Sometimes I get a hankering to try something out in my own kitchen even though I have no idea at the time what I am going to do with the end results. The fruits of this particular experiment, fortunately, should have a very long shelf life, thanks to our friends, Mr. Salt and Mr. Acid.
I have noticed that lately many cooks are flavoring things with preserved lemons. For instance, a little while back, I had some incredible octopus at this fabulous little tapas bar that was served in a broth with potatoes. The broth was marvelously complex but the most pervasive flavor, other than sea salt was preserved lemon. (As an aside, if I were a betting woman, I would wager that the octopus had been cooked sous vide, slow and low, before being set afloat in that broth.) On another recent visit to a favorite local fish restaurant, I ordered a beautiful steamed shellfish soffrito which featured fantastic giant prawns, succulent muscles and tender clams, floating in a preserved lemon and tomato sauce. The preserved lemon imparts a very exotic citrusy flavor to whatever it touches. Lets just face it, I love exotic!
In my personal library, I found two recipes for preserved lemons. One in Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and the second in Preserved by Johnny Acton & Rick Sandler. I am sure I could have found others elsewhere but I decided these two versions were enough for a first try. I’m not sure how many preserved lemons a girl needs, anyway.
The recipes, both very simple, were similar except in one you were instructed to juice half of the lemons and slice the the other half into 8 wedges per lemon. These wedges are placed in the jar between layers of salt and spices. In the end, the lemon juice gets poured in the with the other fruit and fills all of the spaces. Ruhlman, on the other hand, tells you to put a bed of salt into a vessel and then to shove as many lemon halves as you can get in there, too. Next, throw in the spices and cover it all with a whole bunch more salt – much more than is called for by Acton/Sandler. I had a little lemon juice left from the first recipe so I put it into one of the two Ruhlman jars. You cover the jars and hide them in a cool dark place for one month. Supposedly, voila, you have the exotic flavoring element that I have been enjoying lately all over town.
I’ll let you know how it goes when I open them up the first of April!