No matter how much I like to think I am adventuresome, whimsical, and not pinned in too much by utility, in reality, I like the practical. It is intensely satisfying for me to make lentils with greens, or risotto with corn and tomatoes just because that is what's in the fridge.
I tend toward a full pantry and refrigerator for this reason. I thrive on utility. I think its romantic. I want to make Beef Wellington smothered in duck liver pate and mushrooms because I have a whole deep freezer full of filet mignon, and I have just picked mushrooms, and I need some cool menu to utilize the duck livers I saved from the ducks I harvested. Maybe this is a little ambitious or idealistic, but I think my culture's way of living, celebrating, and eating in general could use some of such idealism.
What was slightly unsatisfying about making my sister's birthday the other night is that I felt I only assembled it (and assembled poorly at that). I didn't know how the pate was made, where it was made, who the duck was, who the cow was, or even where on the cow the filet is from. Maybe if the Wellington had turned out perfectly I would feel differently, because assembling is a vital part of making a meal, but I also wonder if what I am calling the utility element was the missing element in the equation of the dinner.
OK, maybe I don't want to make pate myself. But if I could make it, or if I knew who made it, buying it pre-made and using it in my own boring assembly of a celebration meal might make me feel comfortable with the situation.
A current example of utility: I have an unusual abundance of egg yolks in my possession. My mother eats two eggs pretty much every day, usually though, she only uses the egg whites. Therefor, I have this rather glorious opportunity to use egg yolks in ways I might only use on occasion (I am not very good with the egg white only recipes, but I've eluded to this, and I will work on it). Such occasional recipes include Rose Levy cakes, Hollandaise sauce, lemon curd, and crème brûlée.
Today, I had something only slightly less occasional. Pudding on my radar. I have six egg yolks I don't want to go bad, and so I must make it. Besides, lemon pudding is creamy and lemony and simple. I like that.
Classic Lemon Pudding with Thyme and Buttermilk
My first try at this pudding was with milk, and it was beautiful. I craved a little more tang, so I tried it a second time with buttermilk-- a disappointment. I want delicacy in my pudding. Pudding is distinguished from curd in that it has cornstarch as a thickener and added milk or water. With all buttermilk, this recipe is too tart for me to serve alone, although it is great served with slightly whipped cream. With all milk, the there is no tartness at all, only a slightly sweet lemon flavor. A mixture of both produces a happy, tangy medium. Serve with whipped cream and garnished with more lemon zest and thyme.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 cups milk or buttermilk, or a mixture
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
big pinch of salt
4 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Stir together sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Stir in milk(s), yolks, salt, and thyme one at a time. Stir over medium heat until the pudding covers the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat and stir in butter and lemon juice. If desired, strain through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl or individual bowls. Refrigerate until set. Enjoy!