|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Dec. 14, 2013 - 8:01 a.m.
The Lemon Grab
I've had a sour taste in my mouth for the better part of 4 days now.
One of my oldest D-Land friends is the dread pirate Poolagirl. At the time I started blogging she really WAS a full fledged pirate, a guide on a historical replica pirate ship with the eye patch and mustache and everything. She then did the same thing at a car museum (just bleach the mustache, and voila!, car guide), and then left museums behind altogether to write Tony Award winning plays. Which means she now looks down on me and my "Internet Humor Award".
Before the professional snub, though, me and NewWifey(tm) flew out to California one summer to see her. It was pretty cool. It was the exact opposite of New Jersey: no snow, and lots of Mexicans. I liked both.
Poolie was a hostess par excellence. She laid out her finest yoga mat for us to sleep on, and unscrewed the best cooking Sherry that Costco sells with our take-out. Every. Single. Night.
Her hospitality extended beyond domestic concerns, too. A few days after we arrived, Poolie took us on a private after-hours tour of the auto museum. It was un-freakin-believable.
At one point NewWifey(tm) excused herself to use the Ladies Room, which was two floors down in the lobby. When she got back Poolie was on the phone.
"Did I miss anything?" she said.
"I got to second base with her behind the Talbot-Lago."
"Big deal" she said. "I got to third. Last night, while we were making dinner."
That really shocked me. "You cooked?"
That's how close we were.
I honestly didn't think it could get any closer than that. But a week and a half ago I read on Poolie's blog that she was suffering a surfeit of Meyer lemons. She's got, like, and entire grove of them on her estate. But there are only so many martinis she can drink in a year. So she was bitching about how she was gonna have to once again drop them surreptitiously, one by one, into every Salvation Army kettles at every WalMart between her house and the Oregon line.
New Jersey has a lot of things, but one thing we don't have is Meyer lemons. In fact, we don't have Meyer lemons so much that I've never even tasted them. Over the last decade I've seen them for sale maybe twice in the local grocery store, but they were hideously expensive - about a dollar a lemon. I pulled back each time.
(If you're not familiar with Meyer lemons, by the way...look them up. What am I, DangerWiki?)
So after reading her little "Woe is me! I have too much!!" First World diatribe, I wrote and generously offered to lighten her awful burden. She fell for it, and immediately air shipped out a box of 12 Meyer lemons the size of rugby balls. I got them two days later.
Then I saw the postage stamp. She paid 23 dollars and 94 cents to rid herself of those monsters.
That's 2 dollars a lemon.
How did I feel when I saw that? Terrible. I mentioned in my initial e-mail that I'd pay the shipping costs if she sent them out. But I assumed she'd send them Ground and I'd be on the hook for 4 or 5 dollars. 6, tops.
I decided to weasel.
"Hey listen Poolie," I wrote her, "you know that getting that 24 bucks out to you is #1 on my To-Do list, and because you mean so much to me I'd like to send you back double that amount. No, no, don't try and stop me. But, see, NewWifey(tm) is battling some "Breast AIDS Scofula Lyme Ebola Syndrome" thing that's going around and even though getting the money out to you is much more important than staying home and giving my wife comfort and making sure she takes life saving medicines, she doesn't feel that way. Can you find it in your Christian heart this Christmas season to let me pay you back a few months from now when her physical and mental scars start to heal and I'm not on suicide watch any more?"
She fell for it again. "Ah, don't worry about it" she wrote back. "Merry Christmas. Keep the change."
Guilt free, I ripped into the box of lemon scented...er, lemons, and pulled two out. The first thing I made was avgalemono soup, that Greek sunshine-in-a-bowl that so many people fuck up because they forget to temper the eggs and end up with "Lemon Clot Soup". I served it alongside a platter of pork piccata, the classic Italian lemon caper treatment.
They were awful.
What the hell was I thinking?
I took lemons renowned for their mildness and sweetness and put them into highly spiced savory dishes that needed sweetness like JFK needed a hole in the head. There was do distinction between them and the 33-cents-per-lemon lemons I usually get, when prepared that way.
Ok. Lesson learned. Stick to desserts.
And that's what I did.
But first, I had to worship them. If you don't know that you must worship your ingredients before you use them then you know nothing about food and don't deserve to eat.
That done, I zested the remaining lemons and divided the pile into three mounds. The first mound I simmered in milk, which became a crème anglaise, which became lemon ice cream. The second pile got dumped into a thermal carafe with a bottle of vodka. In the weeks ahead, with the addition of a simple syrup, it will magically transform into Meyer limoncello. I can't think of a better panacea for winter. Other than, y'know, spring.
The third mound, with the addition of lemon juice, became lemon curd. Most of which then turned into this:
That, my friends, is The Best Lemon Tart in the World(tm). I'm glad none of you were able to taste it because then you'd never be satisfied with any lemon tart ever again in your entire life. And that would be just too sad. (For you baking geeks: the crust is a pâte sucrée with an extra yolk, a little more sugar, and instead of ice water I mixed ice water and vodka 1:1 to reduce the gluten production. It was sweeter and more tender that the usual pâte sucrée, which I wanted so as to counter the tartness of the lemons.)
I have to say, the zest is where I really saw a difference with these lemons. Meyer zest is so fragrant and so pronounced that my hands smelled like furniture spray polish for two days after cooking with it. The juice is great too, but the real thing that makes those puppies worth a dollar apiece (*cough*ortwoifyou'reasucker*cough*) is that oily, golden, outer layer. In fact, it might even be worth it to rekindle my friendship with Poolie just so I can get invited out there again. This time I'll cart home a case of lemons instead of burritos.
I'll also make sure NewWifey(tm) isn't the only one to get to third base this time.
Ciao, kids. And THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU POOLAGIRL! (For the lemons, too.)