It's the first week of our summer membership in a local orange farmers' co-op -- we got 2 five-pound bags of Valencias, sweet-tangy and deliciously juicy! That's rather a lot of oranges to eat out of hand in a week, and it seems a shame to just juice them all, and so I am gathering up recipes for cooking with oranges as well.
This recipe, which was reprinted in the Los Angeles Times some ten years ago, was the third-prize winner for Mrs. C.C. Hall of Hollywood in a 1908 Times recipe contest. Walnuts had been a Southern California crop since the 1870s, and of course citrus had been here even before that. (An interesting Sunset Magazine article on the orange industry -- with recipes! -- can be found here.)
It's nice to think of walnuts and oranges being "exotic," as they must have been to newcomers to California in the 1900s -- "and most residents were newcomers in 1908," notes The Times. Walnuts and orange are a delicious combination, and I also love the contrast between the chewy-crunchy filling and the airy meringue.
I increased the ingredients of this pie by a half, as Mrs. Hall must have had a rather small pie plate -- it made a thin pie, I must admit -- or just as likely she knew that meringue is best on the day it's made, so her version made enough pie for her family's dessert that evening with nothing left. You can certainly leave off the meringue, and make something resembling a pecan pie. Today I used Martha Stewart's pâte sucrée (the double-crust version in the book), and so I had two extra egg whites, and added them to the meringue -- it makes a rather more enthusiastic pie meringue than I usually do, but it's for a birthday dinner, so that's all right!
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided use
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large orange
1 1/2 cups walnuts, minced or broken into pieces
1 pie crust, unbaked
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Grate the zest from the orange, and squeeze the juice.
Cream the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan by whisking until the mixture is smooth and pale yellow in color. Add the lemon juice, orange juice, and zest, and whisk until smooth. Add the walnuts and cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.
Pour the walnut mixture into the prepared pie crust. Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven temporarily.
Beat the egg whites until stiff, adding 2 tablespoons of sugar near the end. Spread the egg whites over the walnut filling, and return the pie to the oven until the meringue browns, about 8 minutes.
Makes 1 pie. Active work time, about 20 minutes; total preparation time, 1 hour.