We’ve all made the kinds of mistakes that make you sick to your stomach.
This week, it happened to me as I was cooking lemon curd for a tea that was happening a few hours later. I’m a clean-as-you-go kind of cook, and I thought to myself, ‘I can get these dishes knocked out while my stove top and lemon curd are coming to temperature.’
Wrong. A layer of my lemon curd stuck to the bottom of the sauce pan while I was rinsing a bowl.
Normally I know better than to scrape the bottom of the pan after this happens, because you can often salvage the majority of your dish if you transfer pans and don’t scrape the burned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan into everything else that remains.
But somebody behind me said, ‘We learn from our mistakes.’
Instead of the five-finger-death punch to the throat that I wanted to deliver the person with the ill-timed platitude, I bit my lip and pushed the spoon into the soft, burned fat solids, which resulted in me scraping the burned bits on the bottom of the pan into the remaining lemon curd and completely ruining the dish.
I hustled to make another batch of lemon curd and made it to the tea on time, but being the world’s cheapest human I set aside the burned version thinking that there might be something I could do with it.
There was, and it turns out that the mistake was kismet.
I have loved burned and charred flavors since I was a kid – nothing overpowering mind you, but as an accent, I love how it offsets certain flavor profiles. Turns out, it is great with lemon curd.
I took the lemon curd and put it in the old Vitamix and whizzed away until you couldn’t see the little black bits, but you got that charred/burned flavor in the background.
Once it had set up, I returned it to the Vitamix with some heavy cream and milk which allowed for more subtlety. The lemon was at the front with a nice burnt finish.
A Smoky Cardamom Ginger Cookie and some Blackberries later and we were really in business.
Burnt Lemon Curd Ice Cream (adapted from Ina Garten’s Lemon Curd recipe)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
5 large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Zest 3 lemons and put it in a food processor with the sugar. Pulse until the zest is well-mixed with the sugar.
2. Add the unsalted butter, creaming it all together.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the lemon juice and salt and mix until combined.
4. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and, on low heat (here comes the largest variation to Ina Garten), turn your back on the stove and go start doing your dishes until you realize something is amiss. Seriously, here is how I’ve recreated the effect. Set your stove on medium heat, put about a quarter-inch of the mixture in the sauce pan. As the pan really begins to heat up, draw your spoon from one side of the pan to the other in a manner that lets you see the bottom of the pan. Your curd will begin to sizzle and burn. You don’t need a whole lot of burned bits to affect the flavor of the rest (think of this as putting a slight char on the outside of a steak – only this is a liquid in a sauce pan). Scrape the burned bits and lemon curd into the rest of the lemon curd in another sauce pan and heat over a low fire until thickened, which should happen when the mixture reaches about 170 degrees.
***tip for cleaning the burned fat solids from the bottom of your sauce pan: fill it with water and bring to a boil, which will soften the burned layer so that it may be removed.
5. Whether I have burned the lemon curd or not, I always place my lemon curd in the VitaMix/blender and smooth it all the way out before cooling.
6. Let lemon curd come to room temperature and place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.
7. Once curd is extremely cold, add three cups heavy cream and one cup whole milk and mix thoroughly before chilling in an ice cream freezer.
The Smoky Cardamom Ginger Cookie I used may be found here http://food52.com/recipes/32272-smoky-cardamom-ginger-molasses-cookies.
This ice cream is outstanding by itself, but is over the top with this cookie and some room-temperature blackberries.
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