Nesselrode pie was a special occasion dessert, one I always considered a pie for grown-ups. Billowy chiffon nestled inside a flaky crust, a tipsy filling studded with chestnuts and jewel-like candied fruit. Generously spiked with dark rum and blanketed in freshly whipped cream, a blizzard of dark chocolate curls and maraschino cherries garnished each slice. In the 1940s and 50s, Nesselrode pie was a mainstay on the menus of many New York City seafood and steak house restaurants. It was also available to purchase whole from certain bakeries and by the slice at casual coffee shops and diners. Named after the 19th centruy Russian Count Karl Nesselrode, the dessert was originally served in a couple glass as a pudding, or directly from the freezer, as recommended in my Grandmother's Settlement Cookbook. A recipe for Nesselrode pie was also ear-marked in Jessie's Ladies Home Journal Dessert Cookbook. Calling for a jar of Rafetto candied fruit, light rum, and an orange envelope of Knox gelatin, the directions felt more science experiment than recipe. Maybe it was the gelatin, maybe it was the rum, but Nesselrode pie asked an awful lot of the baker; dissolving and simmering, thickening and folding. My contribution was shaving squares of Baker's sweet chocolate against the dangerously sharp box grater. As a child, the rum based dessert was a little too boozy for a palate keen on Ring Dings and Devil Dogs. It was only a matter of time before I learned to appreciate the beauty of macerated fruit, buttery chestnuts, and whipped cream.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm