CHOCOLATE.

•December 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Guide to Turin’s ChocoPass

Is there a better way to while away an afternoon or two in beautiful Turin, than to wander throughout the city sampling chocolate truffles, drinking hot chocolate, or eating cake? Possibly, but who cares? Let’s eat!

Turin has five main Tourist Information Centers, but the one most likely to have an English speaker is located conveniently in Piazza Castello. At these centers, for only 12 euro, you can purchase a ChocoPass. It functions as a set of 10 coupons, for both free samples of the shops’ wares as well as discounts on purchases, and is usable for two full days (though not a single shop asked to see the date on my pass). You walk into a chocolate or pastry shop, ask for a sample in your best Italian, hand them a coupon, and walk away with a few delicious treats. So why buy it you may ask? Well, for these reasons:

1.You get a fair amount of chocolate for the money, saving a few euros in the long run.
2.Several of the shops are off the beaten path, so you’ll see a bit more of the city than you normally would.
3.It’s great for adults and children alike since you literally will be kids in candy stores.
4.You can practice your Italian, which is always appreciated in Turin. If it’s good enough, and the shopkeeper is friendly, you can learn quite a bit about the hundreds of kinds of items each store has. Just politely point and say “Mi scusi Signora, cos’è questo?”
5.The chocolate is quite rich, so, unless you’re very hungry, two people could share the chocolate booty, and the price of the pass.
6.You get a discount if you decide to purchase anything.
7.The pass comes with a map so you cannot get lost. This map is also much smaller than the standard tourist map, so I easily carried it around with me the rest of my trip.
8.You do a fair amount of walking, which, I feel justified the sugar calories I ingested.

I spent two rainy afternoons using my pass up completely, though you could do it all in one day if you were more ambitious than myself. The pass gives you two or three location choices per coupon, so the reviews below do not constitute every shop. However, I stuck to those nearest the center of town, and in a natural order for walking and for easy navigation. All opinions are of course my own, and you may have a different experience. If you do, leave me a comment!

1. Confetteria Stratta – Start you tour by leaving Piazza Castello and strolling down Via Roma to beautiful piazza San Carlo. Feel free to purchase some Gucci along the way. Stratta wins my award for best packaging. There are gorgeous boxes with various photos of Turin on their lids, that come in hundreds of sizes and colors. They also have a huge selection of jelly beans that I highly recommend trying. The sample of chocolate truffles you receive is also a good size.

2. Caffè Torino – Also in Piazza San Carlo is Caffè Torino, already a tourist destination due to its famous glowing Martini sign (by the way, vermouth was invented in Turin) hanging in the portico, as well as a golden bull inlaid into the sidewalk that you rub for good luck. Alas, it wins the awards for stingiest sample and lack of enthusiasm. Take a picture, rub the bull, but head to the other location on your pass.

3. Guido Gobino – wins awards for both “high class” looking establishment, as well as largest tasting sample! They also have a variety of tasty looking jars of sauces. Don’t miss this one!

4. Mamycao – A tiny shop compared to the others, but wins the award for nicest proprietor. Not only was he enthusiastic in his welcome and chatted with me about where I was from, but he let me choose my own truffles, and gave me a free coffee to go with them!

5. Divizia – I ended my first cold day at Divizia, with a free “cioccolata calda” and a plate of yummy small cookies. Thicker and far more delicious than ‘American’ hot chocolate, this one unfortunately does not hold a candle to Caffè Mulassano’s in Piazza Castello. Mulassano isn’t on the ChocoPass, but trust me, go there. However, Divizia also has a large selection of gourmet goods from across the Piemonte Region, as well as a restaurant with organic and local food selections.

6. Cioccolato Peyrano – This shop wins for its awesome decorations, as they went all out for the holidays with their glowing windows and ceiling decor, and their beautiful gift baskets. They’re a little skimpy on the chocolate, but once you take a glance at their seemingly steep prices, you might see why. Don’t forget you get a discount!

7. Gerla – Also quite expensive, but they have a wider selection of goods, as well as a bigger bag to take away with you.

8. Candifrutto – I mention this one only because it has permanently moved to a new location different from what’s listed on the pass, Corso Vinzaglio 25C, but I didn’t have time to backtrack and find it.

