I do consider myself lucky to have a job writing/talking/researching/teaching/obsessing about food, but some days I feel like a nun working in a porn shop.
I mean it’s great to have an outlet; if I can’t eat all the food I want I can at least write about it… or talk about it on the radio or make it for a class. But some days it’s no wonder I could chew my own arm off by 5 o’clock.
Today I was finishing up an article for City Palate on the subject of lemongrass (which triggered an epiphany of sorts – details later) that included a recipe for buttermilk pie. Fortunately/unfortunately it required testing said recipe, which I fortunately/unfortunately had to actually taste in order to know if it worked out right. For research purposes – seriously. And I know, I could just have a bite or two. But I don’t want to have just a bite or two of pie.
But again, that’s life, and there are far worse things to suffer through than sticking to a small piece of pie.
And yes, I did.
Lemongrass Buttermilk Pie
To make a regular lemon buttermilk pie, simply omit the lemongrass and don’t bother whizzing the sugar or straining it with the buttermilk – simply add the finely grated zest of a lemon to the filling mixture instead.
1 stalk lemongrass
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry 0ut to a 10” circle and fit it gently into a 9” pie plate. Trim and crimp the edges and put the crust in the fridge while you prepare the filling. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Peel the tough leaves off the stalk of lemongrass, trim off the stem end and coarsely chop the pale, thick, tender part. Put it in the bowl of a food processor with the sugar and whiz until it’s as finely ground as you can get it. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the buttermilk; let stand for about 5 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve.
Skim the surface with a fine-mesh sieve, or pour the whole thing through a sieve into another bowl, swishing around the sieve with a spoon or whisk to push as much through as possible; discard any lemongrass bits. Whisk the melted butter into the strained buttermilk mixture, then the egg yolks and flour.
Pour the filling into the shell and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325°F and bake for 20-25 minutes more, until the filling is just set and barely golden around the edges. Let it cool completely on a wire rack and serve at room temperature or chilled.
Besides, I decided to forego any form of bread product with our roasted tomato soup for dinner, so there you go. Even Steven. Sort of.
You must have the lemongrass crème brulée recipe too, which I pulled from the article because I had too many other ideas – lemon crème brulée would be just too assertive, but lemongrass adds a wonderful floral-herbal-citrus flavour that balances perfectly with the cream without being acidic. I seriously can’t wait to try making lemongrass ice cream to serve with fresh berries or warm gingerbread.
Lemongrass Crème Brulée
Lemon would be too overpowering for a crème brulée, but herbal, floral lemongrass is just subtle enough to marry well with the cream, with no acidity.
2 – 2 1/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream or 18% coffee cream
1 stalk lemongrass
5 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp. sugar
extra sugar, for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a medium saucepan, warm the cream until bubbles start to form around the edges. As it heats, peel away the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass, and bruise the tender lower inner stalk with the blunt side of a knife. Coarsely chop it, and then add it to the cream. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, then take it off the heat and set aside to cool. When it is warm but not hot, strain through a fine sieve into another measuring cup; add a little extra cream to bring it back to 2 cups.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in the cream. Divide among 4-6 small ramekins, and set them into a roasting pan or 9?x13? pan; pour water in so that the water comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the custards are set but still just slightly jiggly in the middle. Let them cool to room temperature in the bath and then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, until cold.
When you’re ready to serve them, sprinkle an even layer of sugar (1- 2 tsp.) over each dish, tap and gently shake the ramekin back and forth to evenly cover the surface (tap off any excess if you like) and caramelize with a torch or transfer to a cookie sheet and place under the broiler for about 2 minutes, just until the sugar is caramelized and golden. (Turn the sheet around in the oven if you need to help them caramelize evenly.) Refrigerate again, or just let them sit on the countertop while you eat dinner or make coffee, just until the sugar is set and crackly.