It’s become fashionable to say that your favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and every so often I say those words. What I mean is that Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s entirely about food. The glorious turkey. The stuffing your mother used to make. And pies, pies, pies. When you say your favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, you’re not just praising Thanksgiving – you’re secretly dissing Christmas, with all its mercenary trappings and its promise of day-after holiday depression.
But the truth is I am demented over Christmas. I love it. I love twinkle lights, I love my tree (which I put up the first week of December), and I love Christmas dinner. Unlike Thanksgiving dinner, which is practically written in stone, Christmas dinner is a feast with no real rules. Days of discussion precede it. Goose? Prime rib? Turkey all over again? What about ham? And then there are the desserts. The desserts of Christmas are divine, and they are true holiday recipes, the definition of which is that you would not be caught dead eating them at any other time of the year. It wouldn’t be Christmas without something like gingerbread, or a Yule log, or a plum pudding with hard sauce.
So at Christmas we have them all. We have gingerbread cookies on the tree, decorated with the names of all the current and previous household members. We have a Yule log that someone brings. And I always make a plum pudding with hard sauce, which I am the only person who eats.
But the big favorite in our house is the Peppermint Pie. This pie, which I swear is my own completely original invention, is a recent addition to our Christmas repertory. It has many advantages, one of which is that children like it as much as adults, and another of which is that it’s incredibly easy to make. It requires only one piece of equipment – one of those gas doohickeys that you caramelize crème brulee with. The crust is made of Oreo cookies, the filling is made with store-bought ice cream mixed with peppermint sticks, and the top is a lovely meringue. It can be made hours ahead, and because it’s so sparkly and minty, you almost don’t have to brush your teeth before going to bed.
For the crust:
4 Tablespoons melted butter
2½ cups crushed Oreo cookie crumbs
One 9-inch pie pan or springform pan, sprayed with Pam.
For the filling:
3 pints best quality vanilla ice cream, softened
3/4 cup crushed peppermint sticks (or more if you feel like it)(plus some shaved chocolate if you want)
For the topping:
5 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
Chocolate sauce (I use Fran’s hot fudge sauce)
1. Clear out space in your freezer for a fairly tall pie.
2. Make cookie crumbs by removing the white filling from the Oreo cookies and pulverizing the cookies. Add melted butter. Pat into the pie dish and stick into refrigerator.
3. Put peppermint sticks into a baggie and smash with a hammer. Be sure you have all different size of crumbs and chunks. Mix quickly into the softened ice cream and pour into the pie dish. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze. You can leave it in the freezer for most of the day.
4. At some point, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and beat about 3 minutes until stiff. Pile onto the ice cream pie and then, using your gas doohickey, brown the meringue. Freeze again. Serve within a couple of hours with warm chocolate sauce.
5. Merry Christmas
Nora Ephron is a writer and director. Her most recent book is “I Remember Nothing.”