19 May 2013

Tennessee Traditions - Bacon Apple Pie



Tennessee Tradition

Only a few miles south of I-40, between Memphis and Downtown Nashville, lies a Tennessee tradition.  There, along TN highway 100, sits the Loveless Cafe, a destination that has served weary travelers for more than 60 years. 


Though it has seen a number of important transitions during that time it still offers guests a good southern meal and homemade biscuits made from the same recipe used by the original owner, Annie Loveless, back in the mid-1900’s.


I don’t know that I would have found the Loveless Cafe on my own.  Though highway 100 was once a well-traveled route, these days we traverse the Tennessee countryside mostly by Interstate. It wasn’t until I looked up Nashville highlights at Southern Living Travel that I learned about the Loveless Cafe.  It made both their list of "7 Nashville Restaurants You Gotta Try" and "Must-See Sites in Nashville".  With such high praise from a trusted source we made a point to take that short detour south of 1-40 on our next trip through Nashville.


Taking a Detour

We stopped by in the early afternoon one Friday.  The place was packed.  Our wait for a table was expected to be thirty minutes or so but the day was nice and there were lots of things to divert us while we waited.  We walked across the parking lot to a building just beyond the restaurant and looked around the Hams & Jams Country Market.  We passed on the "Make Biscuits, Not War" T-shirts but bought some nostalgic sodas in glass bottles.  Back outside we sat at a picnic table near the highway sign and let the taste of root beer and orange sipped from the cold glass take us back some.


Once seated, we learned that this is the place to go for a crash course in country cuisine.  The menu includes fried chicken, livers or gizzards with a dish of gravy, fried pork chops, pit-cooked pork barbecue, Southern-fried catfish and even country ham and red eye gravy along with a wide variety of side dishes. The meal comes with a substantial plate of biscuits and a variety of fruit preserves. And if that’s not enough to tempt your taste buds, how about a slice of Goo-Goo Cluster Pie (based on yet another Tennessee tradition)! To wash it all down you can get a big glass of tea, sweet or unsweet, or even a taste of moonshine in a petite mason jar mug.


Roadside Souvenirs

We enjoyed our lunch. The food was good and the conversation was even better. The home-style menu gave us occasion to remember the way Mammaw used to serve country ham steaks and red eye gravy made from strong black coffee for holiday dinners. We laughed about Uncle Hal’s dessert of homemade biscuits and Karo syrup and the way my Dad cooked chicken livers, gizzards and any number of other obscure country delicacies back in the day. We talked about Aunt Hen’s days as a waitress at several of the roadside restaurants that once did a big business along highway 42 before progress diverted travelers from the highways to the interstates. As we walked back to our car I think we all took something more from the experience than just our leftovers and souvenir moonshine jar.


Back home I took inspiration from the Loveless Cafe to the next level when I found their “legendary recipe” for Bacon Apple Pie.  This recipe transcends the label of "legend" by daring to combine the sweet charm of a home-style lattice topped fruit pie with the enduring salty savor of an ingredient that approaches contemporary cult status: bacon.


Sweet Inspiration

When I found this recipe I had to smile!  The synergy seemed so obvious and yet, while I have cooked bacon in some interesting ways, I have never thought of using it to top an apple pie. (Of course I would have never thought to make a bacon scented candle either but Yankee Candle is giving that a try.)

Though the recipe is featured right on the Loveless Cafe website I followed it mainly in concept. I used my friend’s favorite pie crust recipe along with the basic outline from my own recipe for Rustic Apple Pie. With reference to the Loveless Cafe’s recipe I added a pinch of cardamon to the filling and then topped the pie with the thinnest sliced bacon I could easily find at my local grocery store.

I had my doubts when I put it in the oven.  I like my bacon crispy and I wondered if the bacon topping would really cook through. And, while I like to use bacon drippings to flavor green beans and potatoes I wasn’t too sure I would like the way it seasoned an apple pie filling.


Conflicts and Complements

Out of the oven, I was pleasantly surprised.  The bacon cooked through and was close to crispy.  Using a pair of kitchen shears to pre-cut the bacon lattice into wedges before slicing the pie, it was easy to divide and the slices were plated prettily.

From there it got a little confusing.  I would normally top a slice of apple pie with whipped cream or ice cream but felt a little conflicted about scooping either on top of bacon.  I had a late thought that it might be appropriate to top it with a dollop of mayonnaise but since I don’t keep the stuff in my house I let that thought pass. In the end I served the pie unadorned.

The reviews were good, especially from the men.  The tangy sweet taste of spiced apples was well complemented by the salty bacon and the contrasting textures of the crispy lattice over a soft filing cradled in a flaky pastry were appealing. My husband ate every bite of his and then suggested it might be even better served as an entrée for breakfast or brunch than as an after dinner dessert.


Bacon Apple Pie

Pastry for a single crust pie
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon cardamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of salt
6 cups apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
8 -12 slices uncooked bacon

Gently line a 9-inch pie plate with the prepared pastry. Set aside.

Mix sugar, flour, cardamon, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.  Sprinkle this mixture over the sliced apples and toss to coat.  Turn the apples into the prepared crust.

Starting at the center of the pie, spread the uncooked bacon slices across the filling weaving them over and under in a lattice pattern as you go. (You should have approximately 5 strips of bacon running horizontally and another 5 strips vertically.)  Trim the bacon strips evenly to the outer edge of the pie dish and gently roll the ends into the crust. (The bacon will shrink somewhat while baking.)

Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil.  Bake 55 minutes at 350F.

Remove the foil. Turn the heat up to 425F and continue baking for another 25 – 30 minutes or until the crust is golden and the bacon is cooked through.

Remove the pie and allow to rest on a wire rack until cool enough to cut. 

For an even appearance use kitchen shears to cut through the bacon lattice before slicing through the pie with a knife.

Serve and enjoy!

Note:  If this recipe appeals to you, you might want to take it a step further.  This morning I discovered that The Loveless Cafe is sponsoring a Bacon Party Challenge. Buy some bacon, get creative, take pictures and submit. You could win a year’s supple (that’s 52 pounds) of bacon!
Deadline: July 1.

4 comments:

grace said...

now that i've mastered regular lattice crusts, i guess it's time to move into bacon lattices! great post, lisa!

Cindy said...

Hi Lisa! I somehow lost track of you for a while. It looks like you've moved your physical location too. I look forward to your southern recipes! I'm in the process of moving my blog to wordpress, and I hope you'll look for me there... DecisiveCook.com. I'm hoping to be up and running by next week. ~Cindy

Lisa said...

Grace - Thanks! The bacon lattice is actually easier, it's just a little more....raw. lol!

Cindy - Good to hear from you! Last year was so full of changes that I lost my writing rhythm. I think I am finally getting back in the groove. I'll be sure to look you up in your new location.

Cast Iron Pans said...

I would never in a million years have thought to do this but I think the idea sounds like an absolute hit! Loving it.