The story on this one goes back to mid-December, when aamandarin and I found ourselves as we always do in mid-December, in the private dining room at Picholine with her family in advance of going to see The Nutcracker at the NYC Ballet.
However *this* year there was something new on our menu.
I thought I would lose my mind at the concept.
You can see it peeking out behind Amanda's lamb medallions. If you click through to the original photo, you can see I was pretty excited by this idea. I vowed to deconstruct it right then and there.
It just took me a while to get around to it.
Now, before we get to the inevitable lj cut and the recipe/photos to follow, I want to say some unusual things for a food comm:
There's a lot of really good reasons *NOT* to make this.
-it's time consuming.
-it's a pain in the ass.
Seriously, this is not a recipe for anyone tired, pressed for time, or not fond of complex cooking. It's *also* not something for anyone who really doesn't LOVE garlic, because your hands and your house are going to smell like it for a while.
So if you're still with me,
This recipe will make six servings.
three heads of garlic(this is not a typo, people.)
2 1/4 cups of heavy cream
1 1/2 cups of whole milk (do not used any reduced fat milk.)
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/4 cup grated romano cheese
3 oz (half a small can) of tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp of fresh basil(see recipe for details)
optional 1 tsp. of sugar
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tbs melted butter
hot (but not boiling) water
The first thing you need to do is roast the three heads of garlic. I've already covered that in this comm, and you can find those directions here.
Fortunately, you can do this ahead of time since this takes a while (granted, it's a lot of just sitting around, but there's a lot of cooking time involved.)
Once you have your three heads of garlic all roasted up and ready, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then take one up of milk and 1 1/2 heads worth of the roasted garlic(that's still not a typo.) and put them in a food processor with 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/8 tsp. of white pepper and 1/4 cup of grated romano cheese. Now, I used romano because it's what I had in the house. I'm sure a lot of other cheeses will work just fine, but they need to be strongly flavored. Mild cheeses need not apply here. A well aged gouda could do it, but mozzarella can't. So use whatever cheese you want, as long as it packs a good kick in the ass, because otherwise the taste will just get lost. But anyway, back to the cheese. Add all four ingredients into a food processor or blender. Process until it's as smooth as you can get it. Pulse away, folks. No lumps or chunks, as these will affect the texture later on.
When you've gotten all this stuff blended, put this mixture in a heavy, medium saucepan with
1 3/4 cup heavy cream. Heat this over medium heat, stirring, until it reaches a simmer. Do not overboil it. Make sure to keep it moving. Once it reaches a simmer, take it OFF the heat and leave it alone. You have other things to do.
This is what it looks like after it comes off the heat, only not quite as blurry. You can see some roasted garlic flecks in there, but they're not lumpy, which is the key here. It's okay for there to be flecks, but you want this to be lumpless.
While those flavors are busy combining as they cool we'll make sauce.
Mix 3 oz. of tomato paste, 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of cream in a bowl. Then take a small handful of fresh basil leaves and process them until they're very fine, along with 1/2 head of roasted garlic(still, not a typo.). How much is a small handful? This much:
This makes, when processed, about 1 1/2 tsp of fresh basil. Why did I use basil and not something else? Because I have more basil in this house than I can possibly use, thanks to my Aerogarden(no, seriously, the purple basil killed everything else off because it hogged up all the light.) You can decide whatever your lucky herb of the day is for yourself.
Mix this with the tomato mixture, and add salt and white pepper to taste.
this next step is optional.
I am not, personally, a big fan of tomatoes. I find them to be very bitter and in general I avoid them when I can. That being said, when I use tomatoes, I generally add sugar to them to make them more palatable to me. You don't have to. I'm just saying I do, so right about here is where I tossed in a teaspoon of sugar to make them less bitter. Again, this is optional. The sugar police are not going to come to your house and find you if you don't do it.
This is what it all looks like when it's done:
As you can see, it's very thick, so don't be surprised by that.
Next thing you need to do is get the custard ready.
Whisk the eggs and egg yolks in a bowl until they're just blended. Try not to whisk too hard- you're trying to avoid bubbles. A little at a time, add the warm garlic/cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking gently as you go. Don't do this all at once as you risk scrambling the eggs. Go slowly. When you have it all whisked up together, set it aside.
Take six ramekins and brush the interior of each one with melted butter. It will take about 1 tbs. worth to do it. I used unsalted, mostly because it's what I had. I don't think it makes any difference, though. Then place the ramekins in a deep-sided dish.
Divide the remaining half-head of roasted garlic amongst the ramekins. Add a pinch of romano cheese atop the garlic.
Once that's done, spoon about two teaspoons of the tomato sauce in over the top of that. You will have sauce left over. You're supposed to.
Then carefully ladle the custard mixture into each ramekin. Go slowly, so the tomato parts stay on the bottom(they should anyway, because they're much denser, but just go slow.)
You can see in this photo that there's two distinct layers. That's what you want.
I strongly suggest at this point putting the tray in the oven, far back enough so that the rack isn't tipping forward. Ignore me at your peril, people.
Add enough hot (but not boiling) water to the tray to come up about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Close the oven door, and walk away (I suggest doing dishes) for 40 minutes.
When you come back, this is what you'll find in your oven:
Carefully take the tray out of the oven and let them set for a couple of minutes.
To serve, put a teaspoon of sauce in the center of a small plate, gently run a knife around the edges of the ramekin (really it doesn't take much to dislodge these at all) and do a quick flip. If you did it right, it's not all over you or your kitchen. If it is... well, you're doing it wrong.
Obviously, I garnished mine with a little basil.
ETA: I think they're actually better the next day. The garlic flavor is much stronger, and they unmold more neatly (and can be reheated __GENTLY__- don't use the "high" setting on your microwave) without loss of texture. I used four minutes with a medium setting.