9. Al Bicerin – I ended my delightful and scrumptious tour at Al Bicerin. Do not, under any circumstances, leave Turin without a visit here! Though you already get a free slice of cake, I strongly recommend purchasing a bicerin as well. A warm and comforting local specialty, it’s a triple-layered beverage of coffee, chocolate, and foamed cream. Owned continuously by women (since 1763!), Al Bicerin is candlelit and romantic, and has a beautiful view of the Piazza Consolata and its famous church.

If you’re like me, you are now quivering with a delightful sugar rush, but, the ChocoPass barely scratches the surface of Turin’s history of delicious chocolatey goodness. There is infinitely more to taste and see here!

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This is why I’m hot – #3

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a lazy few days.  It was cold and rainy as usual, and I just didn’t feel like getting out and about.  Plus, my last few days to myself are quickly coming to an end, and the real world is going to come rushing in soon with nearly unbearable tidal force.  So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.

[Oh yes, there is a LOOOONG, emotionally overwrought, philosophical post (in which I even quote ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ TWICE, for goodness sake)  just waiting in the draft folder to be published, and it will be at the very end.  I’m sure you are waiting with bated breath.]

I haven’t even been in the mood to have any sexcapades!  I don’t really even believe in monogamy, but I feel like ‘doin’ it’ when Michele has planned a nice weekend together just feels wrong.  I mean, I am about to seriously break his heart next Monday right before I leave, so I’m feeling guilty enough as it is.   Plus, I think I may have exhausted my supply…I mean, Turin isn’t that big.

Luckily, today dawned bright and sunny!  It was also my last day with a couple of my students, one of which is taking the TOEFL on Friday.   I will miss them both a lot.  They are super-cute, and always concerned about how my life is going here.  Plus, they’ve even improved their TOEFL skills by leaps and bounds, which makes me feel like I made a difference.  The other one broke down in tears in the middle of the lesson because she had just broken up with her boyfriend, and I had asked a speaking question along the lines of “Describe what you think your soulmate is like….”   She had to leave the lesson completely.  It got me thinking about relationships and how much they can hurt just as much as cause joy, and how much the hurting part worries me.  I’ve seen it many (hundreds) of times amongst my friends.  It just worries me.

So, what better way to temper (and quickly forget about) such deeper life and love thoughts than with a shit-ton of chocolate and sugar!  Oh god yes!  So, I bought a Choco-Pass for 12 euro.  Basically it’s a bunch of coupons for free chocolate samples at a bunch of cafes and chocolate shops.  It was a lovely way to continue my long goodbye to Torino:  get incredibly hyped up on caffeine and sugar, practice my meager Italian, get free stuff just because I’m nice (or, one of the proprietors was really bored…), and walk around the city for hours and down some streets I haven’t visited yet.

[quick note here to point out that crazy room-mate is now BLASTING deep house music again, so if the tone of this post goes a bit downhill, it’s because I can’t concentrate]


Don’t believe I was so over-stimulated that I couldn’t think rationally?  Um, look what I bought at the grocery store on the way home, instead of the parmesan cheese I went in for: applesauce (with strawberries!), a big twinkie cake thing because it had Mickey Mouse on it, a coke, and a bottle of wine (I also still had chocolate leftover from my tour).    And no, this was not my dinner! I stuffed it in a cabinet in hopes I would forget about this clear lack of judgement.  I didn’t even eat dinner…because I literally ate so much mexican food last night I had to sleep on my back because I was so distended.

‘Ack!’ you might be thinking.  But, one of the joys of Italy is smaller portion sizes. The mexican feast included: chips and salsa, guacamole, loaded chips, and a quesadilla (and a margarita of course).  However, all the plates were maybe a fourth of what you would get at Taco-Mac.  Hooray for shrunken stomachs!!   Also, hooray for the fact that I was still full today, to the point where all my chocolate was both lunch and dinner….*sigh* only here….

What made the dinner even better was that it was free because one of my students is going to miss me very much  (maybe a bit too much if you know what I mean) and wanted to take me out.

