Arakansas does not have a distinctive cuisine but shares within the greater southern culinary tradition. Dishes such as fried catfish and chicken, fried green tomatoes, barbecue and chicken fried steak are favorites. There are, however, a few dishes associated with the state, and one of the most popular ones bares its name:
Arkansas Possum Pie
Opossums are the only type of marsupials that live in North America. Originally from the south, they later expanded throughout the eastern half of what is now the United States and made their way to the Pacific coast. From time to time, we see opossums in our own backyard, here in the California Bay Area - they're specially cute when they are little. In the South, opossums were eaten by Native Americans first, and then by white settlers and African slaves, who used them to supplement their meager food rations. A whole lore about hunting and eating 'possums evolved in the late 19th century, including poems and songs.
This pie, however, is a dessert and contains no opossum whatsoever. It's not clear why it's called possum pie, one theory suggest that it's because the coloring of the pie, once sliced, resembles that of opossums, while another recalls how opossums can simulate being dead when they're frightened, while being much alive - so when you look at this pie it's just boring plain cream, but inside it's full of layers. That theory makes little sense as topping cream pies with whipped cream is pretty standard in the US, so all pies look pretty much the same until you slice them. No matter, the point is this Arkansas possum pie does not contain opossums.
What it actually is, is a variation of chocolate cream pie made with a pecan shortbread shell and with a sweetened cream cheese layer to add some acidity. It's very good, but far less special than the name would suggest.
The pie I made was very time consuming as I made all elements from scratch per the recipe I followed. However, you can simplify your life and make a quick version by using a graham crackers shell (which are sold pre-made), instant pudding (you can mix chocolate pudding with fudge flavored or vanilla pudding) and topping it with whipped cream from a can. I'm actually going to try it that way and see how it goes.
The recipe for chocolate pudding was very good, in particular after substituting chocolate extract for the vanilla extract. The whipped cream, however, was a failure. It became very dense and flat. I think it'd be better with regular sugar rather than powdered sugar - or maybe whip the cream first and add the sugar at the end.
Arkansas Possum Pie
For the pie shell
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup flour
- 3/4 cup ground pecans
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
For the Chocolate Pudding
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 cup whole milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 2 Tbsp flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla or chocolate extract
For the Cream Cheese Layer
- 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp heavy cream
For the Whipped Cream Topping
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp chopped pecans
- 2 Tbsp grated chocolate
Prepare the pie shell. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Put butter in a medium bowl and melt in the microwave (around 1 minute). Add the flour, chopped pecans and brown sugar and mix well. Transfer onto a pie pan and press on the bottom. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until brown. Cool down.
Prepare the chocolate pudding
Lightly beat the eggs yolks in a medium bowl. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Set aside.
Mix together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, flour and salt in a medium sauce pan. Place on the stove over medium-low heat and add the egg-milk mixture. Cook, whisking constantly, until the pudding thickens. Take off the heat and mix in the butter and vanilla or chocolate extract. Cover the pot and let cool, then transfer to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Prepare the Cream Cheese Layer
In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sugar and heavy cream until smooth.
Assemble the Possum Pie
Once the shell and pudding are cool, assemble the pie. Spread the cream cheese on the shell. Top with the chocolate pudding. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for four hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the whipped cream topping. Whip the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
Spread the whipped cream on top of the pie. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and grated chocolate.
Adapted from Amy Nash's recipe at House of Nash Eats
Cuisines from other states: Alaskan, American, Alabamian, Arizonan, Arkansas,
Californian, Connecticuter, Delawarean, Floridian, Georgian, Hawaiian, Hoosier, Idahoan, Illinoisan, Iowan, Kansan, Kansas City, Kentuckian, American.
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