Sunday, March 27, 2011

MNO - Curds and Weigh

For this month's MOMS Club's MOMS Night Out, our chapter chose to do an informal cooking class. One of the MOMS offered to teach a recipe that many people might find tricky, so that we could see it in action and understand what "stir until it looks done" types of instructions looks/feels like. In this case, she chose lemon curd.

She chose a recipe by Alton Brown, who is, quite frankly, the only TV chef I'm even willing to watch. I enjoyed watching Good Eats loooong before having a child and being motivated to actually try and make some food that didn't come from a box and/or requires use of an actual oven or stovetop.

Alton Brown's Lemon Curd recipe
Prep time: A while.
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 1 pint

5 egg yolks
1 c sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced (or any citrus juice/zest combo)
1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled

Step 1: Socialize and eat appetizers while one of the other MOMS zests and juices 4 lemons. It only actually took us 2 lemons, maybe 2.5, to get enough juice (1/3 cup.)

Step 2: Stop paying attention because this is already more work than it's worth, in my opinion. You lost me at "zest four lemons."
-Or- Add enough water to a medium saucepan to end up being around 1" up the sides. Simmer over medium-high heat while you move on to other prepwork.

Step 3: Combine 1/3 c citrus juice (add water to fill to 1/3 c if needed) and zest. Massage. Err. Mix. By hand, apparently.

Step 4: Combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium-sized metal bowl. Whisk until smooth (approx. 1 minute.)

Note: Alton Brown recommends separating the yolks by hand. Literally. Since pouring the yolk back and forth between egg shell halves risks contaminating the egg with whatever is on the shell, he suggests the messy way. Wash your hands thoroughly and crack the egg into the fingers of your upturned hand. Allow the whites to run through your fingers into the bowl. He also recommends having 3 containers. One for the whites just separated from the most recent egg, one for the yolks and one for the rest of the egg whites. I know I've mentioned this before, but having a "quarantine" bowl has many uses. In this case, it's easier to remove shell fragments or the opaque white squiggly bits (albumin?) But also useful for identifying a bad egg before it's contaminated the collective. (You don't need a bowl for each yolk, since you should be able to check for flaws while it's in your hand.) And useful if kids are helping, so each one can take turns adding one egg (or yolk. Whatever.) Or just for one kid to add one-at-a-time to help them feel like they did more "cooking." Without them getting raw egg on their hands. Score!

Note: You can save the whites in the fridge for a while (2-4 days,) or in the freezer longer (4 months.) You can dump them all together in a sealable container, or into a freezer bag(s), or use an ice cube tray to freeze them individually before putting them in a freezer bag. (See link above for thawing tips and other helpful egg-storage information.) Carson did mention something about being sure to have all the opaque white bits out of the egg whites (they can go in with the yolks) for making certain delicate recipes, like meringues.

Great to add to scrambled eggs or omelets (makes them super white and fluffy, plus is supposedly healthier than using a bunch of whole eggs in one meal. But really. Super fluffy and yummy. I think I did a ratio of 2 whites to 1 egg. But it's been over a decade a little while since I've done it, so I may be remembering wrong.)
Also great in meringues and other recipes. My husband makes some chocolate-chip peppermint meringue cookies for Christmas. Oh. My. God. Love them. Maybe I'll take pics and make him let him do a guest post this winter. Too much work for me though. But he loves me. And he makes them slightly wrong so that they are flat and chewy for me, rather than light and fluffy and tongue-meltery. I love chewy firm peppermint. I usually have to wait until my candy canes get stale. I also love stale Peeps. Well. If I have to eat them, I prefer them stale. I don't go out of my way to buy them for myself. But. You know. If it turns out my freaky kid doesn't really like marshmallows, even though I got three bags of them in various shapes and sizes, plus 2 packets of Peeps (they were buy-1-get-1-free)... Well. I take one for the team.

Step 5: Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Or snap a few pictures as Miss Carson does it for you. Either way.

Step 6: Once water is simmering (and mixture all mixed, obviously,) reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan.
She made up a cool packet with recipes and illustrations from Alton Brown's books. One of the pictures showed cross-sections of 3 wrong ways and one right way to make a double boiler. For the "right way," around 1/4th to 1/3rd of the bottom of the bowl rested in the pot, with several inches to spare between it and the water.
The 3 wrong ways showed a too-large bowl, barely in the pot; a bowl on a shallow pot resting in the water, and a bowl just touching the top of the water level. I couldn't find an image online to link for you. Sorry. You'll have to buy one of his books. All the illustrations, tips, tricks, and information she gave us about eggs, double boilers, and curds came from I'm Just Here for MORE FOOD and GOOD EATS The Early Years.
Whisk until thickened or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. Approximately 8 minutes. Stirring. Constantly. You don't have to stir vigorously or anything, but make sure all the diapers are changed and kids are napping or watching Spongebob educational shows or something before starting this step. This is not a step where walking away for a quick hollerfest disciplinary action is advisable.
She showed us what the "coats the back of a spoon" thing means, but I was too busy snarfing food engrossed to remember to take a picture. Basically, she held the spoon horizontally, with the back facing out (so any soup would dump into your lap. If there was some in the bowl. Just sayin'.) Some dripped off, then she swiped a finger horizontally across the middle of the back of the spoon and said that you shouldn't see the curd on top dripping down into the newly swiped spot.
It wasn't. Naturally. Mine would have been dripping like a clogged gutter during a rainstorm. Erm. Not that our gutters are clogged.

