Asparagus Custard

By Jacques Pépin, from Fast Food My Way (2004)

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients                                                                                             

1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed and bottom half of stalks peeled with a vegetable peeler
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
3 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Photo by Catherine Murray

Photo by Catherine Murray

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in an ovenproof skillet. Add the asparagus, bring the water back to a boil, and cook over high heat, covered, for 2–3 minutes, until the asparagus is tender but still firm when pierced with the point of a sharp knife. Drain and place the asparagus on a cutting board. Set the skillet aside.

Cut off the top 3 inches of the asparagus stalks and set these tips aside for garnishing. Cut the remaining stalks into 1-inch pieces and put them in a food processor with the garlic. Process for 10 to 15 seconds, until puréed. Add the eggs, cream, most of the salt (the rest is for the tips) and pepper. Process for 10 seconds.

Heat the oven to 350º. Using about ½ tablespoon of the butter, butter four small custard cups, soufflé molds or ovenproof glass dishes, each with a capacity of about a ½ cup. Divide the asparagus mixture among the molds and arrange them in the reserved skillet with enough tepid tap water to come halfway up the sides of the cups.

Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 25–30 minutes, until the custards are set and the point of a knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. Remove the cups from the water bath and let rest for 10 minutes before unmolding.

Split the reserved asparagus tips lengthwise, put them in a skillet or an ovenproof microwavable bowl, and add the remaining dash of salt and the remaining 1½ tablespoons butter. Heat gently in the skillet on top of the stove, or in the bowl in the regular oven or microwave oven, until hot.

At serving time, unmold the custards onto four individual plates and arrange the asparagus tips on top. Serve immediately.