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AndyTalk: Easier Than Pie - Pear and Ginger Cookie Crumble for Thanksgiving

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There's one day a year when someone can seriously say "I need a pie" and not seem high strung or gluttonous. Thanksgiving is a holiday with a proscribed menu. On no other day of the year do most Americans eat nearly the same meal. Part of that meal is dessert, and for some people that's the most important part. You need pie on Thanksgiving - or at least something shaped like a pie.

Unfortunately, pie competes for oven space with the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and rolls. It also needs a crust, which is daunting for some and just a drain on time for others. Sometimes the solution is a bakery, hopefully a good one. Sometimes the solution is to assign the pies in potluck fashion to guests with ovens of their own. I'd like to suggest a crustless pie-cobbler hybrid that can be assembled ahead and put into the oven after all the dinner stuff is ready to serve.

Any pears will do. I used Asian pears for the dessert in the picture. Choose firm pears. Juicy ripe pears are great to eat, but they turn to mush when cooked. I left the skin on, but feel free to peel the pears if the skin bothers you. I used the biggest, deepest pie dish I have, so that I could get three layers of sliced pears.

I use gingerbread cookies, because ginger is among the spices in pumpkin pie, which makes it just right for a Thanksgiving dessert. Any crisp ginger cookie will work. I used the triple ginger cookies from Trader Joe's. They're only an inch in diameter so I didn't break them up. If you get big cookies break them into pieces to make distribution in the pan easier. If you hate ginger for some reason feel free to use any shortbread cookie you like.

It takes a couple of minutes to layer the sliced pears, cookies, and sugar. Coconut milk (the kind you buy by the half gallon in the dairy case, not the kind in the can) covers the filling almost to the top. As the ingredients cook the cookies absorb the coconut milk and turn into a thick ginger-caramel colored goo. The crumb topping is sweet and crisp. I sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar on top of the finished dessert so that the toasty brown crumbs sparkle.

I'm not suggesting that this crustless pie and/or cobbler is a replacement for pumpkin pie. I'm suggesting that I'd like a little of each, please.

Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.

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