Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Spring in Winter: Grapefruit Curd Tulips

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I really do wish I had the time to update this page more often.

That's not to say that I don't get satisfaction putting up one recipe a week; it's just that, for every one dish that appears here, there are often five or six others that don't make the cut, whether due to time, photographic quality, or other intangible factors.

For instance, when I look at these minty Dark Chocolate Starlight Cookies...

...this decadent Double-Creme Ricotta Rice Pudding...

...these ooey-gooey Pecan-Currant Cinnamon Buns...

...or these intoxicatingly spiced Cochinita Pibil Tacos...

...well, I feel like there's a lot that you nice folks out there are missing out on. To that end then, in addition to our regular weekly posts, I'm instituting a new feature on the site -- quick, one-off photographs of what I'm cooking from day-to-day. A few wrinkles: The posts won't appear every day (probably two or so per week), there won't be links to them down the right-hand side of the page, and, for what it's worth, when posted, there won't be any recipes to go with them. Instead, whether or not those recipes appear here will be up to you.

Let me explain.

It's intended to be an interactive part of the site -- if people utilize the comment form at the end of the posts, and demand the recipe by leaving comments there, I'll be happy to do full-blown, involved, multi-stage featured posts on those recipes. Incidentally, if you want me to put up full posts for any of the four above recipes, well, there's a comment form on this post, too. Get typing!

Anyway, enough administrative business. On to today's recipe! This week, we're featuring a graceful and light little pastry, a petit-four of sorts, the gorgeous kind of thing that you can nibble on with coffee as a simple conclusion to almost any meal. It's absurdly easy, too. Let's get right to it.

Grapefruit Curd Tulips
Makes 12 Small Pastries

3 Large Red Grapefruits (enough to produce 1/2 cup juice + fruit for garnish)
1 Lemon (enough for 2 Tablespoons juice)
6 Extra-Large Egg Yolks
2/3 Cup Sugar (or 1/2 Cup, if you like things really tart)
1/2 Stick Sweet Cream Butter (very cold)

12 Wonton Skins

Confectioner's Sugar (for garnish)

Start by separating your eggs. You want to do this first, because we want to get those yolks up to room temperature (or something close to it) before we start cooking the curd. Save those whites! Meringues, Angel Food Cake, Baked Alaska...there are plenty of uses for them. Don't think you'll be cooking with them anytime soon? They freeze like a champ.

Next, gather your grapefruits and your lemon. Zest both grapefruits into your egg yolks, and then, using a measuring cup, squeeze out 1/2 cup of juice. Add this to the yolks as well. Finally, slice into your lemon and squeeze out two Tablespoons of lemon juice, adding them into the mixture. Watch out for pits!

At this point, it's time to add in your sugar. I like 2/3rds of a Cup, but, depending on how sour you like your curd, you'll want to adjust accordingly. 3/4ths of a Cup will be decidedly sweet -- 1/2 Cup will give you a nice pucker. Do as pleases you.

Using a whisk, attempt to dissolve the sugar into the mixture as well as possible. Pour everything into a thick bottomed pot, and place over low heat, stirring constantly. You want to cook this until the curd becomes thick and pudding-like. Be careful -- go too far, and you'll have grainy lemon-flavored scrambled eggs; don't cook it enough, and it will be a runny, watery mess. For those nervous types out there, remember, you can always use a double-boiler.

Once you've gotten to your desired thickness, remove the pot from the heat immediately. Whisk in the half-stick of cold Butter, adding it in chunks of one Tablespoon each. This will both emulsify everything and stop the cooking process. If you think you have little egg chunks from overcooking, run the whole thing through a wire-mesh strainer. If not, go ahead and transfer the completed curd directly to a clean bowl. Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then transfer, covered with plastic wrap, for no less than two hours.

You can do all of the above up to two days before serving the tarts. You'll want to make the tart shells a few hours before you serve them.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Next, get your Wonton Skins. You'll find they're available in your local Chinatown, and, increasingly, at most local supermarkets. The Pasta Burner and I had some left over from a batch of Wonton Soup.

Using either a silicon cupcake tray or foil-lined cupcake liners (as featured in this recipe), smush the skins into a cup-like shape. This isn't a science -- they're going to shift a bit in the baking process, and as long as you get the idea somewhat right, they'll both hold the curd and look like you carefully sculpted them. Pop them into the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, with a sharp knife, pop out sections from your remaining grapefruit. If you have issues doing this, or think it's too much of a pain, just get some sprigs of fresh mint and use that for garnish instead. Problem solved. That being said, the combination of fresh fruit and cooked curd is really quite nice, so, that's something to consider

Take your wonton skin cups out from the oven and let them cool for five to ten minutes on a rack. Aren't they lovely?

From here, spoon some curd into each cup, dust with confectioner's sugar, and top with fresh fruit. The final product:

This really is a nice, easy dessert, something that should be in the comfort zone of even the most inexperienced chef. Best of all, the ingredient cost is low, so if you really screw the pooch the first time out, you're only lost two or three dollars and a little bit of pride. Besides, it just means that you'll make it better the next time.

Give it a shot! I think you'll be quite pleased with the results. We'll be back next weekend for another full-length post; in the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for a few special one-off photos!

Music: James Curd -- "Sea Of Faces"

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