There’s a scene in Kissing Jessica Stein when the two main characters are discussing the phenomenon known as Sexy Ugly.  Famous men falling into this category include: Mick Jagger, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, and Alan Rickman. (I’m adding Alton Brown to the list as well.)  Upon doing some more research into this descriptor, I found only one woman who is commonly considered for the prize – Sarah Jessica Parker. We could talk about this at length, taking any one of the several levels offered up for discussion, but this is a food blog, not my gender studies thesis. Which was excellent, by the way. (And what about Janeane Garofalo?)

Yesterday I made a pie. I screwed it up in several ways, but oh my heavens is it still delicious. This, friends, is the Lyle Lovett of pies – the ugliest sexiest pie I’ve ever made.

My biggest mistake was overbeating the egg whites. I’d never done that before, and I always figured that you’d have to try awfully hard to actually get them to such a point. Turns out, not so much with the trying.

Another stellar move: after cooking the mango curd, I rinsed out a bowl to store it in the fridge for a bit, and I didn’t toss out every last drop of the rinse water, so when I poured in the curd, there appeared little pockets of non-curd liquid that I cursed at and mopped up with a paper towel. This was a Sunday afternoon full of pitfalls. I’m sure I avoided a few of them by cheating on the pie crust. (Store bought! I refuse to feel guilty. I have made hundreds of great pie crusts. Well, maybe tens. But I’ve put in my time. I can buy a frozen pie crust from Whole Foods now and again. So can you. It’s okay.)

In the end, after all my fussin’ and cussin’, when the pie came out of the oven, it was ugly as sin and just as good. The mango curd was strained not once but twice, making it super silky and light. The meringue has just a bit of sugar, and while I would recommend not overbeating the egg whites, this is proof that life goes on even when the albumen disagrees with you. I served this on a plate that’s seen five too many dishwasher cycles – it seems only fitting. And I’m eating it with ginger chips from Trader Joe’s. You could throw some powdered ginger in the meringue and/or the curd for the same effect. Or maybe crystallized ginger in the crust, if you eschew the frozen foods section and make your own crust. Ooh, that’d be good. You’d also do well to serve it with some toasted coconut. But don’t go makin’ it too pretty.

Lyle Lovett Sexy Ugly Pie
aka Mango Meringue Pie
makes 1 pie

1 good quality pie crust

2 large dead-ripe mangoes, peeled and roughly diced
quick squeeze of lemon or lime juice
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
pinch of salt
8 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat to 400F. Prick holes in the pie crust with a fork and put in the oven to prebake until very lightly done, about 30 minutes. Set aside.

While crust prebakes, combine mango, lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt in the blender, and puree until smooth. Add egg yolks and buzz it again. (We’ll use the egg whites in a little while.) Strain mixture through a sieve, discarding remaining pulp, and put it in either a very thick-bottomed saucepan or the top of a double boiler, with the butter.

Cook on low heat, stirring almost constantly, until mixture starts to thicken, 10-15 minutes. Strain it again. Let cool at room temperature, then pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap – make sure the plastic wrap is touching the whole surface of the mango curd, so no condensation occurs. Refrigerate at least an hour.

Preheat to 350F. Pour mango curd into prebaked pie crust and bake 50-60 minutes or until curd is still just slightly wobbly in the middle. Turn off the convection heat and fire up the broiler to high. Whip egg whites with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar until peaks form, then pile it on top of the pie, making sure to spread the meringue enough that it covers the edges of the filling. Broil until it starts to brown, then remove from oven and use your superhuman strength to wait until it cools a bit before you slice into it.

ps.  Yes, I saw the Keri Russell pie movie.

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