January 15, 2018
I must have started writing this post a hundred times. Nothing sounded right, nothing felt right. This was procrastination staring me in the face. Taunting me with the possibility of success or failure. Saying to me, “I dare you.” And procrastination was winning. So here goes… I’m standing up for myself and stepping off into this world of genius cooking, book number one.
One of the cookbooks I chose is Food52’s Genius Recipes. The subtitle says “100 Recipes that will change the way you cook.” Let’s hope so, because I could use some help. The book is put together by Kristen Miglore, with a forward by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. It is a New York Times bestseller and James Beard Foundation Award-nominated. It promises “to make us rethink the way we cook” and that its recipes are “fool proof.” Yeah, I hope so. The recipes come from major chefs and well-known food bloggers. Chefs like Julia Child, Marcella Hazan with her legendary tomato sauce, cookie extraordinaire Dorie Greenspan, and Rose Levy Beranbaum. The editors also include “genius tips” that promise to share tricks that will make the recipes genius and part of my daily rotation. Hmmmm… Will I become a genius cook??? Well, we will see…
What to tackle first? I wanted to start with the mushroom bourguignon, but didn’t. I bought the groceries for that dish five times, and every time I ended up having to throw them out because I always found something else to do… like pick lemons, do the dishes, straighten up the house, even do the laundry. Ridiculous, right? There it was again – procrastination, fear of failure, lack of confidence.
So what better way to start than with a dessert – one that seemed to be a good stepping off point?
It seemed easy, used lemons, and it is Meyer lemon season – yeahhhhhhhh!!!!! Meyer lemons are my most favorite citrus fruit ever – really ever. A Meyer lemon is sweeter than a regular lemon. It is a mix of a regular lemon and a Mandarin orange. The peel is very, very thin and the skin is smooth. I discovered Meyer lemons last year thanks to a Facebook group called Food In Jars; now, I hoard them by buying the best from Lemon Ladies Orchard and starting to grow my own. I am now the proud owner of five baby Meyer lemons trees in my backyard.
Yesterday, I made Chef Elizabeth Falkner‘s Eggless Lemon Curd. Dessert sounded good, Elizabeth Falkner’s dessert sounded even better, and I had a bucket of Meyer lemons waiting for me to turn them into magical things. It was a mix of Meyer lemons, sugar, butter, sweetened condensed milk, and agar powder. And it was good – really, really good. Creamy, slightly tart, light, and melt in your mouth good. I have always been a fan of Elizabeth Falkner, so I was happy to make this. I even sacrificed six of my Meyer lemons to it knowing it would be worth it.
There were two things that were new to me – using agar powder and making a paste out of lemon zest and sugar. Agar powder is used in place of gelatin to thicken the lemon curd, and the paste was used to help the lemon shine throughout the recipe. I liked both and would definitely make the lemon paste again. The agar powder? I would go back to gelatin for thickening. The curd was the perfect consistency after it was taken off the stove, but a day later, after sitting in the refrigerator, it is as hard as a bar of soap. Like you could carve a design in it – just like a bar of soap. Not a happy camper here with deflated visions of eating it for lunch today. When my daughter tried, she said it felt like eating a candle. I am sure I cooked it far too long – I waited for it to thicken on the stove instead of letting it thicken on its own after the cooking was done.
A day later – did it make me a genius? Not yet – but it was one really good attempt and could be successful just by reducing the amount of agar powder used. That and not cooking it longer than the recipe said. Clearly I am not a genius (yet) and I should have followed the recipe better.
But recipe one is done. Yeah!!!!!
The cost: $20.07. It would’ve been worth the money if we had eaten it the day I made it. Having had it sit in the fridge overnight and turn into a waxy candle of a dessert, I might as well have thrown the $20 out the window. The agar powder cost way more than I thought it would — $6.49 on Amazon. You might consider using gelatin from the market instead.
The time: About 30 minutes.