Sweet potato pie stole the show before Thanksgiving — all thanks to a viral video review of Patti LaBelle-brand sweet potato pie sold at Walmart.
James Wright Chanel’s glorious review, which is interspersed with him singing snippets of LaBelle’s songs and a few this-is-the-best-thing-I’ve-tasted curse words, was viewed more than 4.1 million times on YouTube. After that video went viral, a spokesperson said the country’s largest retailer sold one pie a second for 72 hours.
Even if you didn’t see the video or run to Walmart to buy a pie, you likely got sucked into debates about which is better: sweet potato pie or pumpkin pie. Or you participated in the larger perennial holiday debate: which is the best pie – pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan or apple.
I definitely fall into the pumpkin/sweet potato camp, but I don’t have a strong view on one versus the other. I love them both. (I know that is sacrilege to some.) Those conversations led me to whip up a family favorite this Thanksgiving that I had almost forgotten: pumpkin chiffon pie.
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My grandmother and mom used to make this pie, and my sister, Kathryn, made one last year for our Thanksgiving feast.
I love this pie’s lighter texture. The recipe calls for folding meringue into the custard to create a fluffy, better version of the classic. After serving it this year, it was so popular between dinner and take-home leftovers that we only had one slice left.
So I made another one, improving on the graham cracker crust with gingersnap cookies and pecans.
Then I made a sweet potato version. It was even better.
Chanel’s viral video earned him a phone call from LaBelle and later an invitation to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. If you did not get enough of Chanel’s viral video, you can see him and LaBelle make her famous pie at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 16 on the Cooking Channel.
If you missed the chance to buy a Patti LaBelle pie at Walmart, a company spokesperson said they will be back in stores later this month for the end of the year holidays. Or you could try making this version.
PUMPKIN CHIFFON PIE WITH GINGERSNAP PECAN CRUST
Yield: 8-10 slices.
To convert this recipe for sweet potato pie, substitute mashed sweet potatoes for the pumpkin and omit the ginger. Puree the custard ingredients in a food processor before placing in a saucepan and bringing to a boil. Stir often while coming to a boil, then proceed as directed. Be sure to use pasteurized egg whites or whites from pasteurized eggs since the meringue is not cooked. Adapted from Goldie Weigl and Epicurious.com.
14 (2-inch) gingersnaps (about 4 ounces)
1 cup pecans
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 1/4 cups mashed, cooked pumpkin
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Whipped cream, optional
Make crust: In a food processor grind gingersnaps, pecans and sugar fine and add butter, blending until combined well. Press mixture onto bottom and side of a 9-inch (1-quart) glass pie plate. Bake crust in middle of oven 15 minutes, or until crisp and golden around edge, and cool on rack.
Combine gelatin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cooked pumpkin, yolks and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, remove from heat and place saucepan in a sink or roasting pan filled with ice water to cool down. The filling is cool enough when it mounds on a spoon.
Make the meringue: place egg whites in a mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed for about a minute or until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high for 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Fold into pumpkin filling and fill cooled pie crust. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.