Thursday, January 21, 2010

Edna Lewis's Cheese Custard

After kicking around in the pages of one of the road maps of southern cooking for another purpose, I stumbled upon this gem of a recipe which I had missed in several previous readings. The events which preceded this custard's actual appearance on my table, admittedly, had more to do with not getting out to get another form of protein, laziness, and it having been later than I thought. Should this ever happen to you, as surely it does not, I can only hope you remember this recipe as it is unlikely cheese souffle with all of its bowls and mess and process is making a return to my home any time soon; it has been happily replaced.

I serve it with a big salad and crusty hot rolls. Julia Child surely would have suggested a French white wine as she always did for egg dishes, but I say drink what you love. I recently had this custard with a Cote de Provence and salad with fig vinaigrette. It was perfect. But sometimes you might like a touch of sweet tea in honor of Ms. Lewis.

Cheese Custard
adapted from In Pursuit of Flavor, Edna Lewis
serves 4 (easily doubled)

The recipe calls for 5 egg yolks and that would indeed be in the tradition of souffle, but honestly, I have no use for 2 whites on most days and I am not whipping up meringues in my spare time. Consequently, I often use the entire egg which does make the custard less rich but goes further. I like the Gruyere only marginally and swap in literally anything that melts and is a hard cheese. I have had success with cheddar, Colby, jack, Parmesan, although cheddar with a little extra cayenne has worked best.

One medium potato, peeled and julienned, about 2/3 cup
1 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese or comparable (see above)

Preheat the over to 350 and butter a small ovenproof casserole dish, set aside.

Drop the potato julienne in a sauce pan of boiling water for 3 minutes until just translucent. Drain well, place on a paper towel-lined plate and gently pat dry. The potatoes should still be firm to the touch, if not, begin again.

Put the cream in a mixing bowl with the egg yolks, salt, and cayenne. Mix well but do not beat too much air into this mixture; mix only until evenly combined. Spread the grated cheese over the bottom of the buttered casserole. Spread the blanched julienne potatoes over the top of the cheese. Pour the cream mixture over the top of the potatoes. I like to dust the top with paprika for color, this is up to you.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the custard is set and buttery cream color. Do not overcook or it will become rubbery and tough.


BonjourRomance said...

THis looks like the perfect alternative to a soufflé - I think I have to give this a try soon.
Thanks for the tips.
Bon weekend!

for the love of a house said...

This looks fabulous!
I remember seeing her and Scott on an early Martha show and fell in love with her. She was a gem!
Nice to meet you!