Friday, February 13, 2009

Custard's Last Stand

Well perhaps this isn't the last stand of custard, but it does seem to be neglected lately. Maybe I am making too much of a generalization from my experience but it seems like no one likes custardy things anymore (at least no one my age).

My guess is that it's an issue of texture. I can't get my boyfriend within 10 feet of anything too squishy. (Which makes for a tragic situation when it comes to ricotta.) Custards also seem to be very out of style. Which, as I recently discovered, is a real shame.

I had a bunch of egg yolks leftover from baking so the logical conclusion was custard. Although dad was rooting for something sweet, (coconut custard....yuck), I was in the mood for something savory. So I googled "savory custard" and I got this recipe. It seemed pretty straightforward so I tried it.

You start by putting your milk (or cream, but I had milk) in a pot along with a sprig of fresh thyme and garlic. You heat it until just steaming to infuse it with the flavor of the garlic and thyme and then remove them. Although the first time I made this I had fresh thyme I didn't the second time so I put some dried thyme in a mesh tea ball and put that in the milk. It worked fine for infusing but mom almost killed me when she tried to clean the milk out of the mesh. Oops.

Next you mix the eggs with cheese. I used Parmesan and mozzarella since I already had the pre-shredded kind (which is all mom can eat). Then you whisk in the milk very slowly. This is important because if you incorporated too much at once the heat of the milk could start to cook your eggs. And although it hasn't happened to me I'd imagine you'd get something like scrambled eggs, which is fine but not at all the point of a custard.

Then you put your ramekins (or one big dish which is what I did) into a bigger dish in an oven preheated to 300 degrees. Then you pour (very carefully!) boiling water into the outer dish without getting any in your custard. I actually managed to do this successfully, twice!

The recipe says it will take 30 minutes to cook plus more time if you used milk or a bigger dish and since I did both mine took at least 45 minutes. It's done when the mixture is not quite set, it should still jiggle a little in the middle.

The recipe is so easy (at least in terms of how difficult I figured a custard would be) and also fairly fool proof. Although it calls for 3 eggs plus 2 yolks I have done more yolks and less eggs and also once I just used 5 eggs. Both times it worked fine.

The only issue I found is that I used the sprinkly Kraft Parmesan that comes in the green bottle (don't judge me, it's cheaper!) which had a tendency to settle to the bottom so the lowest layer of my custard was a little more grainy from the cheese. But the rest of the custard came out amazingly creamy (even without cream) and the Parmesan layer didn't really bother me.

What I think is the most amazing thing about this is that it was also virtually lactose free. I used 100% lactose free Lactaid (whole) milk and the Parmesan and mozzarella were also (supposedly) lactose free. Although I did this so mom could eat it I didn't detect any loss of quality because of the adjustments.

Now mom makes fun of me because when I come home and I'm hungry and there are no leftovers I'll just whip up a quick batch of cheesy custard for a snack. But of course it's not quick at all, it actually takes about an hour (although much of that is unattended) so I end up having to have a snack while I'm waiting for my other snack to finish. Still worth it though! Long live custard!

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