Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Alien Ingredient #9: Buddha's Hand

Call it Buddha's Hand all you want, but doesn't it look like a lemon and a squid got together in the walk-in and produced this alien-looking offspring? I've seen these crazy citruses (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) also known as fingered citrons on and off over the years in chef magazines and on the web, but just never had the money or motivation to try them. (Did you catch that Greek above? Sarco "fleshy" and dactyl "finger." Pretty appropriate, huh?)

Cutting open the Buddha's hand, the center is all pith, but the pith is more sweet than bitter, and perfectly edible raw or cooked—the cooked pieces that we infused in cream and strained out are delicious lemon candies. The rind has a bitter aftertaste to it that a standard lemon does not. The fragrance is more at Meyer lemon than standard lemon and the flavor is lemony with a haunting note of lemongrass.

With the rind and the pith being edible, I can imagine all kinds of wonderful uses for Buddha's hand citrons, from savory (sliced and sautéed to go with fish) to sweet. For my first foray, I infused half of this one into two quarts of heavy cream and made that into crème brûlée. The staff's verdict on the result? Awesome!

Vote: Price be damned, this is the best tasting source of lemon flavor ever!

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