IT’S IMPORTANT TO SLICE the lemons as thinly as you can when making these pies. If you have a mandoline, use it. And since lemon is front and center in Natalie Galatzer’s recipe, source the best fruit you can get your hands on. Natalie specifies Meyer lemons, but hey, they grow in her neighborhood. You could get away with ordinary grocery store lemons.
MAKES 12 CUPCAKE-SIZE PIES
2 lemons, preferably Meyer
2 cups extra-fine sugar, plus 2 tablespoons sugar, for sprinkling over the pies
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt Natalie’s Pie Dough (see Note)
Flour, for rolling out the pie dough
Rinse and pat the lemons dry with paper towels. Cut the ends off of the lemons, quarter them lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Slice the lemon quarters crosswise into paper-thin slices. Place the lemon slices in a nonmetallic mixing bowl, toss them with the 2 cups of sugar, and let macerate, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour, possibly overnight, until the sugar liquefies.
Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with the salt and add them to the lemon and sugar mixture. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Divide the 2 disks of dough into 6 equal pieces each. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out each on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of ¼ inch. Add a little flour if necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Gently press the rounds of dough into the wells of one 12-cupcake, or two 6-cupcake, dark-surfaced cupcake tins. The dough rounds will extend up the side and over the edge of the wells. Place the cupcake tin in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes for the dough to chill.
Spoon the filling into the cupcake wells, dividing it evenly among them. Place a cup of water close by, wet your fingers, and fold the dough over the top of each pie, pinching the edges together to prevent the dough from sinking into the lemon filling. Wet your fingers frequently. Sprinkle the top of each pie with some of the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Refrigerate the pies for about 15 minutes.
Bake the pies for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F and bake the pies 20 to 30 minutes longer. The pies are done when the crust is a deep golden brown.
Remove the pies from the oven and immediately slide a knife between the edge of the tin and the crust and twist the pies to loosen any sugar that would cause them to stick. Place the tin on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove the pies from the tin and transfer them to parchment paper to cool completely. The pies should sit for an hour or so at room temperature before you put your paws on them.
NOTE: Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you plan to roll it out. If the dough has been frozen, transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator 4 to 5 hours before making the pies.
HEATER OF THE STREET: Burlesque Tacos and Bollywood Paneer
STREET FOOD AT ITS BEST is street theater. It’s a diversion, a quick bite, delivered with panache. I’m thinking of Flair Taco in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, where I first glimpsed the burlesque taco phenomenon, complete with sword swallowers. I’m thinking of the ladies who run Chef Shack in Minneapolis, who for very special events book hula hoopers to work their roof.
I’m thinking, too, of I Dream of Weenie in Nashville, Tennessee, where Alisa Martin has been known to wear a hot dog tiara while vamping to the 1930s song “Frankfurter Sandwiches.” But mostly I’m thinking about the Fojol Bros. of the Merlindia truck, doing business, for the moment, on the
streets of Washington, D.C., in a deliriously accessorized 1965 Chevy stepside van.
The Fojols’ food—chicken curry over basmati rice, potatoes and cauliflower, spinach, and cheese—comes from a D.C. area restaurant that the brothers won’t disclose. Their shtick is a queer mashup of Bollywood and vaudeville. Wearing bright yellow, orange, and blue jumpsuits, scooting down the sidewalks in roller skates, hip shaking to a hurdy-gurdy of carnival music that sounds like it’s been channeled through a disco synthesizer, the Fojols, two of whom are real brothers, work the truck under their adopted Merlindian names of Ababa Du, Dingo, Dewpee, and Kipoto.
To lick a mango lassipop and watch the brothers work as potential customers reel and then get reeled in, is to glimpse the transformative possibilities of life on the street.