Tomorrow I have lunch with my favorite and dear student, Luca, who I will sadly miss the most.  But, because I’m smart and self-medicating, I saved some Choco-pass coupons for just such a bout of sadness….

More Sauce. Quattro Formaggi !

•November 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I believe this will probably be the last of the series of sauce postings for the near future.  I have only 9 days left here in Italy, and I must use up the groceries I already have (which won’t make any interesting dishes I think), and I will also be in Genova for two days sans cooking.   Plus, I will be getting back on the healthy train in January, and will once again say a fond farewell  to pasta and bread.

That being said, this sauce is crazy yummy.  It sounded very rich and creamy, but turned out to be quite subtle instead.  Think the opposite of what Olive Garden’s alfredo sauce tastes like.  I (of course) added pancetta to mine, which added some salty meatyness to it.  I also deglazed (I know, right!) the pancetta pan with some white wine which added some acidity to the sauce as well.  All in all, quite delicious, especially after going out dancing the night before (Saturday) until 6 am, and then sleeping until 4 pm.    Speaking of going out:

This is the view from the dancefloor of the disco Fluido.  I wasn’t going to go, but I took pity on crazy roomie, because she was quickly turning into ‘sad roomie’ due to apparently being stood up by the guy she was going to go with.  I didn’t feel like dealing with the crying the next day, so I told her I would go with her.  It was an ok club music-wise…I mean, all house music pretty much sounds the same to me, and I wasn’t really in the mood to dance.  However, the club is right on the banks of the River Po, as you can see, and also has a glass roof so you can see stars while dancing also, so it was quite an experience….  I maaaayyy have had a few too many long islands, because next thing I know I’ve walked home, gone to sleep, and woken up, oh so very hungry.

I spent the day practically in bed, watching way too much Gossip Girl (last night I dreamed I was friends with them and we all went to a party together in matching but very fashionable outfits), the L Word, V, and various other American trash TV.  This resulted in me completely blowing off Michele…but I’m spending all of next weekend with him, so I felt like having a me day.  But back to cheesy goodness:

_____

The recipe below is closest I think to what was in the jar, and comes from another new fave website: Eat Dangerously.

Quattro Formaggi Sauce

25 grams of Gorgonzola
50 grams of Parmesan
100 grams of Mascarpone (or cream cheese)
50 grams of Mozzarella
1/2 pint of light cream
1/2 Stick of Butter
enough ravioli or other pasta for two people
(or see black ravioli recipe above)

Shred all of the cheeses but the marscarpone and toss them together in a bowl. Set aside.

In a pan, melt about a 1/2 stick of butter and then pour in the light cream and bring to a boil. When the cream is beginning to boil, slowly mix in the marscarpone. After it has melted, slowly add the other cheeses giving them time to melt and blend into the cream. The sauce will be ready when all the cheese has been mixed in and it comes to a boil again. If the cheese precipitates out of solution, then cool and add extra mascarpone.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

•November 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Below is a post from oct. 9 from  savorysimple.net, one of my new fave blogs…  Yet another reminder that cooking can be very simple…even for me!

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Tomato season is coming to a close so I’m a bit late with this entry.  However, I find vine-ripened tomatoes to be good all year.  This is one of my favorite savory simple side dishes: a juicy, rich, flavorful tomato that is good with salad, a sprinkle of balsamic and/or fresh mozzarella.  They’re also quite tasty by themselves!  I usually eat several straight out of the oven.

The best part is that they’re so easy.  Slice some vine tomatoes in half, toss to coat with a thin later of olive oil, sprinkle some salt on top, and cook unattended at 275 for 3 hours.

Really, does it get any easier than that?  So delicious!

Milan

•November 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This is a random post because I haven’t really done much for the past few days except hang out with MD and go to Milan.  But, of course, there is a hot guy at the end of the story…in  a sense.

MD has been fabulous and allowed me to escape crazy roommate for two nights straight, as well as enabling me to decimate what was left of my meager bank account.  (It had to be done, I can’t be walking around wearing American size ‘medium’ anymore….as I’m sure you can imagine, it’s like wearing an Italian XL…and looks sloppy at best.)  I feel I might as well use up the money here, since upon my return to America, I will be (barely) only one step up from a customer service slave to the masses, and only desperation will allow me to refill the account without slowly poisoning the denizens of my city with arsenic.

