When dessert becomes the main course

There isn’t much in his profession that Johnny Iuzzini hasn’t conquered with sugar-fueled energy and aplomb. The charismatic, tattooed executive pastry chef at Jean Georges — one of only four Manhattan restaurants to receive three Michelin stars this year — was named Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation in 2006, and he earned a number of  “best of,” “top” and even “sexiest” titles throughout his career.

Tonight, Iuzzini has the honor of participating in what he considers a first in his industry — a televised insider’s look detailing the job of a pastry chef — when he debuts as head judge on Bravo’s new  “Top Chef: Just Desserts” reality competition.

“When I tell people I’m a pastry chef, they’re like, ‘Oh, you make pasta?’ Or, ‘You make cookies? You make brownies?’” says Iuzzini, who has served as a guest judge on the original “Top Chef,” the format of which this series follows. “People have no idea what a true craft it is, how much technique is involved. This is the first time America’s really going to see what a pastry chef is.”

Before the cult of the TV chef

“TV chef” was never an aspiration for the young Iuzzini — mostly because the culture of “TV chefs” didn’t exist when he was a kid.

“There was no Food Network when I started,” he says. “I started to cook because I loved to cook; it was a passion. I used to watch Julia Child, then I’d watch Bob Ross painting happy little clouds right afterward, then ‘Dukes of Hazzard.’ That’s what I remember watching on TV, those three shows every day after school.”

For the full interview with Iuzzini, visit the TV Watch List blog here.

LEMON MERINGUE PIE IN A GLASS WITH DISCO BLUEBERRIES  (serves 6)

Ingredients For the lemon curd:

5 ounces fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into small pieces

For the meringue:

1/2 cup egg whites

1 cup granulated sugar

Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean

For the graham cracker crumble:

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbsp all=purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

For the Disco Blueberry garnish:

1 cup fresh wild blue berries

Edible glitter (available at chefrubber.com)

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.

Lemon Curd

Whisk together the fresh lemon juice, ¾ cup sugar, eggs, and egg yolk in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl). Whisk continuously for about 10 minutes until thick ribbons form. Slowly incorporate the half -pound of butter, piece by piece. (The curd mixture will break if you add all of the butter all at once!) Stir until smooth, then transfer to another bowl. Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the curd, and refrigerate for a few hours until set.

Graham Cracker Crumble

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, all-purpose flour, and ¼ cup of granulated sugar. Stir in the stick of melted butter and mix together with your hands until the ingredients are well blended. Spread across a greased baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, stiffing every 5 minutes. The end result should look like delicious, golden sand. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet.

Meringue
In a spotlessly clean bowl combine the egg whites, 1 cup of granulated sugar, and the vanilla bean seeds. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, and heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, beat the mixture on high until cool, and then meringue holds soft peaks. The end result should be a thick, marshmallow-fluff.

Disco Blueberries
Roll fresh wild blueberries in edible glitter.

Assembly
Place two tablespoons of crumble in the bottom of a glass. Dollop a half-inch layer or curd on top, then add a layer of meringue. Repeat the crumble and curd layers. Pipe the meringue on top with a decorative swirl. Lightly brown with a kitchen torch and top with the glittery blueberries.


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