Gooey Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

With the passing of Memorial Day came a swift–if not entirely unpredictable–craving for sugar. Coupled with the knowledge that I had four or five lemons which were on the precipice of going bad, I knew there could only be one delightful conclusion: lemon dessert.

While most of us are familiar with lemon bars and lemon meringue pie, perhaps not all of us have had the great pleasure of sinking our teeth into these beauties. Gooey, sticky, lemony, and slightly tart, these bars make an excellent BBQ dessert. While they are fun to share, I ate nearly an entire pan to myself over the course of five days before finally demanding that my boyfriend take them away to share.

Y’know, for science. So for the record, they keep surprisingly well in the fridge.

While one could hypothetically eat these pie bars with ones’ hands (and I’ve definitely stuffed a bite-sized morsel into my mouth while running out the door on my way to work) they are an INCREDIBLY sticky mess and are best eaten with a plate and a fork. This way, you know how to prepare for that potluck dessert you were puzzling over. (Gatherings are beginning to happen again, thank everything good.)

Another bonus of finding this winner of a recipe? Trying my hand at another kind of meringue. This recipe calls for Swiss meringue in order to add a silky smooth finish to your lemon pie bars.

Different Kinds of Meringue

There are three basic kinds of meringue. Chances are, you’ve been exposed to them at some point in your life–maybe even eaten and enjoyed them–without knowing just what they are. From meringue cookies to pie toppings to Baked Alaska, mastering meringue is a pivotal step for any baker or home cook.

French Meringue

French meringue is created by whipping egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually adding sugar while beating until firm peaks appear. For this process, it is best to use fine sugar or confectioner’s sugar for easier absorption and maximum dissolvability. This particular kind of meringue is often folded into desserts like Julia Child’s chocolate mousse in order to create a fluffy, airy quality.

Italian Meringue

While this touted as the most stable of the three meringues, it can also be the trickiest to get right. It is undoubtedly the least forgiving of the meringues, but the results are versatile and have been used in everything from macarons to buttercream. First, egg whites are beaten until soft peaks form. Then, sugar syrup (simple syrup) is heated to 236°F-240°F. Gradually, the syrup is added to beaten egg whites as you continue to whisk. When all the sugar is incorporated, you will have glossy, firm peaks that will set quickly unless incorporated into another ingredient.

Swiss Meringue

For this meringue, sugar and egg whites are whisked together over a simmering pot of water until they are very warm to the touch. The heated mixture is then beaten until smooth, firm, glossy peaks form. Adding the sugar to the egg whites in this way makes for a less voluminous result, but improves the overall texture, especially when compared to French meringue. (Hint: THIS is the meringue used for lemon meringue pie!)

Ways to Use Meringue

One of the great qualities of meringue is that it is essentially sticky, edible play-dough; once it’s met with time and/or heat, it holds its shape forever. Torch your meringue when you want it to set, and you’ve made an edible creation. Because of this aspect of meringues, they make a fun addition to nearly any dessert. Improvise, and have fun!

Okay, Now You’re Ready To Play With Meringue

Roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and get to work!

We start with the graham cracker crust. Who doesn’t love a graham cracker crust?

You’ll need two sleeves, butter, sugar, and salt for this sweet step. A food processor makes the procedure more enjoyable, unless you love smashing things in zip top bags until they are a fine powder. Sometimes this can be cathartic?

Once par baked, it’s time to make the lemon filling. I love this lemon filling because juice, flesh, and rind are all blended together, creating a complex and robust lemon flavor. Yum!

Once blitzed together, it gets baked. It WILL look bizarre and even unevenly browned. But trust me (and the recipe!), once you slather some of that sweet, sweet Swiss meringue on top, nobody will bat an eye.

 

That’s the beauty of Swiss meringue: everything goes in one bowl (ideally the bowl of a stand mixer)!

Chill that sucker! While it’s cooling, whip up your Swiss meringue.

That’s the beauty of Swiss meringue: everything goes in one bowl (ideally the bowl of a stand mixer)! Put it over heat until it is very warm, whisking throughout.

It won’t look very “meringue-y” at first (I confess I had a brief moment where I wondered if I was doing it right) but once you put the warm mixture under a whisk, magical things happen. Spread the finished meringue over your cooled lemon bars and torch.

Before!

