Lemon Meringue Pie

I was totally not going to post this recipe.

It was, from one end to the other, a total disaster.

1) The crust, which was a fabulous recipe that my sister-in-law, Angela, used during Thanksgiving, shrunk in the pan. Not once, but twice. The second time was "less bad," being that I yanked the crust over the edges and smushed it to stick. But that meant it was hideously misshapen and uneven in thickness. I mean, what are you supposed to do when that happens?

2) The pie filling recipe is dumb. It tells you to boil the sugar, lemon, and water, and then add the egg yolks and cornstarch all at once. Even *I* know what happens then. The egg yolks curdle. Why did I do it anyway? I don't know. I thought maybe a giant book of desserts knew something I didn't (like that cornstarch would stop the curdling or something). SO not the case.

3) Bleary-eyed with frustration, I misread the instructions to make the meringue. I added the egg whites and sugar together, instead of one, then the other. For a good long while, I thought I would have to start all over again. Fortunately, after about 15 minutes, stiff peaks were achieved.

4) The meringue got not "golden" but "brown with burned tips." I had to surgically excise the burned tips.

5) Despite my best efforts to push the meringue all the way to the edge of the crust 'to seal,' it still managed to separate during refrigeration. You can see in the birds eye view photo at the very bottom, there is crust, an unattractive moat of shiny lemon, and then meringue. I do not even know what happened there.

Anyway, you can all thank Greg for keeping me faithful to this blog's mission. "You have to put it up!" he said, "Your blog SAYS, 'What works and what DOESN'T.'" So, here it is. It did not work on many levels.

The crust, despite it's ugly irregularities, was flaky and tender like I remembered from November. The curd was thick, tangy, and refreshing. The meringue, well, was meringue. I'd never had Lemon Meringue pie before that night, but Greg and his parents all had, and loved it. I suppose I am my own worst critic. The pie was pretty good.

Lemon Meringue Pie (crust from Good Housekeeping, pie from "The Complete Book of Desserts" by, Martha Day)
Crust (makes 3 crusts):
-3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1 3/4 cups cold, unsalted butter cut into chunks
-2/3 cup ice water
-2 tablespoons sour cream
-1 teaspoon vinegar

1. In a very large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into the flour, leaving pea-sized chunks.

2. Combine ice water, sour cream, and vinegar with a fork. Add to the flour all at once, quickly mixing to distribute. Don't overmix--the dough should be slightly crumbly and lumpy.

3. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 and up to 24 hours. The finished dough should break, not stretch.

4. When you're ready, divide the dough into 3 portions. Roll each into a ball, then flatten with your palms into a disc. Wrap the unused discs in plastic and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Butter your pie plate.

5. Using a liberal amount of flour sprinkled on the counter, the rolling pin, and the dough, roll out the crust. It should be about 1/3" thick with enough for a 1/2" overhang. Don't stretch it over the pie plate. Fold the overhang under the crust and crimp the edges. Chill the pie shell for at least 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400.

6. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Line with tin foil and fill with baking beans or other weights. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and continue baking for 6-8 more minutes, or until golden.

For the Pie Filling:
-Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
-1 cup sugar, divided
-2 tablespoons butter
-1 cup water
-3 tablespoons cornstarch
-3 eggs, separated
-Pinch of salt
-1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. In a saucepan, combine the lemon zest and juice, 1/2 cup of sugar, butter, and 1 cup water. Bring mixture to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 tablespoon cold water. Add the egg yolks.

3. Add the egg yolks to the lemon mixture and return to a boil, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Cover the surface with waxed paper to prevent a skin from forming, and let cool. **NOTE: This will probably cause some of your egg yolk to curdle into little bits. You can remove these by pouring the mixture through a mesh strainer and tapping it with a spoon, occasionally scraping the bottom to help the process along.**

4. For the meringue, chill a metal bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes. Add the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until they hold stiff peaks. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until glossy.

5. Spoon the lemon mixture into the pie shell and spread level. Spoon the meringue on top, smoothing it up to the edge of the crust to seal. Bake until golden, 12-15 minutes.

-Serves 8 (with 2 reserve crusts)

French Chicken in Vinegar Sauce with Green Beans Amandine

It is, and has been, disgustingly hot in Champaign. When I made this a few weeks back, it was also sticky like a warm bath in my house. I should've made gazpacho. Or a fresh strawberry salad with cold chicken. And I should've done it in a sundress with the A/C on, but I'm a glutton for punishment. There is just something about this recipe that screams "Summer!!" even though it is a bear to make on a hot day. The chicken is meltingly tender, the sauce tastes like vinegar-based BBQ sauce, and is so plentiful that you need freshly baked rolls to sop it up. Paired with fresh, lemony green beans and a glass of lemonade (or, y'know, a beer or gin & tonic or three), it is the perfect summer meal for company. It's well worth sweating over.

French Chicken in Vinegar Sauce (from Cooking Light)
-Olive oil flavored cooking spray (or a little olive oil)
-2 1/2 cups chopped onion
-8 (3-ounce) skinned, boned chicken thighs
-1/2 cup dry white wine
-1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
-3 tablespoons tomato paste
-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-1 teaspoon minced fresh (or 1/2 teaspoon dried) tarragon
-1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon cayenne
-Dash of black pepper

1. Coat a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion; cook 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove onion from pan. Increase heat to high. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned.

2. Combine wine and next 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add onion and wine mixture to chicken; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve with rolls (I suggest popovers, also from Cooking Light!), and green beans.

-4 servings (2 thighs, 1/2 cup sauce)

Green Beans Amandine (from Cooking Light)
-2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine
-3 pounds green beans, trimmed
-3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
-3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 tablespoons cornstarch
-1/4 cup water
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beans; saute 5 minutes. Add broth, pepper, and salt; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

2. Combine cornstarch and water; add to skillet. Bring to a boil, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in lemon juice. Sprinkle with almonds just before serving.

-Makes 8 1-cup servings
-Note: This recipe is REALLY easily halved. I bought green beans without reading the recipe and only had about 1/2 as much as necessary (3 pounds is a LOT!). So, all is well if you don't want a whole crap ton of beans. :)