Don’t think you’re up for making these little custards? Just answer the following three questions to find out. Can you sauté broccoli? Can you whisk eggs and cream? Can you boil water? If you can do that, then you can make ramekins of Broccoli and Cheese Custard as a side for dinner, because these are easy.
This is another of our Scratchin’ It originals, although it’s based on the Corn and Mushroom Custard recipe we posted in the past. If you made that, you remember how tasty those were, and how easily they went together. Here, we basically substitute broccoli (which is coming into season here in Arizona) for the corn and mushrooms in the original. And, yes, we do bake them in a water bath, which might seem intimidating if you’ve never done it, but, really, it’s as simple as boiling water.
We always choose eggs from pasture-raised hens. They’re more expensive and harder to find (we get ours through the Tucson CSA), but we think they’re better. For the cream or half-and-half, we try to use organic, mainly because it doesn’t contain any odd-sounding ingredients, such as polysorbate 80. We also used organic broccoli, simply because it was cheaper than conventionally grown. And, the shallots; if you don’t have any, just use a mild onion, instead.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter four 6-ounce ramekins and place inside an 8×8-inch baking dish. Or, use six 4-ounce ramekins and a larger baking dish. Whatever you have that fits the number of people you’re serving will be perfect. You do want to have a deep baking dish that will hold the ramekins. It may be tempting just to bake the custards, but they’ll turn out tough and rubbery, instead of smooth and creamy.
Sauté broccoli mixture. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. After a minute or so, it’ll become foamy, the signal to add the shallot. If you wish, you can sprinkle the shallot with a bit a salt and pepper as we often do; otherwise, sauté until tender, about 2 minutes for shallots, a few minutes longer if you’re using onion. Once tender, add the broccoli pieces and sauté until they’re tender, about 7 minutes. If they don’t release much moisture and start to stick, simply add a bit of water while they cook. Just make sure to cook off all the water before adding the garlic. Finally, stir in the garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until you can smell the garlic wafting up, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool.
Make custard. We make our custard in a 2-cup measuring cup with a spout to make it easier to pour, but a small bowl will work, too. Simply whisk together the eggs, yolk, cream, and some salt and pepper until smooth.
Fill ramekins. Divide the custard among the ramekins, followed by the broccoli mixture, which should sink into the custard. Finally, sprinkle each ramekin with cheese which will float on top.
Boil water. Bring about 2 quarts of water to a full boil. We just fill the teakettle (again, because it has a spout, making it easy to pour), and set it on high.
Bake. Pull the middle rack halfway out of the oven and place the baking dish with the ramekins on it. Now, carefully pour boiling water into the baking dish until it comes halfway to two-thirds up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully slide the rack back into the oven, so you don’t spill any water. Let bake for about 25 minutes, or until the custard is set in the middle. Simply touch the center of a custard to check.
Steep. Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven — it’ll still have hot water in it — and place on a cooling rack. Let the custards stand in the water for 20 minutes before serving. This will ensure that the egg custard is cooked all the way through, without overcooking the surface.
Serve. To serve, run a knife around the edges of the ramekins, invert, and the custards will pop right out onto your plates.
We don’t have custards like this very often, so, when we do, they seem like a special treat. And, in some respects, they are. Baking in a water bath means the custard will be smooth and creamy — it’ll be cooked all the way, it just won’t be tough — making an elegant side dish. They are rich, however, and that’s another reason we don’t have them often; it would be too much to have them more than once a month or so. But, they’re easy, so four stars.