The dinner parties my parents hosted were mesmerizing. From the buffet spreads to the complicated dishes involving lazy susans or a Peking duck that took three days, I was ever impressed by the formula they seemed to follow promising magical results. From the exotic to the classic there were always some standouts that oozed elegance and gourmet charm.
Thinking back to those times I wanted to create something classic and elegant that would elevate a simple grilled steak for dinner. With a cauliflower on hand and being limited to the stove top (why? Food52 contest of course) I decided to do a steamed custard. The milk was infused with the sweet cauliflower and garlic, a touch of Parmesan was folded in for depth and it was topped with caramelized florets which brought a few bites of crispy goodness to each creamy bite.
I made a lot in this recipe but it can easily be halved or even quartered. Just follow the rule 2 part liquid, 1 part egg or 16 ounces milk, 8 ounces egg (or about 4 large eggs). I’ve got Ruhlman’s Ratio to thank for that…
1 Medium cauliflower
4 cups Milk
1 ounce Parmesan
2 tablespoons Butter, divided
1 tablespoon Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
Herbs for garnish (tarragon, chervil…)
Cut three to four florets off cauliflower and slice thinly crosswise. Chop remaining cauliflower and bring to a boil with milk and salt. Turn heat to a simmer and cook about 12-15 minutes until tender. Blend with cheese until really smooth. Strain through a fine meshed sieve and cool.
Butter 12 ramekins with 1 tablespoon butter. Whisk eggs into cooled mixture and if you are extra particular, strain again. I did not and it was no tragedy. (You could also mix everything in the blender again, but you would want to scoop the bubbles off the top to ensure a smooth custard.) Pour into ramekins and steam over low heat until outsides are set and center is barely jiggly. Remove ramekins from steamer.
Cook florets in remaining butter and oil for a couple minutes until they begin to brown. Sprinkle sugar on florets and flip, browning other side. Top custards with florets and fresh herbs of your choice.
* You can make the mixture, fill the ramekins and chill a day before cooking. I also was able to gently steam the cooked custards to eat the next day, though I’d recommend steaming right before eating as you would also be able to invert them onto a plate for serving.