I know we have already sprung forward with fresh strawberry season here, but I needed to embrace our winter crops a little longer.  Winter is so plentiful here.  In particular, our Rio Grande Valley Citrus is very special.

Orange zest may be my all time favorite ingredient in baking.  And although you can walk around massive tables at Central Market (aka the Gucci-B) of literally dozens of varieties of citrus from all over the world, the small and kind of ugly scarred little oranges from Texas are superior in flavor, sweetness, and juiciness in any contest.  This is in part because they are not shipped around the world, and citrus loses a lot of nutritional value the longer it sits around, endures changes in temperature, etc.  Don’t be seduced by the pretty oranges from afar– buy the little ugly ones, kiss them, and they will turn into princes.

I have been reading my Christmas present, Edna Lewis’ The Taste of Country Cooking.  I love the way the book is organized by season and by whole meal menus, usually ending in pie and coffee.  Many of the recipes are so simple– you begin to realize how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and how the meal and people coming together is what that book is all about. In a world full of fancy recipes and cookbooks, there are still few cooks who can express this component of cooking so eloquently and authentically.

I was inspired by something called a Tyler pie, partly because of its simplicity– it seemed ripe for adaptation. I had those ugly sweet oranges.  I had honey.  And coriander seeds.  The result was a light and juicy custard, with a spice that is subtle and lemony, and melds perfectly with orange.

Orange Custard Pie

inspired by Edna Lewis’ Tyler pie, and this cocktail

1 8-or 9-inch one-crust pie shell, unbaked (your favorite or this one)

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 T coriander seeds

zest of one small orange

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup of whole milk or half and half

1 tsp orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier

Heat the honey, butter, coriander seeds, and orange zest on low heat until the butter melts and then for about 5 more minutes.  Turn off the heat and let sit.  Prepare the pie crust.  Beat the eggs, sugar, flour, and salt until very smooth.  Strain the honey butter mixture into the egg mixture.  Add the milk and liqueur and blend well.  Pour into the pie crust.  Sprinkle a few coriander seeds in the center.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.  Garnish with orange slices.