approximately 15 minutes until golden and fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare lemon filling.
4 egg yolks
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
zest of 2untreated lemons (approximately 4 TS)
In a medium bowl, whisk yolks and zest together. Add condensed milk and juice and stir to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes to let mixture thicken.
Pour mixture on top of pie crust and bake approximately 15 minutes until filling center still jiggles slightly. Remove from oven and set on a rack to cool for one hour. Refrigerate overnight if possible before serving.