Last week I made an impromptu trip to New York City – Brooklyn, to be exact – to be with a friend of mine whose husband died unexpectedly. My goal was to be there for her, to comfort her, to be of use in some way. I needed to do something concrete.
When I heard Jennie’s news, I couldn’t breathe. [This is a sentiment that I've heard repeatedly.] I went to work that Monday morning, last Monday morning, and I couldn’t focus. The thought that kept repeating itself was, “I need to go. I need to go be with her.”
On Wednesday night, I arrived in Brooklyn.
I hope I was a help. I think I may have been. I helped find important papers. I hand washed dishes when I could. I avoided loading the dishwasher, unless it was completely clear where something belonged, because she is a very much like me – we like our dishes loaded in a very precise fashion, and we reload it if you don’t do it the right way. Which means our way. I played with her sweet girls in the park. I tried to give her alone time when she needed it.
I watched Jennie’s girls adjust to life without their dad. I watched Jennie adjust to life without her true love and best friend.
There were lots of little happy moments. We had lunch at a neighborhood spot, in the booth where Jennie and Mikey had their last date. I met some of Jennie’s incredible friends, people who are there for her every day, not just in times of tragedy. I giggled with her oldest daughter as we read bedtime stories. I learned that life in a Brooklyn apartment is often accompanied by blown fuses when the Florida girl tries to blow dry her hair. We celebrated a wonderful man’s life in a memorial service that may have been the most happening party in town that day, filled with great food, beautiful stories, and plenty of wine.
But I couldn’t help but feel like I was falling down on the job by not making a peanut butter pie when Jennie asked.
I needed to make one. For Mikey. For my husband. For my beautiful children who don’t know the first thing about loss – except for the loss of a cherished pet. I needed to make one for me.
I made this frozen peanut butter pie today. I made it with thoughts of Jennie in my mind, because she hasn’t left my mind for over a week now. Even though it was one of Mikey’s favorite desserts, I made it for her. I made it for all of us who care about her.
I made it with love and it felt good.
It felt right.
Frozen Peanut Butter Pie
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.
The beauty of this pie is that there is no baking required. I used a food processor to grind the cookies and a stand mixer to beat the whipped cream, but you can do this all by hand if you're so inclined.
11 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies (such as Oreos), ground fine in a food processor
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
4 ounces chocolate chips (semisweet, bittersweet, or dark chocolate), optional
In a bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press into the bottom and sides of a deep dish 9-inch pie plate. Chill.
In a heavy saucepan, dissolve sugar and milk over medium-high heat, stirring, and remove pan from heat once sugar is dissolved. Whisk in peanut butter and vanilla until well-blended. Cool in a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water, stirring occasionally.
In another bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture. Turn mixture into pie crust, smoothing the top.
For garnish (optional), melt chocolate chips using a double boiler: place chips in double boiler over a saucepan of simmering water so that the double boiler doesn't touch the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted; place melted chocolate into a plastic baggie and cut a small piece of the tip off. Pipe into swirls or other designs on top of pie.
Freeze pie, uncovered, until frozen hard, about 5 hours. Pie can be made up to 2 days ahead and frozen, covered with plastic wrap and foil after 5 hours. Let pie stand in refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to serving.
Adapted from this recipe from Gourmet, May 1995.