September 19th, 2018

The Kosher Gourmet

Top chefs' secrets revealed: Lemon Chess Pie; Leeks Dijonnaise

Tom Sietsema

By Tom Sietsema

Published December 11, 2015

Top chefs' secrets revealed:  Lemon Chess Pie;  Leeks Dijonnaise

Lemon Chess Pie

8 to 10 servings (makes one 9-inch deep-dish pie)

This dessert has been served at Vidalia since the downtown Washington, D.C., restaurant opened, more than 23 years ago. The recipe is Southern, originally from chef Jeff Buben's mother. Vidalia baker Nelson Ramirez has been making it from the beginning, with changes only in its seasonal garnishes.

The legacy is now under the stewardship of Vidalia's new pastry chef, Jacqueline Suter, along with Ramirez.

If you use a refrigerated roll-out pie crust dough, make sure it's large enough to cover a deep-dish pie plate.

MAKE AHEAD: The cooled pie can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Ingredients

One 9-inch deep-dish pie dough shell or pie crust dough (see headnote)

9 large eggs

3 cups sugar

2 tablespoons cornmeal

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

10 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 3 lemons)

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place a small sheet of parchment paper on the pie-dough shell, then cover with dried rice or dried beans or ceramic pie weights. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove the weights and parchment. Bake for 5 minutes more, then transfer to a wire rack to cool while you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Combine the eggs, sugar and cornmeal in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for about 8 minutes, until thoroughly incorporated and creamy. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Add the vinegar, vanilla extract and lemon juice; beat on low speed until incorporated, then (still on low speed) gradually add the melted butter in a steady stream to form a thickened filling.

Pour into the par-baked pie crust; bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until set and lightly browned and bubbly on top. Cool completely before serving or storing.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 10): 560 calories, 7 g protein, 71 g carbohydrates, 29 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 215 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 61 g sugar

Leeks Dijonnaise

6 servings

Here, a classic French dish is rethought at the new Convivial in Washington, D.C., where chef Cedric Maupillier steams and slices the leeks before tossing them with mustard vinaigrette, then shapes the salad into a round cake on the plate. A carpet of fried capers, cornichons, shallots, chopped egg, tiny croutons and microgreens lends color and crunch to the surface.

You'll need a thermometer for monitoring the frying oil. The chef offers an alternate method for cooking the eggs used here; or you can refer to the NOTE, below.

MAKE AHEAD: The leeks and vinaigrette can be prepped and refrigerated (separately) up to 2 days in advance. Bring to a cool room temperature before serving; you may first need to re-emulsify the vinaigrette. You'll have some vinaigrette left over. The croutons and fried capers can be prepared and kept at room temperature (separately) a day or two in advance.

From Maupillier, chef and co-owner at Convivial in D.C.


For the leeks and vinaigrette

3 medium leeks (21 ounces total)

2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon thinly sliced garlic

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup canola oil

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons water

For assembly

2 cups canola oil, for frying

2 slices white bread (crusts trimmed off), frozen

6 tablespoons capers, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons

4 hard-cooked eggs, separated into whites and yolks, then finely chopped (see NOTE)

3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

6 tablespoons microgreens, preferably mustard (may substitute chervil leaves)


For the leeks: Fit a steamer basket over a pot containing several inches of water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, trim off and discard the leeks' root ends and most of their green parts, then cut each leek in half lengthwise, making sure not to slice all the way through. Spread the layers apart and rinse each leek thoroughly under warm water until it's grit-free.

Fit the leeks into the steamer basket; cover and steam for about 8 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a plate to cool at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, then cut the leeks crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.

(At this point, if you're going to use the chef's technique of steaming the eggs to hard-cook them, leave the water boiling and place the eggs in the steamer basket. Cover and steam for 12 minutes, then transfer to a plate to cool for at least 10 minutes before peeling.)

Combine the mustard, garlic, a teaspoon of salt and all the pepper in a high-powered blender (preferably) or a food processor. On the highest speed, slowly add the oil in a thin stream to form an emulsion.

Once the oil is fully incorporated, reduce the speed to medium; slowly add the vinegar, then the water, and mix until fully incorporated. Transfer to a container, and refrigerate until ready to use. The yield is 2/3 cup.

For assembly: Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Line a small plate and a large plate with paper towels. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a stainless-steel bowl.

Meanwhile, cut the frozen white bread into 1/4-inch cubes (this is easier to do straight from the freezer). Rinse and drain the 6 tablespoons of whole capers well, then carefully add them to the hot oil. They'll bubble furiously as their water content evaporates; as soon as that stops, the capers should be crisped and light. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the small paper-towel-lined plate.

Once the oil returns to 350 degrees, add the bread cubes. Fry for about 5 seconds, moving them about to promote even browning. Immediately pour the croutons and oil into the fine-mesh strainer, letting the oil drain into the bowl below it. Spread the croutons on the larger paper-towel-lined plate, then immediately season lightly with salt and pepper. (The yield is about 3/4 cup.)

When you're ready to serve, combine the leeks with the remaining teaspoon of salt and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, stirring until well incorporated. Divide the mixture among individual plates, preferably shaping it into even rounds. In order, evenly scatter each portion of leeks with the following ingredients: the croutons, shallots, chopped capers, cornichons, fried capers, egg yolks and egg whites; season lightly with salt and pepper. Top with the chives, then the microgreens.

NOTE: To hard-cook the eggs, bring a deep saucepan of water to a full boil over high heat. Carefully add the eggs, then reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for about 10 minutes, then transfer the eggs to a bowl of cool water and let them sit for 10 to 13 minutes before peeling.

Nutrition | Per serving (using 2 tablespoons vinaigrette): 180 calories, 7 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 125 mg cholesterol, 700 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar

Photos by Deb Lindsey --- For The Washington Post