"Some of the most memorable moments of the LA production of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ happened backstage. Long before ‘Food TV,’ the cast, crew and orchestra often held cooking competitions, one of which produced a cookbook, Fun With Garlic! I created a garlic, ricotta and vanilla custard that is surprisingly easy to make. Delicate and savory, this custard can be made ahead of time and is sublime paired with a glass of creamy Champagne."
6 caramelized cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons oil
Butter to grease cups, about 1 teaspoon
1 vanilla pod
1 tablespoon applesauce or ¼ apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3 large eggs
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated
Pinch of ground nutmeg
To Caramelize the Garlic: preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut top of garlic head to expose cloves. Peel away just the outer layer of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves. Wrap loosely in foil and drizzle over the oil. Pinch the foil closed at the top, place in a baking pan and cook in oven for 30 – 35 minutes until squishy, caramelized and golden brown.
For the Custard Cups: butter 6 small, 4-ounce custard cups. Set inside a baking dish large enough to hold the cups. Cut the vanilla pod in half but don’t split and scrape it, to keep the custard ivory colored. Squeeze 6 caramelized garlic cloves into a saucepan and add applesauce, vanilla pod, cream, milk, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring just to a simmer, turn off heat and cool about 20 minutes.
Turn the oven to 325°F.
In a large pitcher, whisk the eggs well, add the ricotta. Place a strainer over the pitcher and strain the milk mixture into the eggs, pressing the garlic through with the back of a spoon. Discard the vanilla pod or rinse, dry and save for another use. Add Parmesan, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and whisk together.
Pour custard into cups. Lift pan into the oven, then fill with very hot water to come halfway up the outside of the cups. Bake for 20 minutes until custard has browned and set but is still jiggly in the center. Serve warm.