Monday, March 21, 2011

Feasting on Art Recipe Contest: Parmigiano Custard with Caramelized Onions, Crostini and Simple Salad

As a sculptor and eating enthusiast, I was very excited when I first stumbled across Megan Fizell's fantastic Feasting on Art blog. Megan combines my two favorite things with a directness and intelligence that is wonderfully accessible. When the recipe contest featured cheese, I just had to give it a try! I am a woman who is passionate about my cheese. The boyfriend and I don't eat much meat, and I'd say cheese is our featured protein in more meals than its not. I like to cook, and the boyfriend is a talented shutterbug, so with our powers combined, the following is our entry to the Feasting on Art recipe contest inspired by Floris Gerritsz van Schooten's A Still Life of Cheese.

Floris Gerritsz van Schooten, A Still Life of Cheese, c.1585
oil on oak panel, 39.3 x 55.2 cm, Private collection

Parmigiano Custard with Caramelized Onions, Crostini and Simple Salad

(Custard adapted from Gourmet)

For custards

  • 2½ oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, coarsely grated (1¼ cups)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of white pepper

For onion topping

  • ½ large sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried red currants (optional; we couldn't find any anywhere!)

For crostini

  • 1 baguette

For salad

  • Mixed greens
  • Tomatoes (optional, they added a nice color to our spread and I think tomatoes always pair well with cheese)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • salt
  • pepper

Make custards:

Bring cheese, cream, and milk just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and steep, covered, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Pour steeped cream through a very fine sieve into a bowl, pressing lightly on cheese solids and discarding them. Whisk together whole egg, yolks, salt, and white pepper in another bowl, then add steeped cream in a stream, whisking until smooth. Divide among ramekins.

Set ramekins in a baking pan and bake in a hot water bath in middle of oven until centers of custards are completely set, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer ramekins to a rack and cool 5 minutes.

Make caramelized onions while custards bake:

picture of the caramelized onions

Chop onion until pieces are roughly 1-2cm long. Melt butter in pan, then add onion (and optional currants). Cook until onion is soft and translucent, aprx. 8-10 minutes. Add brown sugar, cook another 4-6 minutes stirring constantly.

When custards have been removed from oven and cooled, top each evenly with onion mixture.

Make crostini while custards bake:

This part is easy: bias-cut the baguette (a fancy way of saying cut it at an angle), and toast. Crostini are often brushed with oil, but I find the custard is rich enough that its nice to leave the bread plain.

Make salad while custards bake (the custards take a while to bake):

Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar (aprx. 2:1 ratio) and dijon mustard (a large dollop) with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with greens and chopped tomatoes.

Serve and enjoy!

As a parting note, my artistic work deals directly with food as a sculptural material. There are complex commonalities between food and art, and it is always inspiring to me to see others exploring those connections.