When Life Gives You Lemons, Cook Them

Wildly popular Santa Rosa Millapalooza block party has changed name and location. Road Trip: Sunday night red-eye from SFO to JFK; mythical quantities of food and booze; a cumulative loss of sleep bordering on some chapter in FM 34-52, the field manual of interrogation techniques. Many of my best and oldest friends and much personal history remain rooted in the concrete canyons of Manhattan, so normally I’d say I get to go to NYC this week, but instead I’ll limp into this post with I have to be there, because – as I kvetched in last week’s post – I really do need to extricate myself from the ranks of the marginally attached worker; and, while I may live here in the 707 area code, Gotham City remains the undisputed mecca for my line of work, or at least for the line of work for which I may conceivably be paid.

By definition, I won’t be in my kitchen, but what are mere time and space to the dorky home cook? No, I’ll be cooking in absentia, using my downtime from the cooktop to preserve a big-ass batch of Meyer lemon confit, the acid, sugar and salt gently breaking down the fruit of its own accord, all while I suffer the indignity of 6+ hours in a middle seat. At least I’ll have something to come home to.

A quick-clean baby-steps routine to tackle the bathroom in tiny bits — each day. But the main reason to make this stuff is that it requires almost no effort, lasts for weeks, and tastes really good: I’ve served it as a garnish to Red Lentil Soup, chopped it into a Mediterranean Tuna Salad, layered it under Grilled Chicken w/ Lemons & Rosemary from My Garden, and I can’t wait to try this lemony-garlicky concoction with roasted fish, probably something baked whole in a salt crust; it’s also nice that the Meyers are in season right now, because my garden has far too many ever to eat, I know I’ll be missing them like a child gone to college once they’ve dropped to the ground.

Meyer Lemon Confit

There are endless variations on confit, but I love the simplicity of this version from Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef (reprinted here in the Denver Post and below, with my notes), which gets extra kick from garlic and shallots, requires no cooking, and lets the fruit shine through. The original recipe uses standard lemons, but I especially like the Meyers because I find their thinner skins and less aggressive flavor so much more pleasant to eat; and, of course, Meyers are in season right now, while their local Eureka cousins won’t be around for another couple of months.

Ingredients: 12 lemons (NOTE: Use Meyers, if possible);  5 shallots, peeled and minced; 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced; 2/3 cup kosher salt; 1/3 cup sugar; Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions: Plunge the lemons into boiling water (this softens the outer layer of wax). Drain, rinse, then wipe the lemons clean. Dry the lemons, then slice them very thin. Discard the ends and remove and discard the seeds. (NOTE: If you’re using your own lemons or others fresh from a tree, you shouldn’t have to bother with the boiling and wiping.) Combine the shallots with the garlic. Mix the salt with the sugar. Arrange a layer of lemon slices in the bottom of a midsized container with a lid. Sprinkle the lemons first with a little of the shallot mixture, then with some of the salt mixture. Repeat, layering lemons and sprinkling them with the shallot and salt mixtures until the final lemon slices are topped with the last of the salt and shallot mixtures. Cover the container and refrigerate the confit for 3 days. The confit can be used immediately or covered with olive oil and stored in the refrigerator for about a month. (NOTE: My last batch has been in the fridge for weeks, and it just gets better and better – vastly so, after a week or two, in fact. I don’t know how long it will last, but I suspect well over a month.)