Eat This, Drink That: Chocolate Chess Pie and Strawberry Gin Smash

Summer is in full swing here in New York, which means one thing: We do our Eating and Drinking in the comfort of Zelda’s apartment with central A/C, because no one wants to turn on an oven in Scout’s apartment (a location which is currently a temperature roughly akin to the sixth circle of hell). But despite the high heat, Eat This, Drink That is back with another couple of tasty treats! This month, we have chocolate chess pie and strawberry gin smashes.

Chess pie is a traditionally Southern treat, somewhere between a pudding and a tart. OG Chess pie is a buttery, sugary treat the color of summer sunshine, and it can only be made better with chocolate, right? The epitome of this treat for us is from Louisville’s own Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen, which introduced us to many wonderful treats over the years: the chocolate chess pie, the Dutch apple pie, the upside-down cupcake. Far from any of their locations, we decided to try to hack it ourselves.

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Scout used this recipe from Tessa at Handle the Heat, which calls for the following ingredients: one unbaked, 9-inch pie shell (we generally buy our pie crusts here in the kitchen of Z&S, Pillsbury all the way), 1 ½  cups of granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, a pinch of salt, one 5-ounce can of evaporated milk (about ⅔ cup), 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter (melted), 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

This recipe is super easy, which is just the way Scout likes it. The more we do these posts, the more Scout realizes that maybe she just wasn’t meant for the kitchen life; some of us just aren’t. But our chocolate chess pie only takes a few steps, and offers huge rewards for minimal effort. Step one: Combine the dry ingredients (sugar, salt, and cocoa powder) in a medium-sized bowl. Next, whisk in the wet ingredients until combined into what Scout would call a yummy chocolate soup.

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Line your pie pan with your crust and pour the mixture in. We would suggest a smallish pie pan if you have one, to create a thicker pie in the end. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until the outside is firm and the middle jiggles just a bit. Let set for a while so you don’t end up with chocolate soup. You can use this time to run out to buy ice cream and whipped cream, or to make yourself a cocktail! You deserve a drink, after all.

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This month’s drink is very of the season, featuring two of Zelda’s favorite summer ingredients: gin and fresh strawberries. The gin smash is an oldie, dating all the way back to the late 1800s, which is basically a julep minus the bourbon. This variation, courtesy of The Kitchn, adds strawberries and lime juice for a sweet twist and a tart kick.

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For this drink, you will need 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 1 lime, 3 fresh strawberries, 3 ounces of gin, club soda, and a sprig of mint. Combine your sugar and the juice of half the lime (the Kitchn calls for one wedge, but we found that wasn’t quite enough) in the bottom of a tall glass (Note: The glass we used for pictures, while very pretty and new to Zelda’s kitchen arsenal, was not quite tall enough. We recommend something slightly bigger to make your muddling easier, and to allow for a proper ratio of liquids.).

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Once the sugar is completely muddled, slice two of your strawberries and muddle them, gently, in the bottom of your glass. Let sit for five minutes, so the flavors have time to meld. Then, fill your glass with ice, add the gin, and top with club soda. Garnish with your mint sprig and final strawberry, and drink up!

These drinks are, first off, very pretty. Flavor wise, we admittedly found them underwhelming at first. But given time to mellow and for the strawberry flavor to infuse the drink, they transformed into a refreshing summer treat! The Kitchn also offer a large-batch version of their recipe, and we’d be very curious to see how a pitcher of these babies fared. We posit that it could be even better than the individual version. Stay tuned for updates.

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P.S. While we initially enjoyed our pie warm and gooey, the best part about this recipe is that it tastes just as good chilled! We both ate the leftovers straight from our refrigerators for breakfast the next morning. And can vouch for their deliciousness. Let’s be real: No one wants a hot pie in this weather.

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