The Boyfriend decided on a whim recently to subscribe to Bon Appetit magazine. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. I do know how lucky I am to have a boyfriend who subscribes to things like Bon Appetit and not only reads through the whole issue when it arrives but also dog-ears pages containing recipes he wants to try out. And just to make you really swoon, (stay away, he’s taken) he ACTUALLY makes the dishes he marks. Case in point – I came home to him whipping up Chicken Breasts with Fontina and Prosciutto after I had spent a long and tiresome day at the office.
People, let me repeat – he’s taken!
Now, I know you are not naive enough to think that I did not sneak a peek at each issue as it came in the mail. And when his second issue came in the mail I immediately honed in on a recipe that is a modern “fusion” take on a classic dessert – Lemongrass Bars. This recipe intrigued me for several reasons. First, I am a lemon FIEND. I love love love lemon and lemon-flavored dishes, both sweet and savory. Here are some great recipes starring lemon that I owe you at some point:
- Grandma’s Lemon Chicken
- Natalie’s Rooftop Salsa
- Fresh Broccoli Pasta with Garlic and Lemon
So it goes without saying that I love the everyday take on the bar dessert. But this recipe mixes the traditional lemon, sugar and eggs with an asian-inspired twist – lemongrass. Lemongrass (less commonly known as cymbopogon) is a grass that grows natively in the Philippines and is used all over the Asian continent as a fresh, citrus-y herb to flavor teas, curries, and stir-frys. Less commonly known, it can also be used as a natural insect repellent, cough suppressant and studies have been conducted on its cancer-fighting properties. Not too bad for a silly little blade of grass. That’s the other thing – while the actual plant can grow to look very grass-like, it’s the thick “trunk” of the long blade that is both edible and incredibly flavorful. Last year I actually bought my own lemongrass plant from Red Rose & Lavender in Williamsburg intending to make delicious broths from it but sadly my crazy work schedule kept me out of the kitchen almost all summer. By the time fall rolled around I did not move it inside fast enough and it died. Apparently the lemongrass plant hates winter about as much as I do.
So as I was ogling the magazine I thought that these bars would be a nice little treat to bring with me to the Etsy event I attended a few weeks back. With a coconut crust and a tart, gooey, lemongrass infused filling, this dessert was so delicious I told my counterparts at our “yarn” table in the Etsy headquarters that I simply could not leave them on our table anymore lest I eat them all and promptly moved them to the reception table. The greeter couldn’t say no to them either and it was decided toward the end of the night they were too tempting to have around anymore and were taken to the Etsy designers and engineers to devour behind closed doors. This dessert would make the perfect end to the picnic or backyard barbecue, the citrus cutting through the rich flavors of spicy sauces and heavy meats. Whether you decide to take this dish to a party or simply decide to share it with your honey curled up on the couch reading cooking magazines, this one is going to be in your repertoire for years to come. Enjoy!
Lemongrass Bars with Coconut Shortbread Crust
From Bon Appetit Magazine, Recipe by Ivy Manning
Makes 24, Prep time: 35 minutes, Total time: 4 hours 25 minutes (includes baking and cooling time).
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 lemongrass stalks, bottom 4 inches only, tough outer layer removed, finely chopped (scant 1/2 cup)
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Using electric mixer, beat flour, coconut, powdered sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large bowl until well blended, 30 seconds. Add butter; beat on low speed until moist clumps form. Press dough onto bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of pan. Bake crust until golden (edges will be darker), about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, place sugar and lemongrass in processor; pulse until lemongrass is finely ground, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice; process until well blended, about 30 seconds. Add eggs; process to blend, 10 to 15 seconds. Add flour and pinch of salt; pulse until smooth.
Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Pour filling over hot crust; bake until filling is firm, 22 to 23 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.
Cut lemongrass bars lengthwise into 4 strips, then crosswise into 6 pieces. Dust bars with powdered sugar and serve.