Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Meyer Lemon Curd

My good friend and partner in crime, Amy, gifted me a small bag of Meyer lemons!  Now I know you all have heard about this sweet little lemon from California.  A cross between a mandarin orange and lemon, its deep yellow and more sweet than sour, truly it is!  It would make wondrous lemonade, but I chose to use if for some lemon curd.  Good choice if I must say so myself!  So I did a quick search and found this recipe, adapted just a bit, but well, hers is adapted from Alton Brown, so this really is a good recipe!

This recipe is very simple, and I mean simple and fast!!  It doesn't make alot, you might get 16 ounces if you scrape your pan really good, use extra large egg yolks, hold your tongue right and have a full moon!



You will need:

6 large egg yolks
3/4 c Meyer lemon juice (if you don't have enough, you could balance out with regular lemon, shhhh!  I won't tell!)
1 tbsp finely grated Meyer lemon zest  (less if you like it really smooth)
1 c sugar
1 stick of butter, cut into small cubes

Combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, zest and sugar in a saucepan, and whisk together until smooth.  Heat slowly on medium until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (8 minutes or so).  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, one chunk at a time, waiting until each chunk is absorbed before adding each piece.

Pour the finished curd into clean containers, and cover with a layer of plastic wrap that will lay directly on the surface of the curd.  Serve on muffins, or scones or spread on a piece of toast like I did!  This should keep at least a week in the refrigerator.



I don't feel confident advising you to hot water process this recipe as you would a jam or jelly, as it does contain alot of butter.  But, I don't see this lasting long enough to be put away in a cupboard!  If you can keep it long enough to share, and don't eat it a spoonful at a time whenever you pass the fridge, then I will do a happy dance for you!





Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Preserved Lemons

It was a bit of a cultural shock the first time I really went grocery shopping after I moved to Iowa from southern California.  Meat was cheaper, everything in general was cheaper, but produce and citrus was expensive!  I was used to getting my lemons in abundance and at a good price, I was not used to paying nearly a dollar a piece for them! 

What is a preserved lemon?  Its basically a lemon that has been pickled in its own juice and salt, with or without the addition of oil or spices.
 How do you use it?  Pretty much anywhere you would like a bit of bright savory citrus punchiness.  Sometimes adding a bit of acid to a dish can perk it up, whether its lemon or lime juice or even a flavored vinegar.  You don't need to add alot, just a touch. The part you will add to the dish is the lemon rind, after you have scraped away the pulp and given it a slight rinse to take away some of the saltiness.  The spiced lemon juice in the jar can also be added, in tiny amounts, as it is quite salty.

Also  pickling lemons is a good way to preserve a big lemon crop if you have alot of lemons.  They will also keep a long while in your fridge pickled this way.

Many many many types and ways of pickling lemons are out there to be found, but I believe they all basically have in common two ingredients:  lemons and kosher or sea salt.  Some recipes add additional lemon juice or water, some add oil, many if not most will add spices and seasoning.  Many recipes will use Meyer lemons, but I think that a regular grocery store lemon will do just fine.  Use a clean jar, but with all the salt and acid in this recipe, if its not sterilized, I believe you will do just fine.  But, sterilize your jar if your good cook's common sense tells you to.  No matter what a recipe instructs you to do, use your good cook's common sense, the best expert in your kitchen is you!  I used a quart jar, but this can be done in any size jar, just make sure you push the lemons so that they cover themselves in their own juice.



You will need:

6-8 lemons (if using quart jar)
sea salt, kosher salt (but not iodized salt)
clean quart jar (use a widemouth jar if you have it, if not, obviously use what you have)
1 tsp each of the spices and seasonings of  your choice:  black, green or pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, allspice seeds, bayleaf, crushed cinnamon stick (I used green peppercorns, coriander and cinnamon stick)

Scrub your lemons with a fine brush under hot water to take off any wax and to clean the rind, as this will be the part you will use in any recipe.  You can tell when its clean because it will feel squeaky clean.

Cut off the tips from both ends, and cut the lemons into quarters almost, but not all the way through.  Unfortunately, I only had a small mouth quart jar available, so I just quartered mine all the way through, I feel certain this will not affect the end result.

Pour a nice layer of salt into your jar, then sprinkle about 1 tbsp of salt into each lemon 'blossom', and push it into your jar.  Keep cutting, salting, and pushing your lemons, occasionally adding a layer of salt,  and sprinkling in your seasonings, until your jar is very very full.  Then push those lemons down until they release enough juice to cover everything.  If you really press hard, your lemons should release enough juice.  Top off with a small layer of salt and seal tightly.  Leave out on your counter for a few days, or a week, (some recipes have advised to keep it on your counter for the whole pickling time) shaking everyday to distribute the salt around.  Then keep in your refrigerator for about 4 weeks before using.



