Friday, January 28, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie

The G train.

Familiar with it?

If not, let me make a comparison. Imagine where you live and then think about a road which is always under construction, a road that floods after only a few drops of rain, a road that is always bumper to bumper, narrow, potholed, a road with frequent accidents and fallen trees, a road you avoid at all costs, unless it is the last possible option. 

This is the G train.

The G train is like the forgotten second cousin to the New York subway system running only between Brooklyn and Queens, never gracing the depths of the Manhattan grid. And because it goes through some nice and some not so nice areas of the outer boroughs, the city could really care less about whether it runs or not. Think of it as a little gift if you get to work on time, not a promise, and the fare hike, a kind donation.

Last week Chris and I were invited to a dinner party at the home of two very dear friends who happen to live off the G train. They were making boeuf a la bourguignon and I offered to make a lemon meringue pie. Now it is also possible to get to their house by taxi or the L (if you walk a little further), but it was a bitter cold night and we felt like saving a few dollars so we took the A train from lower Manhattan into Brooklyn and transfered to the G. 

A piece of foil whipped off my pie as the A train approached but other than that, we were off to a good start. After transferring to the G, we were having a lovely time, smiling, laughing. It was Friday night with a wonderful meal ahead of us. Then the train began to climb and all of a sudden we were outside. Red Hook. Wrong way. S*%t. Greenpoint, where we were headed was in the opposite direction, almost on the opposite end of the line. I won't get into the details of why it is easy to go the wrong direction on the G train when you haven't been on it in a while, it just is. The other unfortunate thing was that we were now stuck at a stop which is outdoors and as we exited the train a blast of frigid air body slammed us and then, as if in slow motion, we gazed at the opposite tracks, and saw a G train rumble by.

We waited for the next train for a very long time, twenty minutes? twenty five? I did all kinds of dances, the foot stomp, the shimmy and the bounce all while holding an increasingly heavy lemon meringue pie in an aluminum turkey roaster. Two F trains rolled by without stopping. When the G finally approached and inched to a stop so slow I swear a turtle laughed, we hopped onto the train. It stayed in the station with the doors wide open for a good ten minutes. We were going to be late. Very late.

At this point in the story it might be good to get up and stretch your legs, use the bathroom or get a cup of tea. 

Still sitting on the G train, with the doors wide open, the clock ticking, and freezing air twirling around the subway poles, lets just say the mood shifted. Chris and I were now muttering to ourselves continuously, incanting the many atrocities we wished upon on the MTA, and I even watched the train operator get off the train and start running around on the tracks. Then suddenly the doors slid shut and we began to move. About ten feet. And then stop. Again. For five minutes. I could see Chris' blood pressure rising. Announcements informed us that the train was having signal problems and could we please be patient. 

Then the fun really started. As we inched and stopped for the next twenty minutes two teenage girls sitting adjacent to us, dressed up in scribbled on sneakers, striped tights with denim shorts, mismatched colorful socks, heavy eyeliner and pigtails tied with multi-colored plastic bobbles proceeded to shout in thick Long Island accents how they were going to bug out if they got to the club late and had to pay a $20 cover instead of the $10 cover for showing up before nine. They made a very loud phone call trying to get someone to pick them up even though they had no idea where they were. And then they listed every drug they had ever used excluding crack because one of the girls fathers had OD'ed on it. After about fifteen minutes when it seemed we might be spending the night on the train, one of the girls threatened to down the Klonopin she had stuffed in her bra because she was in fact really starting to bug out. 

And by this point Chris and I were in the middle of our own little argument as to whether we should ride out the train from hell all the way to Greenpoint or get off at the next stop in Carroll Gardens and get in a cab. For about 5 minutes I was in the cab camp and Chris was either going to just go home, explode into a million pieces or stay on the train and arrive at our friends' house in time for breakfast.

Finally making it to the next stop, the doors flew open and on an impulse Chris and I ran out of the train bolting for the exit. Climbing the steps to the street, carrying my now nicely chilled pie, I prayed to God there would be a taxi. Then I was in the street, my arm shooting skyward and a cab pulled up. We leapt inside, gave our directions and collapsed into the warm, incensy back seat. We were now almost an hour late for dinner. We did breathing exercises most of the ride.

When we arrived at our friends house, it was cozy, relaxed and smelling divine. Dinner wasn't even ready yet. I was handed a chilled martini with chopped mint leaves and rose water. A gorgeous plate of cheese and crackers was laid out, candles were lit and a very good point was made, you're not divorced!

