I love to take things from the sweet side of the kitchen and use them as a savory dish and the following recipe is an example.
1 medium-small pumpkin, about 3 pounds, split and seeded
1-2 heads of garlic, broken up into individual cloves*
4 large eggs
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1-2 teaspoons fresh chopped marjoram or thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
A pinch of nutmeg
A little butter for the ramekins
*A lot of garlic, yes. But, roasting will sweeten the garlic and mitigate the heat.
Heat the oven to 425°F. Butter the inside of eight 4 ounce ramekins and set aside.
Lightly oil the inside of the pumpkin and place on a foil lined baking sheet, cut sides down. Put the cloves of garlic under the pumpkin halves and roast until the pumpkin is softening. Check the garlic after fifteen minutes to see if it is soft. (The garlic may be soft well before the pumpkin is done. Remove it from the oven when it is soft.) When the pumpkin is softened, turn it over and roast it until softened completely and edges are caramelized. Remove from the oven, and turn down the oven to 350°F.
As soon as the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh from the shell into a bowl. Allow the pulp to cool to room temperature. Save any liquid that may have accumulated in the sheet pan.
Peel the garlic cloves — if they are really soft, just snip the root end off and squeeze the paste out.
Transfer the pumpkin pulp and garlic to a food processor or blender, and pulse to break up. Add the eggs, herbs, and salt and pepper, and purée until mixture is smooth. Add the cream and pulse or blend gently to mix in.
Set the ramekins into a baking dish or roasting pan, and carefully ladle the custard into the ramekins. Add enough hot water to the pan to come half-way up the sides of the ramekins and then loosely cover with foil. Place in middle of the 350°F oven.
Bake the covered ramekins for 30 minutes. Check to see how they are progressing. The custards should be almost set. Uncover the custards and give one a little jiggle. It should be mostly set, with a little area in the center that is still liquid. The custards are done when the sides seem firm and the center area moves a little, but is no longer liquid. If custard is still liquid in the center, Re-cover the custards and continue cooking another 10-15 minutes, until the center is set.
When the custards are done, remove the pan from the oven. Allow the custards to cool a few minutes to set up before serving. If you are not serving right away, keep the custards warm and loosely covered until ready.
When ready to serve, you can either leave the custards in the cups to serve or unmolded (as I prefer). To unmold, run a thin sharp knife around the edge and using a dry towel to hold the ramekin, place a plate over the ramekin and turn it over and set it on the counter. Give it a tap on the plate and it should unmold.
To garnish the custard, drizzle a little pumpkin seed or pistachio oil around the plate, and add a few drops of an aged Balsamic vinegar. Top with a sprig of the herbs used in the custard and you are ready to serve.
To Make Ahead:
If you wish, you can make these a day ahead. Cover the baked custards with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to use, allow custards come to room temperature first. Place into a large saut√© pan with enough cold water to come about a 1/2 inch from the rim of the ramekin, and gently bring to an easy simmer. Heat for 15-20 minutes or until warm. To check the temperature, insert a thin bladed knife or metal skewer through the plastic into the custard and leave it there for five seconds. Remove and touch to the area below the bottom lip (carefully!) with the blade. The custard will be as hot as the knife is, so if they are quite hot, beware of your lip!
Chef Notes and Tips:
- If you wish, you can peel and blanch the cloves in garlic in 3 successive changes of water for a subtler, purer garlic flavor. To this, put the cloves into a small pan with water, and bring to a boil. Do this twice more, cooking the garlic for 3 minutes the third time, and the garlic is ready to use.
- If you'd like to use sage or rosemary in place of the thyme or marjoram, I recommend warming some of the cream with about a tablespoon of sliced sage or chopped rosemary for several minutes to flavor the cream and then straining the herbs out.
- Adding a few drops of truffle oil to the custard is a nice touch, but go lightly.
YIELD: Serves 8