Saveur (November 2014)
In a pie.
And here's something else you likely weren't expecting at your Thanksgiving table: This pie is brought to you from the Nation of Islam. Allow us to quote Saveur:
The silky, custardlike base of this autumnal pie is made from sweetened navy bean purée spiced with nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pies made in this way have their roots in dietary guidelines set forth by religious leader Elijah Muhammad. In his 1967 treatise How to Eat to Live, he wrote that beans were a blessed food—but that sweet potatoes weren't fit for man to eat. His daughter developed a sweet potato pie–like recipe using navy beans that was so delicious, it became the most popular way to raise money for the Nation of Islam. Its members hawked them on street corners from the early 1970s onward.
Okay, so: Sweet potatoes out. Beans in.
But how does a pie made with navy beans actually taste?
In a word, good!
In two or more words, this pie is surprisingly delicious considering the main ingredient is, you know, beans. From a can.
To be honest, the beans don't really impart any flavor here. What they do bring is a really lovely texture, like a very firm custard. As for flavor, you basically just taste the cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. It's delicious, rather like a less-sweet chess pie.
As a dessert on its own, then, this pie is really quite nice. But stacked up against some of the other desserts we served at Fakesgiving -- especially the Maple Syrup Pie, the Chocolate Mousse Pie with Phyllo Crust, and the Black-Bottom Peanut Pie -- it didn't stand a chance.
One of our guests gamely tried to come to the Navy Pie's defense: “You know," he said, "if you didn’t have any other desserts -- if this was the only thing you were serving for Thanksgiving -- you’d think it was pretty good.”
That’s faint praise if we’ve ever heard it.
So here's our advice: Maybe this pie doesn't make the cut for Thanksgiving. But it's something you ought to try at some point.
What about you? Think this Navy Bean Pie would stand a chance at your family's Thanksgiving? (What if people didn't know what was in it?)
>> Read the full Thanksgiving 2014 recipe index
>> Read about this year's biggest Thanksgiving trends
(This photo: Saveur/Andre Baranowski)
Makes one 9-inch pie
FOR THE CRUST:
1½ cups flour, plus more
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup ice-cold water
FOR THE FILLING:
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup canned navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1½ tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1. Make the crust: Pulse flour, butter, and salt in a food processor into pea-size crumbles. Add water; pulse until dough forms. Flatten dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.
2. Make the filling: Heat oven to 350°. Purée evaporated milk, beans, sugar, butter, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and eggs in a blender until smooth. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12″ round. Fit into a 9″ pie plate; trim edges and crimp. Pour filling over dough; bake until golden brown on top and filling is set, about 1 hour. Let pie cool completely before serving.