It's Halloween on Monday so what better way to get into the holiday than learn some history about Washington Irving, Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. My friend Chef Mark Vogel wrote this article about these guys and finishes it off with a recipe for Peach Pie to "honor Ichabod and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow." I hope you enjoy both. - RG
The Gourmet & the Goblin
Washington Irving, (1783-1859) was an American writer, historian, biographer, and diplomat, (he served as the minister to Spain from 1842-1846). He loved the town of Tarrytown, NY and took up residence there in a home that he called Sunnyside.
Irving was enthralled by the region's folklore, particularly its abundance of ghost stories. The nearby village of Sleepy Hollow was forever immortalized in his most famous work: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
In this iconic tale published in 1819-1820, the protagonist, Ichabod Crane, is pitted against two nemeses. The first is the rugged and Herculean Brom Bones, Ichabod's rival for the affections of the town beauty, Katrina Van Tassel.
The second, and far more sinister, is the Headless Horseman. Reputed to be a Hessian soldier decollated by a cannonball in the Revolutionary War, his decapitated spirit gallops through Sleepy Hollow at night in quest of its lost head.
In the story's denouement Ichabod is chased and apparently murdered by the horseman who hurls a pumpkin onto his cranium. Interestingly, Irving insinuates that Brom Bones may have been the culprit, thus leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions as to the actual cause of Ichabod's demise.
Of course the tale is rendered more intriguing by attributing the treachery to the headless ghost. Otherwise it's just another humdrum example of a local bully victimizing the weak.
Formerly known as North Tarrytown, in 1996 the residents voted to change the name to Sleepy Hollow to honor Irving's tale. Visitors can take a guided tour of the famous Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and view Washing Irving's grave. Many other notables have been laid to rest there as well.
For the history buff or simply those with a morbid curiosity, it is a worthwhile endeavor. Be sure to stop by the Old Dutch Church, a reputed haunt, (pardon the pun), of the headless horseman.
Overshadowed by the more pertinent, and often lurid aspects of Irving's story is Ichabod's love of food. Irving makes numerous references to his gastronomic passions. Ichabod is depicted as a "huge feeder" with the "dilating powers of an anaconda."
He frequently accompanies students home at the conclusion of the school day, particularly those whose mothers were "noted for the comforts of their cupboard."
His mouth "watered as he looked upon the sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare." Irving further characterizes him as a man "whose spirits rose with eating as some men's do with drink."
Irving also describes the charms of the Dutch country table which included cakes, crullers, and pies made of apples, peaches and pumpkins. Then there was the ham, the smoked beef, roasted chickens, broiled shad, pears and quinces. Ichabod "could not help rolling his large eyes" at the sight of these delectable offerings.
I've chosen one in particular, namely peach pie, as our recipe to honor Ichabod and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Halloween Peach Pie Recipe
For the Crust
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 2½ sticks butter cold, cubed or a combination of 5 oz. butter and 5 oz. shortening
- ice water as needed, about 5 tablespoons
For the Filling
- 9 peaches peeled and sliced into ½-inch wedges
- ¾ cup light brown granulated sugar
- Juice of half a lemon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch nutmeg
- pinch salt
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons cold butter cut into small dice
- 1 egg beaten
- granulated white sugar as needed
For the Crust
- Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and give it a quick whiz just to mix the ingredients.
- Add the butter/shortening with the processor running just until it’s incorporated. Acoarse meal is the target consistency.
- Add the water in tablespoon increments, pulsing the processor just enough to incorporate it until a loose, crumbly, dough is formed. Use as little water as possible to bring it together.
- Scoop out the dough onto a floured board and knead it briefly to bring it together, adding a little bit of extra flour if the dough is too sticky.
- Separate the dough into two pieces. The first should be ⅔ of the total, to be used for the bottom crust, and the other third will form the top crust.
- Roll each into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for an hour.
Assembling the Pie
- Place a baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Roll out the bottom crust on a floured board until it will fill a standard glass pie plate with about an inch or so overhang around the rim.
- In a large bowl combine the peach wedges, sugar, lemon, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Then slowly add the cornstarch, mixing well until it’s fully incorporated. Place the filling on the bottom crust.
- Dot the top of the filling with the diced butter.
- Roll out the top crust and place on the pie. Crimp the edge of the topand bottom crusts to seal the pie. Makea number of slits in the top crust to allow steam to vent.
- Brush the top crust with some beaten egg, (known as an egg wash), and then lightly sprinkle with the granulated sugar.
- Wrap the edge of the pie with narrow strips of aluminum foil to prevent it from over-browning. Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove the aluminum foil and continue baking for another 30-40 minutes, or until the top has lightly browned and the filling is soft and bubbly. Allow the pie to cool before slicing.