To use:  take a section of lemon out, rinse well and scrape the pulp.  You can keep the pulp and press through a strainer and add this to your recipe as well if you would like.  Take your pickled rind and slice thinly, then add to your recipes.  This works well in middle eastern or moroccan recipes, but, I know many people who will add lemon to their soups and stews and this would be a perfect application for your pickled rind.  Slow simmering and stewing will really bring out the brightness.  I think a small amount of minced rind, mixed with olive oil and minced garlic, would make a great seasoning for grilled fish or shrimp, and this would where you could use a bit of the juice of the pulp.  Oh, and a twist of preserved lemon rind would be a most impressive addition to your Bloody Mary!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Crumpets




The only crumpets I had ever had before were from the grocery store and honestly, I wasn't impressed.  Moreover, I couldn't understand why anyone would make such a fuss over this gummy, tasteless, round of bread.  Then, I made my own, NOW I understand what all the fuss is about.  If you have never met a crumpet you liked, make your own, you will fall in love!

The recipe I used was from the cookbook The Bread Book by Sara Lewis. I like the whole book as a matter of fact.  It contains recipes for both handmade and bread machine breads, and its great because most recipes are geared for just one loaf, which is all my two person family needs.   It was one of the easier recipes for crumpets that I found overall, that didn't require additional leavening or leaving to rise overnight in the fridge.  It actually fit in well with my morning routine as I need about an hour after I wake up before I can eat or drink anything.  Also, the cooked crumpets stayed nice and fresh even after refrigeration.  I am thinking these will freeze well also.

I did choose to invest in a pair of silicone rings with nifty handles thinking I could also use them for pancakes and eggs.  You could also use small tuna cans, with both ends cut out, or biscuit cutters.  3 1/2 inches is good, although mine were a bit bigger.

The only thing I would try next time is to use all purpose flour instead of bread flour, as my dough was not batter like, it was very loose dough like, making it tough to portion out the right amount into my rings.  Not impossible, but I did end up making quite robust crumpets.

Crumpets

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups milk (I used whole, since I had some to use up)
1 1/4 cups water
3 3/4 cups flour (I used bread flour)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast

Warm milk and water in a small pan.  In a large bowl put the flour, then stir in the yeast and salt.  Gradually stir in the milk and water mixture to make a smooth thick batter.



Cover bowl with oiled plastic then with a tea towel and leave in warm place for 1 hour or until the batter is well risen and bubbling.



Brush the insides of your rings with oil, and keep an oiled paper towel handy to re-oil your pan occasionally.  Using a non-stick pan or griddle, arrange your rings and spoon enough batter into your rings to make a depth of about 1/2 inch. (mine were 1 inch deep)



Cook gently, until the tops have bubbled and look dry.  Loosen rings and remove, then turn over and cook the other side until pale golden.

To keep warm, wrap the cooked crumpets in a clean tea towl set on a plate.  Cook the rest of your crumpets the same way, greasing the rings and pan with oil as needed, until all the batter is used up.



So I needed to split mine because they were so big, but I do believe that traditionally they are not eaten split apart, but they are toasted on the tops only.  Toast them, and enjoy!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Raised Pork Pie


I tend to honor my asian roots and my southern roots in my cooking, and I have a strong cultural connection to England, but have never really paid much attention to it.  Lately I have been paying alot of attention to it, obsessively much attention to it.  I love BBC America, I love Doctor Who,  so it was totally appropriate that it was on in the background as I was making this english pork pie recipe.  I had been a little afraid to make these pies, the hot water lard crust was intimidating, and I think, shaping the pies.  But as with anything, by the time you do the tenth one, its pretty easy!

This pie is constructed in three parts:  the savory jelly, the filling and the crust.  It helps to make the savory jelly a day or two in advance, as it needs alot of simmering time, then chill time.  Don't be afraid to work the dough, its quite forgiving, but be gentle when working with it, its not bread dough, its a short crust, but having your warm hands on it will keep the lard soft so that it is easy to work with, like play dough.
Yes, the anchovy essence or paste is somewhat important as it adds umami, that savoryness that rounds out the flavors.  Only a tsp is used so you won't taste fishiness, just do it, trust me.  I've shown two methods of construction, the one using a form is traditional-ish.  The one not using a form is easier.  You can also make this into one big pie using a spring form pan, or many little ones using a jumbo muffin pan.  But, I wanted the experience of making these by hand because I like a challenge.
If your crust develops a hole or tear, just take a piece of dough, wet it and paste it over the hole like a patch.  Look over your pie carefully before baking for any holes, you don't want the jelly to leak out.  The purpose of the jelly is to fill the gaps after cooking, between the crust and filling, and it adds an authenticness to the dish, as does the anchovy essence, don't frown, just do it, trust me.  Traditionally, pork trotters were used for the jelly, but I used pork soup bones, and cooked them down.

