Friday, August 21, 2009

Dinner Out and Key Lime Pie

One of the best things about the beach house is its massive and well-equipped kitchen. We hadn't been to a restaurant once, which was a welcome break for me since I'd been eating out much too much at home, waiting for my new apartment's kitchen to be operational. I love to cook for a crowd and this week we've stayed in for dinners except for last night. We decided to make reservations at a near-by restaurant. We went to Riverside Steak and Seafood in Swansboro, on the other side of the bay. It was nice change of pace. The service was excellent and we all enjoyed our dinners. My brother Danny ordered a seafood pasta dish that had him wrestling with lobster claws, but once he was provided some apparatus, it all went very smoothly.

Typically, I don't order dessert, especially after salad and a good meal. Last night I decided to go for the Key lime pie. My sister-in-law Suzette ordered the same. We are both big fans. Ours was very good, but not the best we'd ever had. I look for a graham cracker crust. Suzette prefers a meringue top rather than whipped cream, and we were expecting a bigger lime punch. Still, it was a cool and refreshing finale to a delicious meal.

I've heard a number of stories about the origins of Key lime pie, and the universal thread seems to be that, until the 1930s and transportation and shipping improved, there was no refrigerated milk available on the Keys. Canned milk was used for milk recipes. The silky smoothness of sweetened condensed milk, when combined with the citric acid of the Key lime, produced this heavenly dessert, and we're the lucky beneficiaries of that set of circumstances.

Once home, I decided to look up the recipe in Joy of Cooking, one of the cookbooks here at the beach house. Authors Irma Raumbauer and Marion Raumbauer Becker offer the following:

This pie owes its distinctive character to the pungent citrus variety--native to Florida--called the Key lime. It may be used in any other recipe calling for either lemon or lime.

A 9-inch Single-Crust Pie

Prepare a baked pie shell, 640 (I don't know what that number indicates!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix together well:

1 can sweetened condensed milk: 15 oz.
1 tablespoon grated Key lime rind
1/2 cup Key lime juice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 slightly beaten egg yolks.

Stir until thickened, a result of the reaction of the milk with the citrus juice.
Pour the mixture into the baked crust and cover with a meringue made by beating until stiff, but not dry:

2 egg whites

to which are gradually added:

2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake pie 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Eggless version: Use 1/3 cup juice and omit egg yolks. Use whipped cream as a topping. No baking.

Photo credit:


  1. Jeannie - can't help but share my favorite Key Lime Pie story with you. My brother, John, a pastry chef by trade, was on the caterers call-list whenever the Grateful Dead came to Albany to perform. The band would put their order in to be ready after the show so the catering crew had time to prepare. One night John received an order for 3 large slices of different varieties of pie for Jerry Garcia himself. He made cherry struesel, banana cream and key lime. When the order when out to the band, John said, "Just you watch, Jerry will love the key lime best!" Don't you know the next night the order was for 3 slices of KEY LIME PIE! And to this day, I'm still waiting for the famous recipe from him.

  2. I love that story! Thanks for sharing!