It's extinct now -- no restaurant serves
it, no bakery makes it -- but this old New York dessert still lives
vividly in the taste memories of many.
Nesselrode is named after one Count Nesselrode,
as are a number of dishes that are made with chestnuts or chestnut
puree. This is according to Larousse Gastronomique, the French food
encyclopedia. Larousse doesn't say why chestnuts are associated
with the Count, a 19th century Russian diplomat who negotiated the
Treaty of Paris after the Crimean War, but it does note that nesselrode
pudding was created for the count by his chef Monsieur Mouy.
The pie, as we know it in New York, however,
was popularized by Hortense Spier, who started her business not
as a pie bakery but as a brownstone restaurant on 94th St. between
Columbus Ave. and Central Park West. The restaurant closed before
World War II and Mrs. Spier baked her specialty pies for other restaurants
after that. Besides the nesselrode, there was a lemon meringue,
a banana cream, and a coconut custard. By the mid 1950s, these were,
indeed, the standard pies served in New York's seafood restaurants
and steakhouses. When Mrs. Spierr died, her daughter, Ruth, and
daughter-in-law, Mildred, continued the business.
Nesselrode pie is really a classic Bavarian
cream -- in a pie shell, of course -- which is to say a custard
base into which gelatin is blended for stability and egg whites
are folded for added volume and lightness. The flavoring ought to
be candied chestnuts and rum, but chestnuts haven't been a major
part of the pie for a long time. The following recipe uses a product
called Raffetto's "Nesselro" fruits, which does indeed contain a
trace of chestnut, though the first ingredient listed is, of all
things, cauliflower, which apparently has a similar texture to chestnuts
when candied. The remaining ingredients are candied fruits. You
can use a mix of candied fruit -- tutti fruiti -- if you cannot
find the Raffetto product.
In case you'd like your grocer to order
some, Raffetto's "Nesselro" is manufactured and marketed by Romanoff
International, Inc., the same people who market the caviar you can
buy in the supermarket. It is distributed through Haddon House.
1. Sprinkle gelatin on rum and water and
let stand until softened.
2. Scald cream and milk together.
3. In a medium bowl, with a wooden spoon,
mix salt and 2 tablespoons sugar into yolks. Add scalded cream slowly
to yolks, stirring constantly. Pour into the top of a double boiler,
over simmering water, and cook until thickened, stirring frequently.
Do not boil.
4. Stir in gelatin and chill until almost
5. Beat egg whites until they hold peaks,
then add 1/4 cup sugar, while continuing to beat until stiff.
6. Fold beaten whites into cream mixture
along with nesselrode fruits. Chill 5 minutes. Stir and turn into
pie shell. Decorate with shaved chocolate, if desired.
Note: Place nesselrode
fruits in a strainer over a bowl to drain thoroughly. Syrup may
be saved for another use -- for instance, to sweeten a rice pudding,
to blend with rum and soda for a tall drink.