Coconut Cream Pie
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook (W.W. Norton & Company, 2006)
"This pie may have Caribbean roots, but nowadays it’s Southern to the core, found year-round at countless cafeterias and restaurants. It’s simple, cool, creamy, and fabulous. Our recipe lets the coconut provide more weight than in most pies, because we love the rich, almost flanlike density it gives the custard filing."
–Matt Lee and Ted Lee
1 1/2 cups store-bought graham cracker crumbs or 8 graham crackers pulsed 10 times in a food processor to make fine crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (warm or cool)
2 cups heavy cream
4 egg yolks, well beaten
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and the sugar. Add the melted butter and toss thoroughly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the butter is evenly incorporated, about 1 minute. Using the bottom of a sturdy juice or pint glass, press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan, creating an even layer on the bottom and sides. Bake on the middle rack until the crumb mixture has darkened from a reddish brown to the brown of a pecan shell and the sugar and butter have fused with the crumbs to form a crust about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, whisk the cream, egg yolks, vanilla, cornstarch, and coconut together. Stirring constantly, simer until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes (use a candy thermometer, and take care not to let the temperature of the custard rise about 170ºF).
Pour the coconut custard into the pie crust and bake for 10 minutes on the middle rack. Remove the pie from the oven, cool on a rack to room temperature, and transfer to the refrigerator to chill completely, at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.
Serve the pie cold, topped with whipped cream flavored with a little rum. Alongside it, serve a shot of dark Caribbean rum like Mount Gay, Barbancourt, or Appleton twenty-one-year old.