Traumatized, perhaps, divorced no. The rest of the evening was splendid. We had a salad with blood oranges, beets, walnuts and shaved goat cheese, a sublime boeuf a la bourguignon with potatoes and chives (with seconds) and red wine followed by lemon meringue pie and tea. Just as we were about to leave the phone rang. One of the other guests who had had to leave right after pie had been waiting on the G train platform for thirty minutes when finally an announcement was made that the G train would be shut down for the night. 

Chris and I bundled up and hailed a taxi home.

Lemon Meringue Pie

            9" Pie                                         8" Pie

Mix in  1 1/2 cups sugar                         3/4 c.
Sauce} 5 1/3 tbs. cornstarch                  4 tbs.

Stir in  1 1/2 c. hot water                        1 1/8 c.

Cook mixture over moderate heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil 1 minute. Beat the hot mixture into:

          3 large egg yolks                         2 yolks

Then beat the egg mixture into hot mixture in the saucepan. Boil 1 minute longer, stirring until smooth.
Blend in:

          3 tbs. butter                                 2 1/4 tbs.
          4 tbs. lemon juice                        3 tbs.
          1 1/2 tbs. grated lemon rind        1 tbs.

Pour into a baked pie shell. Cover with Meringue:

4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
4 tbs. sugar

Beat meringue ingredients together until peaks form. Smooth meringue on top of the lemon filling pressing it into the crust a little to seal the edges, otherwise your meringue will pull away from the edges and shrink while it bakes and you'll have a floating island.

Bake until delicate brown 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve cool.

I did not think baking a lemon meringue pie in a toaster oven was possible but I've proven myself wrong.


6 tbs. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
6 tbs. sweet butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 tbs. ice water

Measure out the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter and shortening with knives, the back of a fork or a pastry blender (or mix in a food processor) until small crumbs for. Then stir in the ice water to bind. If it's dry add one more tbs. water. You should then wrap the dough in wax paper and refrigerate for an hour but I usually skip this step and just roll out my crust. Lay in a pie plate, trim and crimp the edges. Cut out a circle of parchment paper or foil, lay on top of the crust and cover with beans or pie weights. bake crust at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment or foil and beans, pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork several times and bake another 10-15 minutes. Remove and let cool.

the woman at the checkout counter asked me what I was making when she saw all my eggs, butter and lemons. "Oh, a lemon meringue pie! That's hard to make isn't it?" she said. "No, I said, it's not too hard." Then when I got home I thought, she's right. It's not a hard pie but it's not a beginner pie. But it can be easy when you do one thing at a time. First make your crust. Get it baked and let it cool. Then get all your ingredients ready. Grate the lemon rind then juice them. Cut up your butter into small 1 tbs. size pieces and separate your eggs. Make the filling, then pour it into your cooled pie shell. Finally make the meringue and pop it in the oven. Take your time with it. Make sure the lemon filling is nice and thick. Seal the edges of your meringue. And keep and eye on the final baking so the meringue doesn't burn. Lemon meringue pie is not expensive to make and once you get the hang of it, pretty easy. Best of all it's perfect on it's own needing no whipped cream or ice cream. Great for a dinner party.

Waiting in the cold for the G train.


  1. I am so sorry about the G, it is an ongoing curse in my life since I left the luxurious days of commuting from Union Square! We were delighted that you persisted that night and joined us for dinner. Thank you for the wonderful blog entry Erica, it made me laugh and smile and remember an otherwise delightful evening in your and Chris' company. Your Lemon Meringue Pie is divine and tough enough to withstand the most hellish NY communtes!

  2. What a classic story Erica. I'm surprised you got a cab so easily. I find that when the trains are against me all transportation usually joins in the fun. Sounds like the meal was worth the journey though.

  3. Sounds like a blissful night ... after you arrived at your friends' house for the dinnner party. Very glad to hear you are not divorced. ;)

  4. My poor baby! But you made a great story AND lemon meringue pie, so I'd call the evening a success. Oh, and dear friends who cook like that . . .

  5. I could feel my own blood pressure rising in sympathy while reading that. But hey, at least you didn't step in the pie this time!

  6. So funny you mention that, there was a moment when we were on the train and I imagined the pie flying out of my hands, landing on the floor and a foot going right in the middle.