I also feel, as all ‘real’ gays should, that if a pair of jeans looks cute, you have to buy them, regardless of cost or quality.  Or, more often in my case, if the salesperson is cute, and lies about the jeans to your face, you must still buy them.  It’s always best to bring ‘the honest friend’ along, especially one who is skillful in the art of train travel.

So, off we went to Milan yesterday. I in search of the rush really only Italy can provide, that of the perfect storm of way too much sugar, caffeine, and a dose of hot man-candy, MD, along for moral support and a variety of essential beauty products.

Once you see the picture below, I will once again lose some ‘Daniel P., world traveler points,’ but it was either start a bitch match with this guy, or only mildly suffer and then passive-aggressively punish the guy across from me with own my long legs instead.

After reading some other ridiculous blogs in which exclamation points are often used…in reference to things such as:

– “Europeans don’t have any sense of personal space!!!!! OMG, get away!!!”

– “OMG!!!  The toilet was just a hole in the ground, EWWW!!”

– “Everyone is always late to everything!!!  UGH! It’s so annoying!!”

– “OMFG! I got cut in line again!!”

– “Holy smokes!  How are Italians so skinny?  They eat nothing but pasta!!!!!”

– “Wow!!  Italians are soooo fabulously fashionable and put together!”

Most of these have moderately rational explanations (which I promise will be part of my “end of trip” post), and quite frankly are refreshing (at times), as I find Americans to be obnoxiously polite, slow, lazy, selfish, and often completely unaware of their surroundings.

But, this guy.  I mean really.

Now, I have learned to give up my well honed, “6-feet-at-all-times around me even if you’re my family” personal space, especially when on buses, or in the line at the grocery store (I mean really lady, are you smelling the back of my neck for a particular reason?).  But this guy was already sitting like this, in a packed train, even before he fell asleep.  I felt bad about it later, but the poor (apparently frightened at hearing English) guy across from me had to tuck his little Italian legs beneath his seat.  I’m sorry I’m 6 feet tall and you’re only 4.  Life is hard.  Now move those Ferragamos.

Upon arrival in Milan, one notices that it isn’t an attractive city at all.  Yes, I felt that the general populace is more smartly dressed, but they also tended to be older, richer, and smartly dressed in a boring “i’m a banker, but still attractive” kind of way.  But the city itself, minus the cathedral, was ‘meh.’ Turin is much more regal, interesting, and definitely cleaner.

(random attractive Italian cathedral)

(random attractive Italian, a destra)

After the prerequisite and oh-so-satisfying trip to La Rinascente, it was time for my secret real reason for being so excited about Milan… Included on our tour of the city was a visit to Chocolat!!  Holy smokes this place was good!  As far as my tour of gelato (megapost coming at some point, I swear) goes, it’s in the top three.  I almost couldn’t finish my cup o’ chocolatey goodness.  Almost.  It wins points for: most flavors of chocolate gelato (obviously), smart styling, the hiring of (chocolate) minorities, and the steady stream of extremely attractive Italian men sweeping in and out of the door for a quick ice cream, coffee, and/or hair check.

[Note to ALL travelers to Milan.  Bring a lighter.  Even if you don’t smoke.  I promise you won’t regret it.]



After more walking around in a carb-tastic, post-chocolate daze, and spending way too much money at H&M, we started walking by a line of people. To get into a store.  An Abercrombie & Fitch. Yes.  Here in Italy at last.  Three cheers for globalization!!!

I had already witnessed this phenomenon multiple times in NYC, where Europeans (and probably U.S. tourists from Texas) would line up literally around the block for the A&F on 5th avenue.

This is even more curious now, because:

A.  I may have gotten a tad older, but, once 40-yr-old gays started to wear A&F, it was a death knell for its coolness.  I could be wrong, but, I don’t think that it’s currently the pinnacle of “American” style and fashion it once may have been.

B.  Italians could buy a round-trip plane ticket to NYC, buy all of their clothes at the A&F there, and still save money than if they bought it in Milan.

