The Inspiration Behind Food Network Kitchens' Thanksgiving Pies

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Upside-Down Pear Cranberry Tart

Upside-Down Pear Cranberry Tart

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Although it's the last course of the meal, pie is first on the list of non-negotiable Thanksgiving musts. This Thanksgiving, we enlisted the help of some pie experts — straight from Food Network Kitchens — to develop and share some of their best-loved pies. Whether you're a purist or feeling adventuresome, we have a pie for everyone — including something gooey, something savory (and cheesy!), an easy version of a French favorite and a deep-fried take on a classic.

Even though everyone settled on a different pie, all of our developers were inspired by personal food memories they wanted to recreate on their Thanksgiving tables.

With her Upside-Down Pear Cranberry Tart, Director of Culinary Editorial Heather Ramsdell sought to simplify the apple tarte tatin she struggled with as a culinary student in Burgundy, France. "I messed up a lot of them!" she admits, "but each one was an invitation to try again." Her efforts were well worth it and her streamlined pear tart is decidedly "not fussy. It's a great pie for people who don't like baking — and it's got hot sugar in it for the caramel so there is a moderate thrill factor." Heather added a few more touches with cranberries and ginger, for spice. Her best tip? "It's really good for breakfast."

Our Director of New Business Development, Charles Granquist, first discovered Deep Dish Cheese Pie by accident: "I was wandering the street in Gowanus, Brooklyn, looking for a knife store when I came across the bakery Four and Twenty Blackbirds." After trying their Deep Dish Cheese Pie, Charles says he "immediately fell in love." Having always favored desserts with a "savory edge," he plans to debut his own cardamom-spiced version this year "at the end of the meal — for people like me who don't like to be blown away with sweetness." Charles says he loves this pie because it's "something different from what people are used to." A cheese course and a pie course all rolled into one? That's something we could get used to very quickly.

Jill Novatt takes a Southern approach to the tried-and-true all-American apple pie by throwing it into a deep-fryer. The Director of Culinary Production first fell for fried pies during a trip to New Orleans and discovered an unexpected bonus: almost no cleanup. "I make these for Thanksgiving when I am frying my turkey. This way I already have hot oil and get more use out of it — and the pies don't pick up turkey flavor. Bottom line is I hate doing dishes and I love frying, so this is really a win-win." Though Jill (rightly) points out that "there are not many foods that aren't delicious fried," she especially likes fried apple pies for "the perfect crust-to-filling ratio — you get the same amount of each in every single bite. And there is no bottom crust to get soggy, it's all flaky and delicious." Not to mention— that making individual portions means no fighting for the last sliver.

Settling on a favorite pie was easy for Senior Editor Liz Tarpy: Her Shoofly Pie recipe comes straight from childhood memories of eating slices as afterschool snacks in her hometown of Lewisburg, Penn. "I would eat it at the local bakery, Keeley's, or get it at the indoor farmers' market at the Amish stands, never knowing I grew up eating an iconic Pennsylvania Dutch treat." The pie has stuck with Liz ever since because of its signature "sticky sweetness and the crumbly topping." Although it's good all year round, Liz favors the shoofly for holiday season. "It speaks Thanksgiving time to me; it has that when-the-weather-turns-chilly back-to-school sort of feel."

We couldn't agree more — holiday pie season is here.

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