It's hard to be a pie on Thanksgiving. It's the quandary of the big feast: everyone wants to see pie on the table, it seems, but after all that turkey, stuffing, gravy-drenched mashed potatoes and marshmallow-topped yams, few have the available real estate inside to truly do justice to a slice (or more) of pie. All that time you spent rushing around sourcing precious leaf lard from the appropriately happy, local, and pasture-raised pigs, all that careful crimping and filling, hovering and squatting in front of the oven window, praying that the crust edges wouldn't overbrown, finally sweeping up the big floury mess, and for what? Nothing but the sight of all your tipsy, satiated friends and family asking for "just a teeny slice" and then pushing it around on their plate while they drink more wine and attack the whipped cream instead.
Pie, of course, is the best day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast ever. But you can only count on leftover pie if you’re hosting the dinner in your own house. Bring the pies to someone else’s dinner, and you must hope and pray to be sent home with what remains. After all, a pie must be brought over intact; a pie minus one piece is a used pie. Sadly not every host/ess has the grace to make up little care packages of leftovers. What this means, besides no turkey sandwiches for lunch, is that you could have rolled and latticed all day long, seen lots of uneaten pie on the counter, and still ended up with no pie to go with your coffee the next morning. This has happened to me more times than I would care to remember.
You can get around both these scenarios in one easy step: just turn your pies into bars. This works best with solid, open-faced pies—pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan, or the chilled cranberry-tangerine, below. Apple or other sliced-fruit pies won’t work, but someone else will make these, anyway. Instead, imagine a lemon square refashioned for autumn, with crunchy crust on the bottom and creamy-firm filling on top. Baked and then chilled until well set, these can be cut like brownies into narrow rectangles or small squares, a two- or three-bite morsel, perfect for both children and overstuffed adults alike.
How to do it? Use a cookie-like crust recipe, one with egg yolk and vanilla in the dough instead of just water, what's usually called a sweet tart dough. This dough, sturdier and sweeter than a typical plain pie dough, can be easily rolled out and/or pressed to fit into the bottom of an 8"x8" square pan. Prick lightly all over with a fork and bake until just blond and set. Let cool, then pour on filling and bake as usual, keeping in mind that it will probably take a little less time to bake than a regular pie, since the filling won't be as deep. Cool, chill, and cut.