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--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lobster Newburg and Lemon Meringue Pie

Readers, if you have The Gourmet Cookbook and you also frequent Epicurious, you'll notice that the recipe for Lobster Newburg on the Epicurious site is slightly different from the one in the cookbook.

Go with the one on Epicurious.

I don't know what they were thinking when they modified this recipe (which they say has stood the test of time?!) (which is exactly what they say in the head note to the Epicurious recipe!)

The problem with the recipe in the book is that the sauce is too thin. You end up basically with lobstery cream coating your lobster and mushrooms. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if you know how it's supposed to be, it's a disappointment. I never did serve this again as Newburg--I drained the cream the next day and made lobster salad for sandwiches, and the day after that I took the remaining lobster salad and added it to haddock chowder. That's recycling, folks.


I'm going to make a confession. Another one. Souffles don't scare me. Flambes don't scare me (anymore). You want to know what scares me, culinarily speaking? Lemon meringue pie.

Lemon meringue pies are notoriously tricky to bake. All kinds of things can go wrong with them, but the most common causes for tears are beading on the top of the meringue, and weeping underneath it. I've only made one once before, when I was the head chef at As You Like It. I used the recipe from Joy of Cooking, and as I recall it came out pretty well, though I was a nervous wreck about it.

So when I offered Dr. and Mrs. S. their choice of a few desserts and Dr. S. picked Lemon Meringue Pie I was ready to take on the challenge in spite of the possibility of disaster.

Now, if you're getting nervous because I used the word "disaster", I'll just tell you up front that the pie tasted great.

But if you're wondering why I might have used the word "disaster", it's because of this: I drained enough liquid off of that pie, after it was baked, to almost fill a cup measure. Fortunately, somehow and for some reason, the pie crust stayed crispy. This is some kind of miracle that I can only attribute to my earnestness and hard work in the kitchen.

There are two aspects to baking these pies that you have to watch out for. The first is the temperature thing--everything has to be hot when you spread the meringue on top. The crust needs to be just out of the oven (or re-warmed), the lemon filling ideally should be piping hot--and that way the meringue is cooking somewhat on the bottom as it's cooking on the top.

The second aspect to watch out for is the meringue itself. The sugar has to be thoroughly beaten in, and the whites can't be too dry (or too wet). Stiff peaks is what you're after, and actually mine never did form even though I beat the heck out of those egg whites. Maybe that's where I went wrong, or maybe it's because the filling was merely warm instead of hot.

So my meringue pie was lemony with a soft meringue on top, good but I can't help thinking there's a better one in me somewhere.

Watch this space--I'll circle back around to this sometime.

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