My Lemon Has a First Name, It’s M-E-Y-E-R
There are times when you just impulsively pick up ingredients with no plan whatsoever for how to use them, just because they are intriguing or exceptionally fresh and inviting. At $20 each, I had already made the decision not to pick up the emu egg, and, feeling particularly good about myself for avoiding the temptation of that purchase, was completely blindsided by the sack of Meyer lemons. At the bargain price of $1.99, it was a risk well worth taking.
We had taken an evening to go visit the stupefyingly immense Whole Foods that had recently opened in Plymouth Meeting, PA. At 65,000 square feet, the store sits above a parking garage with enough room for 345 cars. Pulling into the space, you feel as if you should be checking airline arrival and departure times, and the escalator ride up from the garage feels like an ascent into hippie heaven.
Back to the lemons. I had heard of Meyer lemons, and had the occasion to sample them as an ingredient in some courses here and there, but never has a star component of any dish. Having only seen them once in my local market years ago, I did not take the opportunity to try them at that time, mainly because they were considered to be such an exotic item that the price was a deterrent. So, having run into them again, and at half the price, I just had to pick them up, plan or no.
The mesh bag of golden orbs sat on our kitchen counter for a few days as I looked for an appropriate way to inaugurate my taste buds to the wonders of the Meyer lemon. There were, to be honest, many more applications than I could ever have hoped to find – Meyer lemon sorbets, granitas, and savory dishes. Ultimately, I decided on a very straightforward pots de creme, which beckoned with its simplicity – just a mixture of one egg, egg yolks (4), sugar (2/3C), lemon juice (1/2C), cream (1.25C), and zest. Whipped up in a single bowl, then baked in a water bath (425 degrees) for about a half hour, there seemed to be no more straightforward way to experiment with the fruit.
The Meyer lemons actually looked nothing like lemons at all. Instead of bumpy skin, these lemons were smooth, and instead of being bright yellow, they trended more towards orange and, in truth, looked like tangerines. Cutting into them yielded a lot of juice, and tasting it off of my fingers, I noted that Meyer lemons are sweeter and less tart than traditional lemons – think of a cross between lemon and tangerine. Having zested the lemons and juiced them with a reamer, I was satisfied that I had extracted as much flavor out of each of them that I possibly could have.
The Meyer lemon pots de creme turned out to be a test of willpower. After cooking, they needed to be cooled to room temperature, covered in plastic wrap, then chilled overnight. But the next night, after a trying day at work and a challenging commute through the cold, dark early evening of January, there was no brighter end to the day than the spoonful of pure sunshine that the pot de creme provided.