James Villas was the food and wine editor for Town & Country magazine for twenty-seven years. His work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Gourmet, The New York Times and Esquire.
He's cooked with everyone from Julia Child, to James Beard to Craig Claiborne to Paul Prudhomme and has written seventeen cookbooks and books about food. "Pig: King of The Southern Table" earned him a James Beard Award, the equivalent of an "Oscar" in the food world.
Similar to fried fruit turnovers, spicy half-moon pies made with fresh or dried fruits are a favorite dessert at diners and family restaurants -- and in rural homes all over the South. Cooks pride themselves on attaining distinctive flavors with just the right combination of spices. The pies are equally good prepared with simmered apricots, pears, or peaches, and by all means experiment with various ground spices. Make sure that the edges of these half-moons are tightly secured before they are fried.
- 2 cups peeled diced cooking apples
- 1⁄4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1⁄4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Pinch of ground cloves
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2⁄3 cup chilled vegetable shortening
- 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
- Canola or safflower oil for deep frying
In a saucepan, combine the apples, water, lemon juice, sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and bring to a low boil, stirring.
Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook till the apples are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
In a bowl, combine the flour and salt and cut in the chilled shortening till the mixture is mealy. Stirring, gradually sprinkle enough ice water over the surface just till the pastry holds together.
On a floured surface, roll the pastry 1⁄8 inch thick and cut into eight 4-inch circles.
Place 2 tablespoons of the apples onto one half of each circle, fold the other half over the filling, and secure the edges tightly with your fingertips or a fork.
In a deep fryer or deep cast-iron skillet, heat about 2 inches of oil to 365°F on a deep-fat thermometer. Fry the pies till golden brown, about 3 minutes, turning once.
Drain oil on paper towels, and serve pies warm.