After! Serve immediately. If you can’t eat them all in one sitting, don’t worry. They are still just as delicious five days later, and I have to say they were even better on day two.

Gooey Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

With a buttery graham cracker crust, blitzed sugar and whole lemon filling and a sweet Swiss meringue topping, this crowd-pleasing dessert makes an excellent addition to any gathering. Keeps up to five days in the fridge. This recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Cooling Time 2 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, traditional

Equipment

  • Blow torch or oven broiler
  • Stand mixer or electric hand beater

Ingredients
  

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 2 sleeves graham crackers, original
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 pinches fine salt
  • 10 Tbs cold butter, cut into cubes

Whole Lemon Filling

  • 2 whole lemons, scrubbed
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 8 egg yolks, with whites reserved
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Swiss Meringue Topping

  • 8 egg whites
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions
 

Crust

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13 pan with two pieces of parchment paper large enough to overhang on the sides of the pan. (This is to remove the lemon bars after they've cooled.)
  • Place graham crackers, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until fine crumbs form. Add the butter and pulse until incorporated. The mixture should look and feel like wet sand. Transfer to the parchment papered baking pan and press the crumbs down into it in an even layer, taking care to send crumbs all the way to the corners. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Allow to cool.

Filling

  • Trim the ends off of your lemons and slice two lengthwise. Cut into thin half moons (about 1/8th of an inch thick) and remove the seeds from the slices. Wipe out the food processor and place lemon slices, juice of one lemon, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, salt, and butter and blend until smooth. (Alternatively a blender works well for this.) Pour the mixture over the par baked crust and return to the oven, baking for 30 minutes more. (Don't worry of the graham crust is still warm when you pour the lemon filling into it.)
  • Pull the lemon bars from the oven after 30 minutes and allow to cool completely in the fridge at least 2 hours or freezer at least 1 hour. Don't worry if the top looks unevenly browned or unsightly as it's going to get covered with meringue swirls!

Meringue Topping

  • Once the bars have cooled completely, pull from the fridge. Using the parchment paper handles, pull the bars in one mass from the baking pan and discard the paper. Return the bars to the baking pan.
  • Add egg whites, vanilla, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer (or other heat safe bowl, if using electric hand mixer) and place over a pot of simmering water (even 2 inches of water in the bottom of the pot is enough. Whisk continuously until the mixture is homogenous and very warm to the touch.
  • Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer and beat until firm, glossy peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Plop the meringue over the cooled lemon bars and swirl using an offset spatula until desired effect is achieved.
  • Using a torch or your oven's broiler, heat meringue until golden and toasted, around 1 minute. Keep a close eye on the meringue so it does not burn.
  • Serve immediately. Keeps well up to five days in the fridge.
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Miso-Braised Short Rib Au Jus (From @ladyandpups)

 

When was the last time you felt truly gluttonous, where eating felt like pure indulgence, every mouthful rich and decadent?

Maybe in between salads and roasted root vegetable dinners, you like to let your inner carnivore out of her cave…you might invite her to tear through supple slabs of fatty meat, grease lining her lips and juices rolling down her chin…

Enter the au jus sandwich.

This brilliant recipe by Mandy of @ladyandpups (check out her Instagram here!) pairs Japanese flavors for an original take on this luscious, mouth-watering sando. Tender chunks of short rib perched in cheesy, crusty toasted bread dive into salty umami broth and make for a very gratifying dinner indeed. I ate this two days in a row and would have gone for a third, had there been any more to eat! Do heed Mandy’s advice and let the cooked short ribs hang out in their juices overnight before you plan to assemble your sandwich–the depth and complexity of flavor will be worth it!

What Does “Au Jus” Mean?

“Au Jus” is derived from French, literally translating to “with the gravy” and is thought to date back to around 1915. Today, it is used to describe a dish that is served with the “natural juices” of cooked meat.

A Brief History of the Au Jus Sandwich

The Au Jus (or French Dip, as it’s often called in America) has its roots in early 1900s Los Angeles. According to legend, a restaurant owner was making a sandwich for a local cop when he accidentally dropped the finished product in a pan of beef broth. The accommodating officer ate the sandwich anyway and enjoyed it so much, he invited friends the next day to eat this new invention. Two different L.A. restaurants claim to have started this culinary delight: Philippe The Original and Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet, which have both been in operation since 1908. Regardless of the true origins, it did not take long for this delicious creation to reach international familiarity.

