I haven’t made lemon chess pie in years.
The other day I asked my mother if she could find the recipe. And she could; stuck away in a drawer, exactly where she thought she’d put it. In a photocopy of an article in the Fort Wayne Journal about Murphy’s At The River. We picked that photocopy up one day in 1986 when we made a journey to the restaurant, as people did, to eat lemon chess pie.
If you have never had lemon chess pie, it is worth a long, long drive.
My other memory of that day is that we rode a small cable ferry across the Kentucky River. The ferryman was missing a family event— a wedding reception, I think— and his nieces had brought him a plate of fried chicken and fixings from the party. And he was surprised because he remembered the nieces as toddlers. And there they were, big.
The green river slipped away under the boat as it chugged across, and when we tried to pay the ferryman, he said
“That’s okay. I was going across anyway.”
Which was so perfectly poetic that, being the right age, I wrote a poem about it. I’ve mercifully lost the poem, but below is the recipe for lemon chess pie.
According to the Journal article, the recipe was modernized by restaurateur Dorothy Rhea Murphy, from one handed down to her by her grandmother, Lucretia Curd King. The ingredients look pretty alarming… but they don't seem to have done Mrs. Murphy any harm. She lived well into her nineties.
Lemon Chess Pie
2 whole eggs plus 4 yolks
1 cup white sugar
4 T melted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 T yellow cornmeal
1 T flour
4 T lemon juice
1 T grated lemon rind
1 9” unbaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Beat eggs, yolks & sugar together at high speed for 2 minutes. Add butter
and cream; beat again at high speed for 2 minutes.
Add cornmeal, flour, lemon
juice & rind. Mix well.
Pour into pie crust and bake 30 minutes. Allow pie to cool to room temperature before serving.