Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lemon Budino

I've done my fair share of cooking and I can say with confidence that while what I make will almost always taste good, if I'm making something I saw in a magazine, it won't look as good. Celebrity food, like celebrities, has stylists. They coordinate the serving pieces, worry about the grill marks, arrange the food, mound the pesto, use a blow torch to lightly brown the bread for bruschetta, hand arrange the greens in the salad, angle lights, arrange for the glasses to bead up decoratively and in short, provide all the requirements for food to look too good to eat.

I haven't been doing a lot of cooking of late because I was told that if you can smell it, you can't sell it. The house must smell perfect. And not just to people like me who think garlic is sublime, but to Vedic Indians (who don't eat garlic or onions) vegetarians or anyone else who might wander in. I live in Twinsburg, but the people who live across the street from us are from India. (Although clearly not practicing Vedic since they grill out a lot and the fare is meat.) In my paranoia I decided I would risk nothing other than cookies. It's possible that someone won't like the smell of cookies, but I thought it was a fair risk.

This weekend I couldn't stand it anymore and so I made beer can chicken on Saturday with a paste of garlic, lemon rind, honey, soy sauce and hot pepper rubbed under the skin. I started it on the grill but ran out of propane, so I finished it in the house. The house smelled redolent of garlic. It was wonderful. Yesterday I made sausage stuffed shells, and for desert, a recipe from this month's Bon appetite called Meyer Lemon Budino. The magazine described them as a kind of cross between custard and cake. The picture was a little ramekin of yellow goodness with just an ooze of whipped cream. They looked almost too good to eat.

Meyer Lemons are a type of lemon that are sweeter than the commercial lemons usually sold in groceries. I've seen them for sale here, but not often, and they weren't for sale when I went shopping. So I bought regular lemons. The recipe is pretty simple and will be available on Epicurious next month. It's a custard of egg yolks, lemon juice, milk and sugar, with a meringue folded in and just a little bit of flour. I mixed the custard ingredients, then whipped my eggs whites with the last two tablespoons of sugar and a little salt, and folded them into the custard mixture. Then, following the recipe, I just plopped the stuff in the ramekins. I put the ramekins in a metal roasting pan, and poured hot tap water into the pan until they came halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (When you do that, put hot water in roasting pan you are using to bake something, the roasting pan is magically transformed into a cool cooking thing called a bain-marie. I love when that happens. A double boiler is a kind of bain-marie. The technique comes from alchemy and is named after Mary the Jewess, a legendary ancient alchemist.)

Then I wandered around the house wondering if it would work. I'd used regular lemons, would it be too tart? After fifteen minutes I checked and found that the stuff inside the little ramekins was rising a little like a souffle. At the 25 minute mark, I decided the tops were brown enough and pulled the roasting pan out.

They were as beautiful as the photo.

This, of course, worried me. Often beautiful food doesn't taste good. Besides, I had six glass ramekins of little lemon souffle-y looking things sitting in really hot water and I didn't know how to get them out. I used a set of tongs, fearing that I would dunk them in the water, drop them, or make them fall. But the little things were not souffles, and they were sturdy little pikers.

They tasted great. Like little lemon meringue pudding cakes. Light and delightful and delicious. Pure alchemy.

8 Comments:

Blogger tinatsu said...

I would definitely buy a lemon meringue-scented house. Mmmmm...

September 06, 2006 2:47 PM  
Anonymous tina said...

ditto the other Tina.

September 06, 2006 2:56 PM  
Blogger meredith said...

Not being a cook, "ramekin" is a new term for me. Would that be another word for "custard cup"? :)

Those sound heavenly. I would also definitely buy a lemon meringue-scented house!

September 06, 2006 5:09 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Hey Tina & Tina!

Meredith, a ramekin is a custard cup you can put in the oven and it won't crack. Which is probably true of most custard cups.

September 06, 2006 8:41 PM  
Blogger Karen at Pen in Hand said...

The rule about not selling if it smells fills me with dread. I am so in trouble when we need to sell this house. Two words: basset hound. No, to be fair, four words: poorly trained basset hound.
Sigh.
But I'm coming to your house for whatever you might bake in a ramekin.

September 06, 2006 9:05 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Karen, your house is beyond gorgeous. I would buy your house in an instant...if you were selling and if I wasn't moving to Austin. (And I love your sweet old basset hound.)

September 06, 2006 9:54 PM  
Blogger Flugal Queen said...

Tasted great is definitely an UNDERstatement! Those are a fantastic little dessert. Anyone who would consider not buying a lemon-scented house is an idiot! Sadly, there are no shortage of idiots looking for houses.....

September 11, 2006 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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