Atlantic Beach Pie: Meringue or Not?

 Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach PieFor the back story, click here.
This is a newer version of a pie that is commonly served at seafood restaurants on the North Carolina coast. Chef Bill Smith has been serving it at Crook’s Corner and is credited with its revival. He calls it the easiest recipe in the world. I encourage you to go to his website and learn all about it firsthand and follow his recipe. I show the same recipe below, how I made it, along with my comments.

a pie with meringue
Meringue isn’t traditional to Atlantic Beach Pie, but who can argue with this?

For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar

For the filling:

a pale cream pie, looks like light butterscotch
This is the Atlantic Beach Pie I made from Bill Smith’s recipe.

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
Fresh whipped cream and sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8 or 9-inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until it starts to color. It’s a crumbly crust.

While the crust is cooling (it doesn’t need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cooled to be sliced. If you’re not doing the meringue, serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Nadia’s notes: I used a 9-inch pan and that was just right. Crust seems thick, but it works. I baked my pie for 25 minutes and that was just right for my oven. I think it is delicious as it is. My husband likes a tad more lemon flavor, so sometimes I add a half teaspoon of lemon extract. I think this pie tastes just as good, maybe better the second day.

Meringue? Yes. That’s good too. This is a lemon flavored pie, so it lends itself nicely to meringue. This is also a great way to use the leftover egg whites. I do it when I feel like I have the extra time (even though it really doesn’t take long).

This is my meringue recipe:
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
a few drops of lemon extract
1/3 cup sugar

Whip the whites and cream of tartar, adding lemon favor and gradually, the sugar until stiff glossy peaks. Do this while the pie is baking. 5 minutes before the pie’s time is up, raise oven temp to 400 degrees.

shows pie with and then without meringue
Atlantic beach pie side-by-. No contest in my book.side

When the pie has baked, remove from oven, spread with meringue, sealing the edges to the crust. I used a butter knife to even out the meringue and make little peaks. Return to the hotter oven and bake another 8-10 minutes or until meringue is browned on top.

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