The American palette has no room for durian. The fruit comes pre-packed with sugar and fat, making it a natural dessert, but it also has these onion-y flavors that we expect to belong to savory dishes. So I aimed for a compromise in the tradition of sweet potato pie, a dessert which still (in some hands) manages to honor the vegetable flavor of its contents.
I thought it worked. No one else liked it. The problem wasn’t with the pie, though, it was just that no one else likes durian.
The following is based on the pumpkin pie recipe from The New Best Recipe. It is enough for two pies.
- 32 oz. frozen cooked pumpkin
- 4 frozen seedless durian pods – you can find little wrapped packets of frozen durian flesh at Ranch 99. It is way easier, and way less smelly, to buy frozen pre-processed durian flesh than to deal with the whole fruit.
- 4/3 c. heavy cream
- 1 c. milk
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 8 eggs, plus 2 egg whites left over from the Meyer lemon meringue pie I made to appease the durian-haters.
- a pinch of salt
- a capful of vanillin
- a liberal amount of cardamom
- a conservative amount of nutmeg
- Buy some pie crusts at the store, unless you are a fancy-pants
Throw the pumpkin and durian together on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Add the spices, vanilla, sugar, and salt. Puree. You will end up with enough paste for 3+ pies; take 4 cups of it for yours, and freeze the rest for later. Cook until it starts sputtering, then stir in the milk and cream. Turn the heat down to a bare simmer. Do something clumsy and dumb to your pie crusts, run to Safeway and buy new ones, and then pre-bake the crusts at 400º until they start to turn golden brown. Meanwhile, scramble your eggs.
When the pie crusts come out of the oven, mix the eggs into the pumpkin-durian filling. Pour the hot filling into the hot crust, and keep baking at 400º until the custard is poofy and the center wiggles like jello – about 25 min.
I was nervous about the texture, since I don’t have much experience with custard pies, but it turned out perfectly – fluffier than a traditional pumpkin pie, but still firm, a perfect light custard. The durian flavor was there, but it was weak. I think next time, I’ll cut down on the cream and sugar, and skip the pumpkin entirely – I really only used it because I had it sitting around in the freezer.
The durian smell in the kitchen was barely even noticeable over the strong lemony freshness from my other pie. I actually found it pleasant – and though I do like durian, I’m not crazy enough to appreciate the smell of the fresh fruit. The final pie didn’t smell at all, people were sticking their faces into it hoping for a good whiff and coming away disappointed.