C.  Um, now that it’s in Italy…it’s not really all that interesting, far away, or even very American anymore.  It’s like H&M in Atlanta.  H&M was only cool before it arrived in Atlanta because you were wearing clothes that could only be bought in Chicago or NYC.  Now, it’s just another GAP.

All this being said…..you KNOW I had to get my picture taken with the hot Italian A&F beefcake, whose soul purpose (like in America during the holidays) is to stand in front of the door and look hot… I mean, c’mon! Look at him!   W* Milano!!

Um, someone give him a cookie please.

Also amusing is the guy in the background, whose smirk says: “Um, yeah, I know exactly what you’re up to mister”

After my sugar-high-enhanced heart palpitations began to slow, it was time to return home.  This time, having learned the hard way, I had ample legroom and armrest space…without having to cut anyone.

Also, a nice young lady heard us speaking in English (maaaayyyybe about how certain Italians could kiss our grits…) and wished us a Happy Thanksgiving.  It was sweet, but also a sign of how far I’ve literally and figuratively come, as I had no idea (or cared) that it was even turkey day.

Upon return, the wonderful FS procured all I need to survive in this world: french fries and pizza with four kinds of meat…mmmm…Thanks MD and FS!!

(*short for viva!)

Sweet Potatoes!

•November 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Here below, another addition from America’s Test Kitchen and NPR.  Note how it does not violate any of my rules from the post before this one (except I don’t own a potato masher).  Plus, I love sweet potatoes and could eat them everyday.  However, I’m going to cut my butter into FIVE pieces….I KNOW!  I’m so craaaaaazzzyy!

And, because I can already hear a certain someone pointing out that this recipe has 8 ingredients….fuck no am I zesting an orange, so there’s only 7.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes – ‘Test Kitchen’ Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large or 3 medium-small potatoes), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • pinch ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

Cutting the sweet potatoes into slices of even thickness is important in getting them to cook at the same rate. A potato masher will yield slightly lumpy sweet potatoes; a food mill will make a perfectly smooth puree. The potatoes are best served immediately, but they can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and kept relatively hot for 30 minutes. This recipe can be doubled in a Dutch oven; the cooking time will need to be doubled as well.

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Combine butter, cream, salt, sugar, and sweet potatoes in 3 to 4 quart saucepan; cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until potatoes fall apart when poked with fork, 35 to 45 minutes.

2. Off heat, mash sweet potatoes in saucepan with potato masher, or transfer mixture to hopper of food mill and process into warmed serving bowl. Stir in pepper, maple syrup, and orange zest; serve immediately.

Pumpkin Pie, with a side of hell no.

•November 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

In honor of Thanksgiving (which again, is one of my least favorite holidays), here is a pumpkin pie recipe via NPR, and one of my favorite shows: America’s Test Kitchen (like for seriously, look up their mac and cheese recipe).

I’ve reprinted it here for a few reasons.

1.  Please note that I will NEVER make this.  Baking is easy, it’s just science, but this recipe is sneaky cooking activities disguised as baking.

2.  This pie requires basically an entire day to complete (45 minutes refrigeration here…3 hours of colling here…)

3.  It also requires approximately 74 different cooking tools, of which I own maybe 4.

4.  However, it does sound tasty, and I do like sweet potatoes…until someone calls them yams…

5.  It also only uses 2 tablespoons of vodka, meaning the rest of the bottle is mine, all mine!

6.  NPR/ATK just sound snooty when they describe the process (I underlined all the offending passages below.  In case you’re wondering, it’s really cold outside today and I’m bored and waxing nostalgic…).  It just makes me want to go and buy a premade crust and some filling.  If it’s good enough for 99.9% of Americans, and 100% of those living below the mason/dixon line, then it’s good enough for me.

7. If anything has more than 7 ingredients, I’m done for.  My ADHD simply won’t allow me to remember that many things to shove into a bowl.

.

Finally: The Ultimate Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Pie

by BILL CHAPPELL

Cooking a pie entails risks — and many of them center on the crust. If the foundation of a pie — especially a custard pie like a pumpkin pie — is too dry or too wet, it could crumble apart or slide off forks. Or the whole thing could be so dense that the pie begins to resemble an upside-down cobbler.