Step 7: Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter, one pat at a time. Make sure each pat is melted completely before adding the next.
Here's where I came in, since I was stuffed at this point felt I should at least do something. I sliced the butter. Yup. I'm just indispensable like that. But if you're doing this without an assistant handy to have the butter cut up just in time for the curd to come off the stove, pre-cut it and put it in the fridge until this step.

The butter should be enough to cool this for immediate consumption, should you so desire. It's handy if you happen to have a batch of scones already made. Just sayin'. [Note: Carson says she prefers dried cherries instead of currants or cranberries in her scones, so that's how she made them for us.]
Or you can put it into a clean container and cover with a layer of plastic wrap right on the surface of the curd. May refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

We (and by "we" I mean Carson, mostly) made up a batch of lemon curd and then a batch of lime curd. I think we all agreed that we preferred the lime. But the lemon was pretty tasty too.

Uses for curd: 

  • Spread onto biscuits, cake, gingerbread, scones, bread, pound cake, etc
  • Fold into souffles
  • Fill a pre-baked tart shell (bake 15 minutes)
  • Use as layer-cake filling or for thumbprint cookies
  • Top ice cream, berries or yogurt
  • Bake into lemon bars
  • Fold into whipped cream and top berries and/or angelfood cake

Each of us got to take some of both kinds of curd home with us. And as I was getting ready for bed Sunday night, I remembered in a panic that it was my turn to bring snack for the Parent Ed group at our co-op preschool the following morning (we alternate weeks. Half the parents are in the classroom with the kids, the other half in Parent Ed socializing and snacking discussing childhood issues and questions.)
I had a tube of refrigerated biscuit dough and a tube of butterflake crescent roll dough in the fridge, which I keep on hand for when I need to make something in a large or unusual shape for a bento or muffin tin meal. Or for random last-minute Parent Ed snacks, apparently.
I got up early Monday and baked up some crescent rolls with pesto inside, and biscuits. Then I brought a jar of home-made pluot jam from a friend (a ribbon-winning jammer at fairs, I might add) and some butter and the lemon curd. (Did I mention I preferred the lime? Yeah. Not sharing that.) I chopped up some apples, and when I went to slosh them in some apple juice, found that I didn't have any. Just cinnamon pear cider (from Trader Joe's. Yummy hot or cold!) Good enough. And the cider gave the apples a very interesting, surprisingly pleasant, yummy flavor. The lemon curd and pluot jam were big hits. If Miss Carson hadn't been in our Parent Ed class, I might have taken all the credit. Maybe. I *did* mention my crucial assistance in cutting the butter. For both batches. Just sayin'.
Princess spent most of the time with the class, which is a fairly new development. Last school year she'd only leave the Parent Ed room for snack time, then towards the end of the school year, she'd have me put on her coat for large muscle group (outdoor play, or, when raining, they set up a small indoor climber/slide plus a trampoline and other active toys) and then go out with the group. All but once she came crying back to me before large muscle time was over.
This year she's spent one entire class without ever coming in to find me. But she's staying in the classroom more often than not, and is willing to go back once she's showed me whatever she came in for, or made sure I'm still there. And she's willing to talk to the teacher, when she remembers, to tell her she is coming to find me (so the teacher doesn't worry.) And she has let various mommies help her get her coat on for large muscle. So yay!
I remember one day, when I was in the class, one of the kids' dads had come. I was almost in tears of joy when Z went and talked and interacted and played with him. I couldn't help but laugh at myself too. Here I was, going "Yay! She's talking to a strange guy! I'm so excited!" But she has just been soooooo resistant to interacting with people (adults and kids) for so long, I'll take what I can get. And I consoled myself with the reminder that I keep telling her that school is safe and everyone is there to help her. Plus she tends to adapt to people faster in a familiar setting. I was worried we'd be back at square one this school year, since we had a new teacher, plus mostly new mommies and kids. But she tolerated people talking to her much faster, and was never as clingy and weepy as last year. But if we're out and about, she still grunts and whines and looks away if waitresses or salesclerks or random people try and talk to her. So there's no fear of her taking off with some random yahoo just yet.
She will, however talk to a waitress or sales clerk if she wants something from them. I've been making her communicate with people, instead of just doing it all for her. And there's nothing cuter than her flagging down our waitress and saying "Ah-cyooz me. Can I haff more see-rup peace?" [Excuse me, can I have more syrup please]

1 comment:

  1. Clear white= albumin
    squiggly, opaque white stuff= chalazae

    I love the cinnamon pear cider!


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