Read through the directions thoroughly, and write down an outline of your plan of attack, trust me, you won't forget anything that way.  Using my recipe takes alot of trust doesn't it?

Jelly Ingredients:
Pork soup bones
garlic clove
1 tsp salt
bay leaf
bouquet garni (I used a 1/2 tsp of italian seasoning)
6 cups water or more to cover the soup bones

Filling Ingredients:
1 lb boneless pork country ribs
1 lb pork shoulder roast
1 tsp sage
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of alspice
pinch of pepper
1/2 tsp anchovy essence or paste (just do it!)
1 tsp salt

Crust Ingredients:
4 cups flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup lard
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp powdered sugar

A beaten egg for brushing onto the pastry pies
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.


boneless ribs

The Process:

The day before, or even two days before, simmer the all the jelly ingredients for at least 2 hours.  Strain the stock through a fine sieve, return to the pan and boil rapdily until reduced to about 3 cups or less.  The stock should be slightly silky and thicker than just plain liquid.  Chill in the fridge, and when solid, skim the fat off the top.  Leave covered in the fridge until after the pies are cooked and cooled.

Process the boneless ribs to rough chunks with a food processor, dump into large mixing bowl.  Process the pork shoulder a bit finer, but NOT to mush, just a little finer than the ribs.  Mix both meats with the rest of the ingredients.  Keep in the fridge until you are ready to use.

Heat slowly, the milk and lard to a boil.  While waiting, put the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl, make a well in middle, and add the boiling milk and lard.   Mix until the pastry is smooth.  Dump out onto work surface and begin making your pie cases before the pastry cools.



Bottom of pie over jar, and using the jar as a cutter for the top
 Method One - using a form

Knead your pastry until its smooth like play dough, then divide it into fourths, take one fourth away and cut that piece into four pieces, these will be the tops.  Mush the leftover three fourths together and again divide into four pieces.  Take one piece to work with, cover the rest with a towel until you are ready.  Have a little bowl of water nearby.

Roll out the piece into a circle, drape it over the bottom of  a floured16oz peanut butter jar, or something about that size or even a bit larger, slowly and gently mold the sides.  While the bottom is draped over the jar, roll out one of your small bits of pastry and use the jar as a cutter for the top.  Just apply gentle pressure and rotate back and forth.  Turn the jar upright and gently prise off the pastry cup, it will stick and be stubborn, but the pastry is forgiving and any tears and holes can be patched.


Place a small handful of the filling into the case, then moistening the sides, and the top piece of pastry, put the lid on it, and start pressing the two firmly together.  The lid will attach from the inside, creating structure for the cup so that it will keep its shape. 

Method Two - without using a form (my preferred method)



Roll pastry out into a large circle, place a small handful of filling in center, then begin pulling up the sides of the pastry around the filling like cinching the top of a sack.



Pull or cut off the excess dough around the top, and start pinching the sides at the top to form the cup like shape.



Moisten the inside top of the pastry cup and the top piece and place the top just inside the pastry cup and begin pressing together.



After firmly attaching the top and pressing together, begin crimping the edge, just like you would a pie crust, I think it looks cute that way.  If you look at the pictures on the internet, you can tell the man-made pies, and the lady-made pies, ours are WAY prettier :)



Place all your pies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and brush the tops with a beaten egg. 



The large crimped pies are the form raised, and the smaller crimped pies are the ones I made without the form.  I liked not using a form, I felt as though I had more control over the dough.  Also, its one less thing to wrestle around.

Bake at a preheated 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 and bake 55 minutes more.



Remove from oven and allow to cool.  After they have cooled to at least room temp.  Gently reheat your jelly, not until its hot, but just until its liquid.



I used a cupcake filling tip as my funnel, and added spoon by spoon of my liquid jelly into each pie.  I just kept going around the tray to each one and added a spoonful of jelly until each pie could not hold anymore jelly.  If you have a pie that sprung a leak, just add jelly until you see it seeping out. 

Refrigerate, then eat!!  Traditionally these were served cool or room temp with a side of english mustard.  Ankeny, Iowa doesn't have english mustard!  So I decided maybe a spicy brown mustard would suffice.

Would I make this recipe again!  Emphatically yes.  These will freeze beautifully and I believe my husband will love them as a quick lunch.  After going through the process, its not nearly as daunting as it seemed, just like most things in life.  I had plenty of jelly left, and I froze it, to use when I make these again.