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)
- 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!)
- 1 baguette
- 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
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:
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.