photo by Anthony Palatta
A few months ago, at the end of a Mexican-themed dinner party, I brought out slices of this pie and my guests were moaning with pleasure. "Aaron," said one of them. "How is this possible?"
Part of the fun of this dessert is its name: margarita pie. Everything about it is designed to mimic the classic drink. To make the filling, begin by using your favorite key lime recipe (mine has sweetened condensed milk, fresh lime juice, lime zest, folded into whipped heavy cream), then spike it with a couple tablespoons each of tequila and Grand Marnier. (You could use Triple Sec instead of the G. M. if you wanted.)
When I serve the pie, I sometimes play a game with my guests and ask them to guess what's in the crust, which has a rich salty-sweet flavor. Usually they say graham crackers. Actually, it's crushed pretzels, mixed with brown sugar and butter, to give the flavor of the salted rim of a margarita glass.
I use about 1 1/2 cups pretzels, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, and 4 tablespoons melted butter, all thrown into the food processor. Press the wet crumbs into your vessel, making sure to put extra pressure against the sides with a measuring cup or your fingers so you don't get a thick crust at the edges. Bake at 350 for about 11 minutes.
I learned this recipe in a class taught by chef Ann Rossi at the Institute for Culinary Education, only in class we made it in a pie plate. I find it more impressive to make it in a springform pan, as shown above. Release the springform in front of your guests for that added "Wow!" factor.
I garnish the edges with half-lime slices, and if I can find mini-pretzels to crush, sometimes I save one and put it in the center.
One warning: after eating this pie, regular key lime will seem boring by comparison.