I love food. And I can really put it away because I’m always hungry, always feeling underfed.
It’s been more painfully acute these past weeks because I’ve been trying to cut back. The weather is warming up and girls are walking around in tiny little things. Lots of pale skin touching sun for the first time in months. I wonder if it’s too much to ask of them, of us, to put on something so small after so much time under cover. You’re going to wear that?, I ask myself in the mirror, making a catalogue of real and imagined flaws. Short shorts, skirts, sundresses: creases, dimples in my skin. Yes. Yes I am going to wear that. So I start to watch what I eat.
Then the hunger sets in. For the past two weeks I have felt transcendently hungry. I’m not complaining: after a while the hunger starts cycling back to something that feels like fullness again. But then. Then I start to crave things that baffle, things that better-fed versions of myself would never, ever want.
Like sweets. I don’t do sweets. Chocolate doesn’t hold for me the bliss I’ve witnessed in its true lovers. Plus I have no fondness for cake, and only a passing interest in cookies. I know this is weirdly controversial. People with sweet tooths (teeth?) are serious about their dessert, and people like me, people who love food but don’t go bananas for bananas foster, must seem like buttoned-up puritans by contrast.
But I do have a weakness, sweets-wise. I can be moved. I love tangy things. I love fruit. For me sweetness is only desirable if it’s cut by something sour, even something intensely sour, something that hurts. (My favorite candy? Warheads. Jesus they’re GOOD.) So to ring in the ritual break in my diet, and also Bill’s birthday, I made a Meyer lemon tart. I mean, I sort of made it. The filling was homemade; I used Thomas Keller’s recipe for lemon sabayon, which I believe is French for lots of butter.
The crust, well. The crust was a different story. You see, I had every intention of making it myself. But after Keller’s fancy Frenchie lemon filling, I was out of butter. And as I was scanning the dairy section at our local Jewel-Osco for more, I noticed that the refrigerated pie crust cost less than the butter, and that it didn’t have a lot of sugar in it besides (I like a savory crust). So I bought it, being the thrifty co-ed that I am.
And I don’t even feel bad about it. I’m not going to apologize. It came out really, really well. Flaky, crisp, slightly salty crust topped with a thin layer of velvety, rich, sour filling. With some hand-whipped cream and plump, ripe blackberries, it was perfect. It was just the thing. The perfect way to sate a rare hunger.
Meyer Lemon Tart
For the sabayon:
from Thomas Keller
– 2 large eggs, cold
– 2 large egg yolks, cold
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup fresh Meyer lemon or other lemon juice
– 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
For the crust:
– Well, you know. But if you want to make the real thing, the full Keller recipe, which I’m sure is good, but which I can’t vouch for, is available on Epicurious
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter a nine-inch tart pan. With your fingers, smooth the refrigerated dough over the bottom and sides of the pan. Generously score the base with a fork. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside.
Bring 1 1/2 inches of water to boil in a small pan. In a large metal bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, and sugar until combined. Set the bowl over the boiling water. Whip the mixture vigorously until eggs begin to foam and thicken, about two minutes. Add 1/3 of the lemon juice, and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens again, another two minutes. Repeat two more times, until mixture is lighter in color and the whisk leaves a trail at the bottom of the bowl.
Cut the heat. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, whisking vigorously. The mixture may thin, but it will set as it cools. Pour the warm sabayon into the tart crust. Refrigerate until you serve, with blackberries, if you wish, and fresh whipped cream. And enjoy it, goddammit. It’s good.