When I was younger, Mom used to take us into downtown Chicago to shop. We’d take the commuter train down and walk over to State Street, where all the big department stores had their flagship stores. We’d spend the day in the beautiful, multi-storied buildings window shopping and enjoying the experience. At Christmastime we’d go downtown and look at all the store windows, which were fixed up with elaborate Christmas season displays. The sidewalks were filled with people crowding in to see the windows. It was a wonderful tradition that I’ll never forget!
Mom and I still go downtown when we get a chance. Most of the big stores are no longer on State Street, which is a shame, but we still enjoy it. Lunch was always a part of our trips downtown, and that’s still the case. I remember eating many, many times in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field & Co. Even though it’s now called Macy’s, The Walnut Room is still there, and the current menu includes some of the traditional favorites we enjoyed years ago!
I have two vivid memories of food downtown. One was the Field’s Special from The Walnut Room — iceberg lettuce, sliced turkey, Swiss cheese, smoked bacon, tomato and egg served open-faced on rye with thousand island dressing. Nothing special, but it was my favorite and I still order it!
The other is the Pecan Pie from Flo’s. I don’t remember much of the place except that it was more of a diner, noisy and crowded at lunchtime. I don’t even remember what we’d order for lunch, except that knowing me, it was probably a grilled cheese. That was my go-to meal when I was young.
But what I remember the most about Flo’s was the pecan pie. Oh, was it good!! It was served heated up, and the filling was warm and gooey and just to die for! I’ve never been much of a pie person because I don’t like regular pie crust, but Flo’s pecan pie was a wedge of heaven!!!
Years later, my favorite pie is still pecan pie – partly from nostalgia, and partly because it’s just that good. I recently had the opportunity to make a pie for a birthday celebration at work. I’ll admit I cheated and used a refrigerated pie crust. I’d like to perfect a scratch-made pie crust, but that will have to happen when a) I have more time; and b) I don’t need it for a special event.
When the pie was baked, I thought it looked a bit darker than the pecan pies I’ve made in the past. It took me a minute to realize the recipe I used was a little different from any I’ve used before because it includes brown sugar and honey instead of white sugar. It was wonderful! I may try it again and use maple syrup instead of honey. Maple and pecans are great complements, so that should be good in the pie.
I did use more pecans than the original recipe. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of pecan halves but I didn’t think that was enough! I used somewhere between 1 and 1 1/2 cups. If you don’t want a ton of pecans, start with the 1/2 cup and see if that looks like enough for you. If you’re like me and LOVE pecans, load ‘em up!
If the crust starts to brown too much while you’re baking, use foil and loosely cover the pie. Either foil or those crust protectors you can purchase will do the trick.
All the comments I received on the pie were positive, so I know I’ll make this one again!
Adapted from the Deerfield’s Bakery recipe published in Killer Pies
Stuff you need:
3 Tablespoons honey
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
10 tablespoons packed brown sugar [I used light brown sugar.]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell
1 to 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a saucepan, mix honey, corn syrup, butter and brown sugar and heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly.
Once the butter and sugar dissolve, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm. [If you add the eggs to the hot mixture, the eggs will scramble and ruin the pie.]
While the mixture is cooling, line the uncooked pie shell with the pecan halves. They’ll rise to the top while the pie is baking.
Beat the eggs and vanilla together and stir into the cooled sugar mixture.
Gently pour the mixture over the pecans. [They won’t all stay in place, so don’t worry if some float and move around.]
Bake for 1 hour, then allow the pie to cool before serving.