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Happy Pi Day!

Yes, even kidneys taste better in a pie... Steak & Kidney Pie from the peerless NY Public Library Digital Image Gallery

Somehow, the presence of a pie shell makes just about anything more special.

Consider, if you will: the humble vanilla pudding. It becomes more than formless goo when placed in a pie shell over a carefully ringed base of sliced bananas. Suddenly, it's Banana Cream Pie. Magic. Delight. The audience oohs and ahhs.

The assortment of random savory tidbits in my refrigerator becomes a tempting brunch quiche, thanks to a quick-whisked custard and a pie shell.

A thickened chicken stew, poured in a pie shell and topped with puff pastry? Poof! Chicken Pot Pie. Hearty, homey decadence.

In essence, I'm in favor of pie. And, for that matter pi. So in honor of Pi Day (3.14... get it?), I urge you to make and stockpile a few pie shells. It's like a gift to your future self. That future self will love you for this. It's an investment in yum.

This recipe makes two supremely easy pie crusts that don't use shortening. Yay! No artificial trans fats! The secret for success? Make pie crusts on a cool day, keep the ingredients chilly and don't overwork the dough. (I know, I know... that's like three secrets, not one.)
Supremely Easy Pie Crust (Makes 2 Crusts)

2 1/2 cups pastry flour (substitute up to 1 cup of whole-wheat flour to give more texture)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2" pieces
4 Tbsp ice water

1. Blend 2 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar in a medium-size bowl. With a pastry blender or a long-tined fork, cut in the butter pieces until mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.
2. Add ice water and mix until dough forms a ball. If dough is still dry and crumbly, add more a tablespoon of water at a time (up to 4 more tablespoons) until it comes together. Don't overwork the dough. Seriously. That's what makes it tough.
3. Divide the dough, flattening each half into a disk. Individually wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Roll each chilled disk on a lightly floured surface into 12-inch rounds. To shift a crust into a pie tin, gently drape the dough circle around a rolling pin and unroll it over the pie tin.
5. Lightly press the dough into the plate, and use a pairing knife to trim the round, leaving a little extra dough at the edges.
6. Fold in extra dough and seal it, crimping the edges with your fingers or a fork. Wrap each shell in plastic and freeze for future pie pleasures.

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