There used to be a humble neighborhood joint called Mara's Homemade in New York's East Village that served Bayou staples and barbecue. My husband and I visited it annually for shrimp and grits, gumbo, and ribs, which we'd wash down with hurricanes and Abita beers. And though we would be stuffed to the gills by the end of each epic meal, we could never say no to the offer of Derby Pie, which was loaded with buttery bourbon and caramel, pecans, and dark chocolate. It was one of the finest pies in New York.
With Mara's gone, I'm left to my own devices for my Derby Pie fix. To develop a recipe, I began with the internet and found something curious. My search for "derby pie" delivered few results for the genuine article, just lots of close-enough names: Not Derby Pie, Kentucky Derby Pie, Run for the Roses Pie, Pegasus Pie, and Prospect Pie. It also turned up an article explaining that Derby Pie, and all associated recipes are patented property of the Kern family in Kentucky, who developed the original recipe in 1950 and sell it to this day. They fiercely protect the name of the pie with registered trademarks, which explains all the pseudonyms.
I've never had the pleasure of tasting the original, but I'm pretty satisfied with my copycat version (which, I stress for legal reasons, is not a recipe for a real Derby Pie). While I've never been a fan of pecan pie on its own, the addition of chocolate is a game-changer. I love the way that the bittersweet taste of the chocolate and the earthy flavors from the nuts cut through the sweetness of caramel and bourbon.
A little salt goes a long way in this recipe—it helps brighten and highlight each of the flavors. It's a flavor combination that's hard to resist, no matter how full you are when the opportunity presents itself.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthalhas logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.