I’m chronically impatient and unrepentantly lazy. Whether I'm navigating a city's streets or planning a meal, I'm always seeking the quickest, easiest route. It's not one of my best traits, but it has a tendency to make me more efficient. If a dish has too many ingredients, involves too much prep, or looks like I’ll get too many pots and pans dirty, my first thought is to figure out how I can make it simpler.
This lemon curd is the perfect example of what I call indolent innovation. Most recipes involve creaming butter in a mixer and setting up a double boiler. Rather than accept the laborious status quo, I set out to simplify it. First I remembered an old trick to emulsify melted butter with liquids so you don't have to beat it into submission with an electric mixer. Then I decided that by using a heavy bottomed pot over low heat I could do away with the double boiler. Et voilà! One-pot lemon curd in about twelve minutes.
But just because we're skimping on labor doesn't mean we're skimping on quality. This lemon curd is just as smile-inducingly delicious as the more laborious version. The sweet and floral aroma of the Meyer lemons is in full force thanks to the liberal addition of lemon zest, and yet by straining the zest out before making the curd, you don't end up with papery bits of zest in every bite. The resulting lemon curd is satiny smooth with a glossy yellow sheen usually reserved for pricy Italian sports cars.
While Meyer lemons work best, I know they can be tough to find in some areas, so you can come up with something close by mixing two parts lemon juice with one part mandarin orange juice, same with the zest.
- Drop the whole stick of butter into a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat and let it melt (the pan should be just warm enough to melt the butter). Once it’s mostly melted turn off the heat.
- In a medium bowl, add the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and egg whites. Use an egg beater or whisk to thoroughly combine the ingredients.
- Once the butter has come down to a lukewarm temperature, add the egg yolks and whisk the butter and egg yolks together until the mixture has emulsified and is uniform in color.
- Use a fine mesh sieve to strain the lemon juice mixture into the butter mixture, pressing on the solids to extract the flavor from the lemon zest.
- Stir to combine, then turn the stove on to low heat. Heat the mixture continuously stirring with a silicone spatula to keep the curd from scorching to the bottom of the pot.
- The curd is done when it's reached the consistency of gravy and coats the spatula. It will be about 175 degrees F (80 C).
- Chill the pot in a cold water bath, the curd should get thicker as it chills. Transfer the lemon curd to an airtight container. The lemon curd will last for 2 weeks in the fridge.