for jennie, for all of us: frozen peanut butter pie

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 listened.

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.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10.

Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

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.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

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32 Responses to “for jennie, for all of us: frozen peanut butter pie”

  1. 1
    Ellie — August 16, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

    Thank you Merry, for writing this because I have been so concerned about Jennie, At least I know now that there were times for smiles along with the tears…Ellie

  2. 2
    LiztheChef — August 16, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

    I finally get why all of us are so eager to meet you. I was away on vacation – but you interrupted your life to care for a friend. Hope your practice had a back-up and looking forward to that cocktail here in San Diego in December.best, Liz

  3. 3
    Eleanor Hoh (wokstar) — August 16, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

    What a good friend you are!

  4. 4
    A Boston Food Diary — August 16, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

    Beautiful post….you are a wonderful person

  5. 5
    kamran siddiqi — August 16, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

    M-J, having met you twice this year has been such an honor. You are truly a good friend and a great person. You aren’t even close-by, yet you did what any friend would do, you got on a plane and helped Jennie, gave her a shoulder to weep on, and gave her some time for herself.

    I know I’ve said this before, but I simply must say it again, I feel truly blessed being part of such a great community filled with amazing, loving, supportive people (like you).

    I made the pie with my loved one’s on Friday, a few hours after I got back from the potluck. When the pie was ready, we cried as we ate it; we tasted the love that we all put into the pie. “I love you’s” and hugs were exchanged. We spent the rest of the day together. We didn’t do much, but knowing that we were all together was all that mattered.

  6. 6
    Renée J. (RJ Flamingo) — August 16, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

    I’m so glad you were able to go and be with Jennie. I know you were more help than you maybe you think you were, and so happy to hear that it wasn’t all tears. You are sensational. Oh, yeah. And so is the pie. ;-) xox

  7. 7
    SMITH BITES — August 16, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    am so, so glad you went MJ – i wanted to go too but i’ve not met her in real life and i knew it just wasn’t feasible . . . i haven’t stopped thinking about Jennie and her children since the terrible news hit twitter . . . it’s all been so surreal . . . but am thankful for this community and that you’re part of it

  8. 8
    Winnie — August 16, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    You’re not just a good friend; you are an amazing one. And the pie looks fantastic xoxo

  9. 9
    Maria Raynal — August 16, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

    You are such a warm, generous person and friend. It was comforting, knowing you were there for Jennie and her girls. And I love your version of the pie.

  10. 10
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — August 16, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

    Beautiful post… I am sure that having you there with her was a huge comfort. I love that you made a pie when you got home, as well. It looks lovely!

  11. 11
    Chris — August 16, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

    Thanks for this! I have been wanting to know how the trip went. It was so good of you to go. The two of you broke the molds of truly special people. :) Hugs! Can’t wait to chat with you again…

  12. 12
    Barbara | Creative Culinary — August 16, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

    I am certain your visit was everything Jennifer needed from a friend. Making her a priority, doing dishes, playing with the girls and most importantly being a loving shoulder in her time of need; you didn’t have to do more.

    The pie is a symbol of love…you have shown her and her family that in spades.

  13. 13
    Ethan — August 16, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

    You wanted to make the pie and we all wanted to be there in Brooklyn.
    You are one of the great ones M-J, blown fuse and all:)

  14. 14
    Paula — August 16, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

    I’m sure you were so much more than *a help* to Jennie and her family. Your presence and your actions at a time when nothing made sense, providing your friend and her children the support and the love needed to get through those days… You were a blessing.

    I’m glad that you baked the pie when you got home and I’m happy that you were able to share it with your own family.

  15. 15
    Wendy Read - Sunchowder — August 16, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

    Beautiful post and you are a wonderful friend. I am sure you were a comfort to Jennie and her children. I will never forget when you took the time out to call me when my neighbor was struck down with Lymphoma. You are amazing and I am so looking forward to meeting you in New Orleans.

  16. 16
    DessertForTwo — August 17, 2011 @ 12:13 am

    I’m so glad you were able to go up there and be with her. I’m still in shock a little too.
    On the bright side, I absolutely love your chocolate decorations on this pie! So original! :)

    Any chance you’re going to Food Blog Forum in Nashville in October? Would LOVE to see you again :)

  17. 17
    Liren — August 17, 2011 @ 1:58 am

    MJ, only you would feel badly that you did not make a peanut butter pie, when you were already being the sweetest and most supportive friend to Jennie. The gift of your presence, to be there for those very difficult moments so soon after Mikey’s death – I am certain that means more to her than anything. But I know what you mean about needing to make the pie, and am so glad you were able to enjoy it with your own loved ones.

  18. 18
    Prerna@IndianSimmer — August 17, 2011 @ 2:19 am

    Oh MJ, you are the sweetest kindest person! We all wished to be there with Jennie, by her side when she was weak but you actually did what a true friend should. You flew all the way.
    Thanks for letting us know that Jennie is sort of doing ok and she has a friend by her side (physically) when she needed one!

  19. 19
    Kulsum at JourneyKitchen — August 17, 2011 @ 2:35 am

    MJ you did exactly what a true friend does.Thank you for letting us in on how Jennie is doing. I have said it a million times but what an incredible community we are and Jennie is one of the bravest woman I know.

  20. 20
    myFudo — August 17, 2011 @ 5:10 am

    You are such a good friend, Hope Jennie is alright. Love your photo

  21. 21
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — August 17, 2011 @ 7:10 am

    MJ,

    That was so touching of you to go be with Jennie. I can only imagine what help you were… I have no doubt that she appreciated everything that you did.

    Sending you loving thoughts as well…

    -B

  22. 22
    Aggie — August 17, 2011 @ 7:35 am

    You are a good friend MJ. Your pie is beautiful, just like you.

  23. 23
    Lynda — August 17, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    What a beautiful post, and pie, and friend. xo.

  24. 24
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — August 17, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

    Thank you. For being there when so many of us couldn’t. I am sure you were way more help than you imagine. Hugs XOX

  25. 25
    Caneel — August 17, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

    I’m so glad you were able to be there, as a friend, a comfort and a help, for her. I wasn’t able to make my pie until this week, either, but I’m glad I did. Thank you for sharing your beautiful pie.

  26. 26
    amelia from z tasty life — August 18, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

    M-J: you acted as a true friend… being there, just listening, living a few hours of every day life, baking the pie, sharing this with all of us. We are all distraught by this event. I too have been thinking about Jennifer every day since this tragedy. It has helped me appreciate my daily family moments so much more. Last Friday I took a day off and took my kids peach picking, just ’cause. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  27. 27
    Kathleen — August 18, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

    I always remind my 24 year old daughter of the great importance of girlfriends. They can help you get through anything and everything! Your pie looks delicious and I love the swirls!

  28. 28
    Mike — August 18, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

    MJ, what you did showed just what kind of person you are. A lot of us say we’d do the same thing if the circumstance arose and yet, for various reasons, many wouldn’t. You did. You momentarily paused your life so someone you care about could go forward. Everyone needs a friend like you.

    By the way, the pie looks so good. Only fitting that you were able to take some time for yourself to make this.

  29. 29
    IlinaP — August 19, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

    I am so glad to have met you but wish it was under better circumstances. I flew in and out so quickly and left for vacation early the next morning. I owe Jennie a peanut butter pie. First thing I’m gonna do when I get home and settled. Thanks for being such a good friend!

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