Lemons have been referred to as the "Ben Franklin of fruits"--perhaps because they are as many-faceted as that great Philadelphian.
Certainly lemon is the single most versatile food flavor, but the lemon legend continues: It has been said that lemons cure freckles, and lemons are used in cosmetics and shampoos, are found in household detergents and cleansers, and even in furniture polishes.
The cool and refreshing flavor of this bright yellow fruit leads many cooks to think of lemons during the summer, but the rich acidic flavor of lemon is just as exciting during the winter.
Two kinds of lemons are commonly available: juice lemons and bar lemons. Juice lemons are the smaller, thinner-skinned variety. They yield, as their name implies, considerably more juice than bar lemons. Bar lemons are larger than juice lemons, more elliptical in shape, have a very thick skin and a smaller amount of pulp. For most home uses, juice lemons are the better choice. LEMON CURD (Makes about 2 1/2 cups)
Lemon curd -- or lemon cream, as it is sometimes named -- is a very thick, rich lemon custard that can be used as a cake or pie filling, or as the base for a lemon mousse. It can be prepared well in advance and stored in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator for several weeks. 8 egg yolks 3/4 cup sugar 3 large lemons -- juiced and zest finely grated 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
In the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water, combine the yolks, sugar, lemon juice and grated zest. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture feels lukewarm to the touch. Gradually add small pieces of butter, stirring until the butter has been completely incorporated before adding the next piece.
Continue to cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until very thick. Refrigerate, tightly covered, until needed for mousse, to fill cakes (put between layers and ice the cake with flavored buttercream or whipped cream) or in tarts. LEMON MOUSSE (6 servings) 1 cup lemon curd (recipe above) 1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream 1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the lemon curd in a large mixing bowl and beat with a whisk or the back of a spoon until it becomes smooth. Whip the cream until it begins to form soft peaks, then add the sugar and vanilla and beat at high speed until stiff. Fold into the lemon curd. Refrigerate until serving time. LEMON CREAM CAKE
This cake is made by placing lemon curd between two delicious buttery layers of genoise and frosting the outside with freshly whipped cream. Delicious just as it is, it is better with the raspberry pure'e (recipe follows) poured around it on the serving plate. For the genoise: 6 extra large eggs 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice Grated zest of 1 lemon 1 cup sifted flour For the filling: 1 recipe lemon curd (recipe above) For the frosting: 2 cups whipping cream 1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract For the garnish (optional): 1 recipe raspberry puree (recipe follows)
To make the genoise, grease and flour two 9-inch layer cake pans. Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir frequently until the mixture feels lukewarm to the touch (be careful that your eggs don't cook). Once the mixture has become lukewarm, remove and beat at high speed with an electric beater until tripled in bulk, very light and fluffy in appearance, and completely cooled, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Combine the butter, vanilla, lemon juice and grated zest.
Sprinkle about 1/4 of the flour over the top of the beaten eggs and fold it in lightly. Next add about 1/3 of the butter mixture, and fold in lightly. Continue adding the flour and butter alternately, being certain that the cake batter is smooth when the last addition is folded in. Do not overfold.
Pour half of the mixture into each of the prepared cake pans and bake in a 350-degree oven until the cake tests done with a wooden toothpick, about 25 to 30 minutes. Immediately remove from the oven and turn out onto racks to cool.
Prepare the lemon curd recipe.
To make the frosting place the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until very stiff. Refrigerate until time to frost the cake.
To construct the cake spread a thick layer of lemon curd on top of one of the genoise layers. Gently press the second layer on top of the lemon curd. Frost the outside of the cake with the whipped cream frosting. Refrigerate until serving time. Serve with the following raspberry pure'e, if desired. RASPBERRY PURE'E 2 10-ounce packages frozen raspberries in syrup, or frozen sweetened raspberries, defrosted
Juice of 1 lemon
Combine the raspberries and the lemon juice in a food processor or blender and pure'e until smooth. Strain to remove the seeds. Refrigerate. JAN MORTON'S ROAST LEMON CHICKEN (6 to 8 servings) 3 lemons 3 1/2 to 4-pound chicken 8 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil Salt Freshly ground black pepper
Cut the lemons into 10 or 12 pieces each and stuff the pieces into the cavity of the chicken. Truss the chicken with a piece of kitchen string. Rub the butter or olive oil generously all over the chicken, and season with salt (optional) and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Place on a rack over a shallow roasting pan, then slide onto a shelf set in the lower third of a 450-degree oven.
The chicken will take about 55 minutes to roast. There is no need to baste or turn the bird. After about 50 minutes, test for doneness by inserting an instantly registering thermometer into the thickest place at the thigh without touching the bone. The temperature should register 165 to 170 degrees. Allow the chicken to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.