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I've been using my microplane wrong! (Meyer lemon pot de creme)

I love my microplane! But I read an article (I think here on Chow.com) about them, and it mentioned that most people use it wrong: it should be used "upside-down" so the inner curve catches the gratings.

I was using it last night to "zest" a lemon and I tried this -- OMG! It's so much easier and neater to hold the object being grated and draw the microplane across it. I ended up with a nice neat pile of zest (that I could see building and know immediately when I had enough), no mess, and even less risk of grating my fingers.

Since this is the home cooking board, I'll share the recipe -- this recipe has one of the highest "deliciousness-to-effort" ratios of any recipe I know, because it doen't require any special cooking techniques or equipment:

Meyer lemon pot de creme (from a recipe in Fields of Greens)

8 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup Meyer Lemon juice (about 6-8 lemons)
1 tsp. lemon zest (about one lemon)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar thoroughly, and then whisk in the cream and finally the lemon juice. Strain though a fine wire mesh or cheesecloth (if there's no pulp or seeds in your lemon juice you don't have to do this, but you'll get a more "refined" product), then stir in the lemon zest. Place ramekins (or custard cups) in a larger baking pan, fill with mixture, add water to pan until it's halfway up the sides of the cups, place in oven and bake 45 minutes or until custard is almost set in the center (it will continue to cook after it comes out of the oven). Although the recipe calls for this to be served at room temperature or even chilled, I think it's best still warm from the oven -- like fragrant lemon clouds. I put it in the oven when I serve the first course and its usually ready to come out of the oven when I'm clearing the table from the mains. The dishes come to serving temperature while you're making coffee (or tea, or whatever) -- perfect timing! You can garnish with a little extra zest, or some candied citrus peel, and I usually put some kind of cookie (shortbread, amaretti -- something buttery and/or nutty) on the side. Listen to your guests swoon and watch them scrape their dishes!

Makes 8 six-ounce servings.

You can use regular lemons (although it won't be as fabulous) -- just increase the sugar by 1/4 cup.

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  1. Here's a link to the Maker's site showing a pic of correct use : http://us.microplane.com/index.asp?Pa...

    I also think it is safer to hold the fruit steady and slide the grater over it lightly. Very little force is needed.

    1. Ruth - this sounds awesome. Any chance it would work similarly well without Meyers? I don't have access to any meyers - just plain ole harsh supermarket lemons. Would you need to make any alterations?

      4 Replies
      1. re: adamclyde

        The recipe says you can use either -- the original recipe calls for 1.25-1.5 cups of sugar, and if I were using regular lemons I'd use the larger amount.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I wonder if you could use a little mandarin (or maybe orange) juice, since the Meyer lemon is a cross between the two. It wouldn't be the same but it might work as an alternative.

          1. re: chowser

            I don't see why it wouldn't. BTW, no one knows what the Meyer lemon is a cross-between, as it's a "found" variety rather than a deliberately hybridized one. I've even seen claims that it's really a variety of sour orange and not a lemon.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Interesting. I've only read that it was a cross between mandarin and lemons. It has such a unique flavor. Having moved from California, I really miss them. I'm tempted to get a miniature meyer lemon tree for my sunroom.

      2. Ruth, I tried using the microplane concave side up last night to grate Parm cheese on my popcorn. It _was_ easier! and seemed so obvious once I tried it. Thanks for passing on the tip

        1. Today I ran out to get the ingredients, since I love anything with lemon in it. Just finished making it and ate one. It was good but I think next time I'll use regular lemons for more of a lemon jolt -- or maybe the meyer lemons I bought did not have much flavor, don't know.
          You're right, it's very easy. Thanks.

          3 Replies
          1. re: walker

            I'll be interested to see how it comes out with the regular lemons.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Ruth - another question for you. I'm sort of brain dead when it comes to baking custard-style dishes. I never seem to get the cook time right, as I seem to go too long, and it's too set or too short and not set at all... I guess my eyes just aren't well atuned to the jiggle tests.

              However, with my trusty Thermapen, I'm quite handy. Do you happen to know what temperature you should shoot for to take it out of the oven for pots de creme?

              1. re: adamclyde

                I had no idea (except that it was below boiling), so I googled and found this very helpful site: http://www.baking911.com/custard/101_...

                It says custards without starch are done at 160 degrees.

          2. I just bought a microplane yesterday. The store (SLT) only had fine and course ones, so I bought fine. So are you supposed to put the food to be grated underneath the microplane, and hold it concave-side up? So that the grated food pops out the top and stores in the curve?

            1 Reply
            1. re: xnyorkr

              That's right. Except I haven't tried that technique on really small things (like a piece of ginger or a small piece of cheese).

            2. Okay, I've been feeling sorta stupid about this... I just looked at the link above illustrating how to use it and I don't have that particular style. I have the long, skinny kind with the more bent edges, so are you still supposed to use this kind in the way that's shown? I find it incredibly difficult to get all the good stuff off the back, so I would think it would only work for the wider kinds.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Katie Nell

                I learned this from a guy at a butcher shop that was doing lemons, pulling the long skinny microplane across the top of the lemon, getting piles of shredded zest really fast, rotating the lemon.

                1. re: wally

                  That makes sense - hold the thing you are shredding or zesting with two fingers on a cutting board, put the microplane on top (upside down), and pull across - the gratings will accumulate in the curve. I'd still worry about my fingers, tho.

              2. True for zesting, but I'd still hold it the other way around when you're applying the results directly to food and not pre-measuring - grating cheese over pasta, for example, or chocolate over a cake. Lucky for us it's reversible!

                1. So how do I know if I'm using it "upside down" since mine does not have a curve - it's just a rectangle shaped like a ruler. Do you mean one should use the side that does NOT have the little sharp edges, but the other side?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: oakjoan

                    You still use the sharp side to grate, but instead of holding the Microplane with the rasp (the sharp side) facing up toward you and running the fruit over it to zest it, you want to turn the rasp side down and run it over the fruit instead.

                  2. I just realized I reversed the eggs when I posted this recipe -- it should be 2 whole eggs and 8 egg yolks, not vice versa.

                    1. The way most people use a microplane drives my daughter crazy. She went to a high school that requires students to take lots of shop courses and she gravitated to the wood shops. When I bought my first microplane, she recognized it as a rasp and showed me how to use it properly, holding the fruit or vegetable steady in my hand and gently moving the microplane grater over it -- I think that she was about 14 -- it was very humbling <grin>. Thank goodness for her school's woodshop or I'd still be using this wonderful tool upside-down.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Nancy Berry

                        Yikes, I just noticed that Ruth corrected her original recipe above. It would be great if the chowhound team could edit this one for us - I'm sure it would save a lot of people grief. Pretty please???