To get those risks under control — and give home chefs a chance to impress their guests this holiday season — we asked chef Chris Kimball of America’s Test Kitchen to share his recipe for the perfect pumpkin pie. Honed by hours in the kitchen, this recipe gives the mild pumpkin two strong allies: sweet potatoes and vodka.

A good crust needs to have layers of flaky texture to complement the smooth pie filling, Kimball says. And one way to ensure that is to combine the butter and mixture with the flour in two stages. That makes a striated dough — one that holds different amounts of fat and moisture in its layers.

Another key point, Kimball says, is to avoid adding water or liquid directly into the food processor — something that other recipes call for.

“I think that’s a mistake,” Kimball said. “It’s better to do that into a bowl, so you don’t overwork it.”

And there’s one other big secret to this crust recipe: vodka, in equal proportion to the water.

“Vodka does two things,” Kimball said. First, “it does not react with proteins in flour to form gluten — because gluten means tough.”

And since alcohol makes up nearly half of the vodka, it will evaporate as it cooks. “You can add more total liquid,” Kimball said, but since the vodka will evaporate in the oven, “you end up with a dough that’s light and flaky.”

When it’s time to roll out the dough, Kimball suggests using a one-piece, tapered rolling pin, without ball-bearings. That gives a better feel for the dough, he said. And in rolling out the dough, the tapered shape makes it easier to work on it in quarter-turns — so as not to overwork the center.

“You just keep turning the dough as you work it,” Kimball said.

When it’s time to put the crust into the pie plate, Kimball recommends putting the plate over the rolled-out circular shape, letting the dough extend past the plate by “about 4 inches more in diameter than the top of the pie plate.”

While the crust precooks in a 400-degree oven, Kimball turns to the filling. And here, he has wavered from the strict pumpkin-pie routine, by adding sweet potatoes to the mix.

“They improve the flavor,” Kimball said, “because sweet potatoes actually have an earthier flavor — pumpkins are a little lighter.”

He cooks his pie filling for more than 10 minutes, to remove excess liquids and concentrate the flavors in the mix. In between turns stirring the mix, Kimball turns to the liquid components: the cream and eggs. And when it’s time to combine the two, the chef suggests straining the sweet potato mixture by mashing it down into the strainer with a metal ladle, to keep any chunky bits from getting into the pie.

“If you’re going to go to all the trouble we’re going to,” Kimball said, “you want to do that.”

And finally, it’s time to fill the crust. Kimball starts it out on the countertop, bringing the mixture nearly an inch from the top. Then he places the pie onto an extended oven rack — and that’s where he finishes pouring the filling. Otherwise, he says, the filling might spill over the sides as he moves it.

And filling the pie to the top gives the cook a break, he said: “This is where you hide your mistakes.”

Cooking times will vary according to different ovens, Kimball said. But anyone expecting to remove a perfectly firm, completely cooked pie should change his idea.

“When you bake a custard pie — a pumpkin pie is custard, because it has dairy and eggs — you don’t want it to be fully set in the center,” Kimball said.

Anyone worried about taking out a half-cooked pie can even use an instant thermometer to measure the middle of the pie. “Any custard is done when it’s about 175,” Kimball said.

After taking it out of the oven, the pie should sit on an open surface for three hours to cool — and continue to cook, Kimball said.

“After three hours, it can go in the fridge,” Kimball said. “Or you can eat the whole thing, which is my plan.”  [insert haughty laugh here (sic)]

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
2 tablespoons ice cold vodka
2 tablespoons ice cold water

Filling

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can (see recipe)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon table salt

The Full Recipe

If candied yams are unavailable, regular canned yams can be substituted. The best way to judge doneness is with an instant-read thermometer. The center 2 inches of the pie should look firm but jiggle slightly. The pie finishes cooking with residual heat; to ensure that the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.

To ensure accurate cooking times and a crisp crust, the filling should be added to the prebaked crust when both the crust and filling are warm. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream. Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor; do not substitute.

1. FOR THE CRUST: Process 3/4 cup flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening, and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

4. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake 5 to 10 additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.

6. FOR THE FILLING: While pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.

7. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Rewhisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.