To MLK — Pecan Pie

January 18, 2010

The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.
~Bertrand Russell

Pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. A minister whose nonviolent social activism exposed white American hypocrisy and kindled the way for the civil rights movement. A member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He conferred with President John Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon Johnson. He rubbed elbows with the powerful and walked with the common man. He was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times. Awarded five honorary degrees, he was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963. At the age of 35, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now to the darker side. Hoping to prove the Reverend was under the influence of subversives, Communists and other sources of obsessive paranoia, the FBI kept the civil rights leader under constant surveillance. The almost fanatical zeal with which the agency pursued King is disclosed in a paper trail of tens of thousands of FBI memos which detailed concerted efforts to derail King’s efforts in the civil rights movement.

The Bureau even convened a meeting of department heads to “explore how best to carry on our investigation to produce the desired results without embarrassment to the Bureau,” which included “a complete analysis of the avenues of approach aimed at neutralizing King as an effective Negro leader.”

In 1963, a month before the March on Washington, the megalomaniacal, capricioius FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover filed a request with then Attorney General Robert Kennedy to tap King’s and his associates’ phones and to bug their homes and offices. Oh, how that whitest of white Hoover destested King. Sadly, Kennedy consented to the technical surveillance, granting the FBI permission to break into King’s office and home to install the bugs, as long as agents recognized the “delicacy of this particular matter” and did not get caught installing them. All ordered with a voyeuristic proviso — Kennedy was to be personally informed of any pertinent findings. Speaking of, was Hoover really a cross-dresser or was that unsubstantiated rumor about the king of rumormongers with his “secret files” on potentates? And as a man that made it his business to blackmail homosexuals, who was this closeted lifelong partner of Hoover’s, agent Clyde “The Glide” Tolson?

Martin Luther King was also a man who adored pie, particularly pecan. As do I. Celebrate his sadly shortened life with a slice.


Pastry (Pâte Fine Sucrée)
2 egg yolks
6 T ice water

2 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
3 T granulated white sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1″ bits

1 C dark brown sugar
2/3 C light corn syrup
1 T rum or bourbon
4 T unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1/4 C heavy whipping cream
1/4 t sea salt
2 C pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Gently whisk the yolk with the water until it is well blended.

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10-15 seconds. Pour water and yolk mixture through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Knead the dough for less than one minute and your work surface and then gather into a ball.

(Alternatively, place the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl and combine. Add the butter and work with your hands, mashing it through your fingers to have everything blend together. It will form into small lumps or a cornmeal like consistency after 1 or 2 minutes. Pour the yolk mixture into the bowl and mix vigorously with your fingers until all the ingredients are assembled together into a ball.)

Divide the dough in half, flattening each half into a thick disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.

After chilling, unwrap and place one dough on a floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour too. Roll the pastry with light pressure, from the center out. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, add some flour and keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll from the center of the pastry outwards. Turn the dough over once or twice during the rolling process until it is about 11″ in diameter and less than 1/4″ thick. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9″ pie pan by draping it over the rolling pin, then moving it onto the plate and unrolling it. Once in the plate, press the dough firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the excess dough to about 1/2″ all around the dish, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the plate. Brush off any excess flour and trim the edges of the pastry to fit the pie pan.

Refrigerate the pastry, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes before pouring in the filling.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.

In a large saucepan, heat the brown sugar, syrup, rum, and butter until boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool until tepid. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. When the boiled syrup has cooled, beat in the eggs, salt, and cream.

Remove the chilled pastry crust from the refrigerator and evenly distribute the chopped pecans over the bottom of the crust. Then pour the filling evenly over the nuts. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pie will come out clean, about 50 minutes. If you find the edges of the pie crust are over browning during baking, cover with foil. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice or whipping cream.