This Recipe Calls For A Lot of Miso…Where Should I Buy It?

It’s true: for this recipe, you need a whopping half cup of miso paste (no need to add extra salt for seasoning)! If supporting independent businesses is important to you, consider buying from South River Miso Company (their chickpea miso is an excellent idea, if slightly tangential to this recipe, which calls for regular soy). You can also always find miso at your local Asian market, and it usually comes in relatively large containers.

Other Ways To Use Miso

Miso is a versatile ingredient that can be used in sweet and savory contexts. It boosts saltiness and umami flavors, and generally has a slight nuttiness that adds depth to whatever you cook. Here are some ideas for using up your leftover miso:

The Recipe

Brown the meat in neutral oil on all sides. Assemble the ingredients and prepare to braise. The best part of this recipe? Once everything’s in the pot, all there is to do is wait while a delectable odor fills the air…

I like Kettle & Fire brand beef broth, but other low-sodium beef broth works well too.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a hot, heavy-bottomed pot, add the meat and cover with liquid.

Make sure the beef is completely covered with liquid. If you don’t have enough beef broth to do this, a little water or chicken stock will do in a pinch!

Cover and braise for 3-3 1/2 hours at a relatively low temperature. Toast some crusty bread with a sharp cheese, assemble your sandwich, and ladle some of the luscious broth into a dip-able bowl.

Yeah…not at all a bad way to end the day…

Does it seem like hyperbole when I say I literally looked forward to eating this sandwich for weeks before it finally came to fruition? There’s something about planning meals ahead of time that is so rewarding.

This recipe makes for excellent leftovers that only taste better the longer they hang out in your fridge (you should probably throw it away if you can manage to keep it longer than 5 days or so, however…mine didn’t last nearly that long). Wow a friend or lover with this recipe! It makes for an excellent proclamation of love.

Miso-Braised Short Rib Au Jus

Adapted from a recipe by Mandy of @ladyandpups, this take on a French Dip sandwich combines classic Japanese flavors for a mouth-watering, juicy, crispy, cheesy meal.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs 45 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 5 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, French, Japanese
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • oven-safe heavy-bottom dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 3 lbs English short ribs
  • 3 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 inches ginger, cut into strips
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp curry powder
  • 6 cups beef broth, plus more if needed to cover meat
  • 1/2 cup miso paste, preferably yellow or white
  • 1/3 cup mirin
  • 4 6 inch pieces of baguette, cut down the middle
  • 6 Tbs butter, room temperature
  • 1 lb provolone cheese, cut into slices
  • 1/4 cup shallot, minced

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  • Heat the oil over medium-high in a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe dutch oven. Add the short ribs fat side down first and cook, rotating until all sides are brown, about 4 minutes each side. If cooking in batches, drain browned short ribs on a plate lined with paper towels.
  • Lower heat to medium. Return all meat to the pot. Add the soy sauce and cook, stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated. (You want the soy sauce to caramelize, but not burn.) Add onion, garlic, and ginger and cook about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and spices and cook for another 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste has caramelized slightly. Add beef broth, miso, and mirin and stir. If needed, add water until the meat is completely submerged.
  • Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone tender.
  • Using tongs, gently remove the short ribs from the liquid and place in a medium bowl. Strain the cooking liquid into a large bowl using a fine mesh sieve. Discard the spent ginger, onion, et cetera, and return the liquid to the pot, followed by the beef. Clear space in the fridge and let the mixture cool, ideally overnight.
  • When ready to eat, remove the dutch oven from the fridge. Skim off some of the solidified fat from the pot and discard. Over medium heat with the lid slightly ajar, reheat the short ribs until at a bare simmer.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. Mince the shallot and set aside. Cut the bread into 6 inch lengths and butter. Place on a sheet tray and toast for several minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside.
  • Using tongs, pull short ribs from the au jus and place in a large bowl. Using kitchen shears, snip the meat into one inch chunks. Place cheese on one half of all four of the sandwich toasts and place back in the oven until bubbling.
  • Ladle the remaining au jus into four bowls and distribute chopped shallots into all four. Pile snipped short ribs and their juices between each set of sandwich toasts. Cut in half if desired, and serve immediately. If there is any left over, meat will keep well up to 4 days in the fridge.
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