Upon checking my site stats this morning, I learned that a number of recent visits to secret menu came by way of a WordPress site organized around the tag “complaining.” Curious, I clicked the link and up popped the following header:
So, okay, remember the copycat game everyone played when they were little? When someone would just mercilessly imitate you in falsetto for 15 minutes until you became irate? “Stop it!” “Stop it!” “I’m serious!” “I’m serious!” And then you realized that you could only make them stop if you said nasty things about yourself? “I eat worm poop!” “I eat…” My point is that we all learn early on that imitation, as much as our species might be inclined toward it, has a dark side. And getting featured on a tag roundup organized around the theme of complaining is a little bit like hearing myself mimicked in falsetto: “Waaaah, I’m sad! I don’t like diet food! I eat cereal for dinner on Friday nights!”
It does put things in perspective, though. I mean, with a carton of half and half and two egg yolks in the fridge from yesterday’s omelet (don’t bother to ask me where the third egg yolk went — I’m no snitch), along with a crisper full of fresh herbs and a shelf full of cheese, I should be complaining less and cooking brunch more. It’s Sunday. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. I drank a little too much semillon last night and have rings of mascara around my eyes, but feel a lot better than I thought I would. I’m wearing one of JM’s tee shirts. Coffee is brewing in the press. And I’m going to tag this post “not complaining,” along with other nice things like “ponies” and “universal health care.” And hopefully the internet will get the idea, and permit me to form an opinion of myself based on a different set of externally imposed criteria.
Savory Baked Custard
Ingredients (per ramekin):
-two egg yolks
-1/2 cup cream (if you’re in it to win it), half and half (if you’re on the fence), or milk (if you want to live past fifty)
-fresh herbs (I used a few sprigs of thyme)
-a little salt
-ground white pepper (black is fine, but white is perfect for this if you have it)
-a few tbs of grated cheese (I used Toscana)
-butter (for greasing the ramekin)
The first step is to either remove the highest rack in your oven, or just move it lower, so that you have a rack somewhere in the middle with space on top and no hot metal to navigate around as you put things in or take things out. Take a large casserole dish and fill it up with about an inch of water, and put it in the oven. Set it to 300 °F and let it preheat while you work the rest of your preparatory brunch magic.
Put the cream/half and half/milk in a small saucepan with the herbs. You don’t need to chop them because they’re going to get strained out anyway. Put the heat on the lowest setting and stir the milk constantly until it steams. Keep stirring. If it simmers a bit it’s fine, but don’t let it come to a boil. When the edges start bubbling a lot, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit on the stove top to cool.
It doesn’t matter if your egg yolks have a bit of white attached to them. It’s all going to work out beautifully, I promise. I mean, you’re having custard for breakfast. Life is good. Put the yolks, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl with a spout (or anything that liquid can be poured out of without making a huge mess), and mix. Now butter your ramekin/s and grate your cheese on to a plate.
When the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm or room temperature, strain it into the yolk mixture. Mix well, and pour into the buttered ramekin/s. Top with a bit of cheese (it will melt almost immediately in the oven, but that’s fine) and then carefully place it in the dish full of water in the oven.
I was only making one ramekin, so it took about 25 minutes, but more ramekins may take a few more minutes to bake. Also, it’s important to check on it from time to time, because custard made with cream sets faster than ones made with milk. When the top of the custard begins to brown, remove it from the oven and top with the rest of the cheese. The end result tastes like a cross between crème brulée and winning the Nobel prize.