June 19, 2012

Cooling Down with Lemon Curd and Yogurt Pops

Today marks the twelfth day of 90-degree weather in Chicago this year. If this is late spring, who knows what summer will bring us!

You can cool off with homemade yogurt ice pops, a tasty treat that can be made at home for dollars less than what's in your grocer's freezer. Try my lemon curd and yogurt pops. You can even layer in fresh berries for a really pretty presentation and fruity kick.

As for pop molds, mine are some fancy schmancy ones given to me as a housewarming gift from Crate & Barrel years ago. The company no longer offers these, but it does currently have this fun set available. There are plenty to choose from, and places you'd never expect to carry such an item do, such as Whole Foods, The Container Store, and Walgreens. You can also always fall back on the trusty Dixie-Cup-covered-in-plastic-wrap-and-stuck-with-a-popsicle stick setup. Whatever works and gets you cooled off faster!

There are numerous cookbooks out there all about ice pops, and I've even given one as a gift before. But I personally like to wing it, sometimes simply pureeing leftover berries or bananas and mixing them in with yogurt and freezing. I'm also a sucker for homemade Jell-O pudding pops, especially that Martian green atrocity, pistachio pudding. My mom used to make Bundt cakes with a package of pistachio pudding in them for an after-school snack, and to this day, I keep a few boxes around for pudding pops or to toss into a pound cake batter.

You can even make yourself a breakfast treat by layering granola or nuts in the pop mold cavities along with a flavored yogurt. When I commuted via train, I used to freeze Yoplait Custard Style yogurt and then eat it on the go as I rode the train into work. But I never thought to add granola to my morning frozen treat until I started making ice pops at home.

I used Meyer lemons when making the following version of lemon curd for my yogurt pops. They happened to be in season when I made the curd and canned it, plus I enjoy the floral scent of Meyer lemons over regular lemons, which takes away some of the standard tartness. This lemon curd recipe can easily become lime curd by substituting similar quantities of lime juice and zest. I used plain nonfat yogurt to avoid any added sugar or fat, since lemon curd already contains sugar, butter, and egg yolks. Additionally, this curd recipe makes a great cupcake, cake, or tart filling. It's even good just spread on buttermilk biscuits for Sunday brunch!

How ever you choose to "pop" it this summer, nothing matches the speed at which you can have a fun frozen treat at your fingertips when making ice pops. We're supposed to get a break in our weather here in Chicago by Thursday, so 'til then, I'll be cooling off with a nice batch of Lemon Curd and Yogurt Ice Pops!

Lemon/Lime Curd (from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book)

5 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
zest of 2 lemons or 3 limes)
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
6 tbsp unsalted butter

In a heavy saucepan, combine yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for 1 minute. Add zest and juice and whisk 1 minute longer. Cook gently over low heat, stirring until thickened, 10-15 minutes. (Do not allow eggs to scramble!) Remove from heat and stir in butter until completely melted and smooth. Allow to cool and then cover tightly with plastic wrap, pressing wrap to surface of curd, and chill 1 hour.

For ice pops: Stir curd vigorously with whisk until smooth. Combine curd and 2 cups plain nonfat yogurt and mix until smooth. Pour into ice pop mold, insert sticks, and freeze 2 hours. To remove, run sides of mold under warm water until pops can be easily removed.

June 12, 2012

Wee Ones Scotch Quail Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are perhaps the lowest-fat way of enjoying an egg (except for maybe poached). Fried and scrambled sure make breakfast best, but what happens when you take said hard-boiled egg, wrap it in breakfast sausage, roll it in breadcrumbs, and deep fry that sucker to golden brown?

A heart attack maybe?

Scotch eggs are widely known as a delectable pub food, served appetizer-style, with mustard or remoulade. At least that's where I've seen them, on the menus of upper-crust Irish and English pubs around the gastrotown of Chicago. Scotch egg folklore says they originated as portable food for wealthy coach travelers in London, usually made of smaller hens' eggs (once wrapped in sausage and coated in breadcrumbs, today's American large and extra-large eggs would in fact make for a heart attack). They were meant to be made of various leftovers, the typical "poor-man's lunch."

Alternative stories take it all the way back to Indian origins, likening it to a soft fried meaty dumpling called kofta. Whatever's it's birthplace and birthright, it's a mighty tasty treat, and can be enjoyed less calorically.

I tried my hand at making what's known as Wee Ones, when I recently found quail eggs at a gourmet grocery store nearby. Quail eggs are typically more prevalent over the holidays, but when I chanced upon these beautiful babies, I decided to embark on making Wee Ones Scotch Quail Eggs using chicken sausage and a smaller egg. I served them with cheddar ale mustard and ranch dressing, along with a salad of cucumber, tomato, blue cheese, and chopped pecans. Absolutely delicious, and despite the deep frying, smaller eggs and chicken sausage made us feel somewhat better about consuming so much cholesterol at once. I certainly wouldn't make these a monthly menu offering in our house, but for one-time fun, they were truly awesome!

This recipe makes 18, only because the grocery store where I purchased them sold them by the dozen-and-a-half. I've supplied a link to purchase them online in increments of 2 dozen, but check any specialty store in your area. Whole Foods in my area did not have them, so you need to consider a smaller, more specialized gourmet grocery store.

Wee Ones Scotch Quail Eggs (adapted from Scrumptious)

18 quail eggs 
1/2 lb fresh chicken sausage, casings removed
6 fresh sage leaves, very finely minced
the finely grated zest of a lemon
a pinch of cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
a pinch of allspice (optional)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and milled black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs (
Panko crumbs are ideal)
mustard and salad dressing of your choice

Bring a large, deep pot of water to a gentle rolling boil. Place all the eggs in a large metal sieve and immerse it very slowly in the boiling water. Very gently and slowly, tilt the sieve so all the eggs roll out into the boiling water. Boil the eggs for exactly two minutes and 20 seconds (set a timer!). Pour off the boiling water and fill the pot to the brim with cold water from the tap. Leave the pot under a trickling cold tap for 7 minutes, allowing the water to spill over the edges.

Drain the eggs, gently crack the shells and peel them. The shells should come away easily, but if they do not, peel them under cold running water. Pat the eggs dry and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sausage, sage, lemon zest, cayenne pepper, allspice, and nutmeg and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Divide the sausage meat into 18 equal portions. Roll a portion into a ball, flatten it in the palm of your hand to make a patty and put a cooked quail’s egg on top.  Gently wrap the the meat around the egg to enclose it completely, pinching the mixture to close any gaps. Now roll the ball delicately between your palms to create a pleasing egg shape. Repeat with the remaining eggs.  Put the eggs on a plate, cover with clingfilm and chill again for 30 minutes.

Place the flour on one large plate, the beaten eggs in a small bowl, and the breadcrumbs on the second large plate. Line a final plate with paper towels and set aside. Roll the Scotch eggs in the flour and shake to remove the excess. Dip the eggs in the beaten egg yolk, then roll them gently in the breadcrumbs, patting down gently so that the crumbs stick.  Fill a wok or deep fryer halfway with vegetable to 325ºF. Fry the eggs, four or five at a time, for 4-1/2 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. Remove and drain on paper-towel-lined plate.

Serve immediately with mustard and dressing of your choice. Serves 6-8.