Aspen Times Weekly: American Idol — Any Way You Slice It, Pie Hints Of Home |

Aspen Times Weekly: American Idol — Any Way You Slice It, Pie Hints Of Home

by Amanda Rae

The Source

Heather’s Savory Pies & Tapas Bar

66 Midland Ave., Basalt

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David Burke Kitchen (Opening February 2014)

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ONE OF MY earliest cooking memories is of baking blueberry pie with my sweet mother, though the process began long before we took to the kitchen. First we’d ascend Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts, where wild blueberries run rampant in late August. It could have been the hottest day of summer, but those rocky fields were always cool and breezy up at 3,491 feet, where I hoped to spy a hang glider launch off a cliff and drift away over the valley’s bright-green broccoli trees. I was small enough that I didn’t have to stoop far to pluck berries from the bushes — a tiny blessing, because it seemed to take forever to fill my basket.

Back at home and balanced on a wooden stepstool carved with my name, I cut ice-cold butter into flour with grandma’s steel pastry blender, and helped mom weave a lattice top and crimp the crust. Flour flew, but I was focused — rare for my usual impish self. Come to think of it, my favorite part wasn’t even eating the finished pie, but nibbling on the wonky scraps of extra dough we’d bake on a cookie sheet, hot from the oven.

To this day, the sight or scent of blueberry pie time-warps me back to those carefree summers: climbing trees, riding bikes and helping mom bake pie with blueberries we picked that morning. Pie is a classic comfort, edible Americana — and almost everyone has a fond memory about it.

“That’s my nostalgia: the New England pork pie we’d have at Christmas,” says Heather Lujan, a New Hampshire native and undisputed queen of pie in the Roaring Fork Valley. “We couldn’t wait to get home from church to have that pork pie, with salt pork and stewed tomatoes and onions and potatoes. It was so good. So good!”

As owner of Heather’s Savory Pies & Tapas Bar, a cozy eatery that opened on Midland Avenue in Basalt during the summer of 2012, Lujan is considering sharing her Polish-French family’s recipe this holiday season with her loyal customers. She’s already their go-to gal for pies sweet and savory: pecan pie, mince pie, chicken pot pie, ropa vieja Cuban stew, pulled pork-tamale, and lamb-eggplant pies. She bakes Palisade peach pie, blueberry pie, Key lime, banana-cream, and strawberry-rhubarb pie. She sculpts pie to order, and sells it by the slice. And boy, do Basaltines love pie.

“It was like a soup-kitchen: there was a line for pie,” says Lujan of her early days running Heather’s Mayberry Café from inside the Phillips 66 gas station in the center of town. “I had Friday Pie Day; that’s where my chicken pot pie came to light.”

For Thanksgiving, Lujan is assembling dozens of 10-inch deep-dish turkey pot pies ($45) to take-and-bake, “for people who don’t have families or don’t want to do a big turkey.” She’ll also be making her bestselling pumpkin-maple pie, and taking special orders for all varieties a week in advance.

Because, really, what is Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie?

“It’s not,” quips Zac Young, pastry chef David Burke Kitchen in New York City, who will oversee the dessert program at the Aspen outpost set to open in February. (Young’s 92-year-old grandmother still makes — and closely guards her recipe for — pumpkin pie, his “favorite food in the whole world.”) “For me, it is more important than the turkey,” Young says. “I’d rather have a ham.”

Young is bringing his seasonal pies — complete with signature tableside slice-and-scoop spectacle — to Aspen, including Mutsu apple pie with cheddar crust (see recipe, opposite page), five-spice pumpkin pie with toasted marshmallow, and his personal favorite: Southern chocolate pecan pie spiked with Breckenridge bourbon.

“Pie is something that we all have this sense memory of,” Young says wistfully. “It evokes our childhood. Whether our mothers or grandmothers baked a great pie, it brings you back, especially around the holidays.”

What’s the best pie you’ve ever had?


“Booze and desserts go hand in hand for me,” says David Burke Kitchen pastry chef Zac Young. In his cheddar-topped, savory spin on classic apple pie, Young uses fast-evaporating vodka for an ultra flaky crust and sauces the filling with bourbon.

“You can’t just go pouring a half-pint of bourbon into your pie — moderation is key,” he says. “Baking is science.”

Grandma Young’s Vodka Soda Pie Crust

1 pound cold butter

14 ounces all-purpose flour

½ cup vodka, chilled

½ cup soda water

2 Tbsp. sugar

Big pinch of salt

1. Cut butter into cubes.

2. Using your fingers, blend butter into flour, sugar and salt until pea-size granules form.

3. Mix in vodka and soda water.

4. Divide dough into 2 disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Bourbon Apple Filling

12 Mutsu apples, cored, quartered and cut into 3-inch slices (Granny Smith apples may be substituted)

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

8 ounces unsalted butter

10 ounces dark brown sugar

2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

Big pinch of salt

1/3 cup bourbon

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Block aged cheddar, at least 2 ounces

1. Toss apples with lemon zest and juice.

2. In a large saucepan, cook butter until brown and nutty. Add apples and stir.

3. Add remaining ingredients to saucepan and cook until the apples are al dente. Don’t overcook.

4. Pour filling onto a sheet plan and let cool to at least room temperature.

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

6. Roll one disk of dough into a 16-inch circle.

7. Line a deep-fluted removable-bottom tart pan with dough. Trim dough flush with top. Fill with apple mixture.

8. Roll second disk of dough into a 14-inch by 20-inch rectangle. Cut into 1-inch strips. Make lattice on top of the pie.

9. Bake pie for one hour.

10. Remove pie from oven. Grate cheddar over top. Bake for 10 minutes more, until cheese is golden brown.