Slice of the good life

Henri makes pies to enjoy with wine that goes with the pies

Photo Illustration by Carey Wilson

Dear Henri:

This time of year, Chris and I find ourselves invited to a potluck dinner party almost once a week, and while we have a lot of favorite recipes, both of us—being the adventurous types—are ready to try something new. Any fruity suggestions, dessert-wise?

Dana R.

First of all, my chapeau is off to you, Dana. Henri can scarcely imagine word play more clever or a cinematic allusion any wilder, Lemmon-wise. Qu’il fait bon, mon ami! In fact, Henri has himself been thinking a lot about fruits lately and has already this summer prepared several absolutely wonderful fruit pies. I’m delighted to share the recipes for two of my favorites.

You say, Dana, that you and your friend are the “adventurous types.” Tres bon! While these pies themselves are divine, paired with the appropriate post-prandial beverage—the right sparkling wine or a decent port—they soar to new heights. Show up with dessert and dessert wine, and you’ll definitely be invited back!

Glazed Strawberry Pie (with port)
Though the following recipe—from Irma Rombauer’s classic, Joy of Cooking—is for a strawberry pie, one of Henri’s favorites and perfect with all the yummy local fresh strawberries, you can also use blackberries, blueberries, raspberries or peaches, or combine the fruits into one pie.

1 pre-cooked pie shell
1 quart strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 quart quality vanilla ice cream (Shubert’s, Breyer’s, etc.)

In a mixer, blend one cup of the strawberries. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and water, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it thickens. Add the blended strawberries. Pour the whole, unblended berries into the pie shell and distribute evenly. Pour the berry mixture over the whole berries, coating them thoroughly but not displacing them. Chill for at least four hours. Serve with a scoop of ice cream.

Unfortunately—but typically!—Rombauer neglects to recommend a wine to go with this pie. Henri suggests a good port, which works wonderfully with berry-based desserts, although it is more commonly served with after-dinner cheeses (especially Stilton). Keep in mind that while good port is expensive (and you don’t want to buy inexpensive port!), it is generally drunk in small amounts—one bottle should suffice for even a fairly large dinner party. Be sure to decant, and serve warm (at least 70 degrees). Try Churchill’s Ten Year Old Tawny Port (about $30) or Niepoort Vintage (about $70).

Note: Although port-style wines are made around the world, true port, or porto, refers only to those made in Portugal (the name comes from the city of Oporto, at the mouth of the Rio Douro, not from the name of the country). For more information on port, log onto

Henri’s Perfect Peach Pie (with champagne)
1 uncooked pie shell
6-8 large peaches
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour

Peel and thinly slice peaches; place in pie shell. Mix the cornstarch, cinnamon (use more or less cinnamon, according to your own taste) and salt, and combine with the peaches. With a pastry blender, combine butter, sugar and flour. Sprinkle the mixture over the peaches. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

An excellent companion to peach pie is a good champagne, not too long ago a fairly common dessert beverage. Champagnes, generally blends of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, range from sweet to dry, depending on sugar content at harvest time and/or bottling, when sugar is sometimes added. With a sweet dessert, you probably don’t want a sweet champagne. Your best bet instead is a brut (dry). Henri’s favorite—naturallement—is Dom Perignon, although the $100-plus price tag will probably be a consideration for potlucks. Another excellent choice is Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut (made in California by an old family of Spanish wine- and champagne makers), or Domaine Carneros Brut cuvee. Both are available locally for around $20.

Thanks, Dana, and bonne chance!