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“Sformato” sounds more elegant than “Flan of Broccoli”, but I think more people get the idea with the latter name. I know, sounds funky, but vegetable custards have a long tradition. Think of quiche, or frittatas. Pretty much the same thing, just bigger and has a crust. These are a bit more elegant, and work well in a fancy menu as well as every day cuisine. They are easy to add things to, play well with other items on a plate. For instance, I can see laying down a bed of the Carrot Sauce (Using thyme or sage instead of curry.), then putting the flan on top of that, and then drizzling the plate with a balsamic vinegar reduction syrup. Bold colors on the plate and big flavors in the mouth.
3 cups broccoli, florets broken into ½ to ¾ inch pieces, stem bottoms trimmed and stems peeled and sliced ¼ inch thin, well washed
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled, germ removed, and sliced into quarters lengthwise
2 large eggs
2/3 + 1/3 cup cream, half & half, or milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
A pinch of herbs or spices, your choice
-Optional- 1 teaspoon sugar*
Butter for greasing the insides of the ramekins, 1 tablespoon at most
4 6-ounce ramekins
A baking large enough to hold all the ramekins with some space between them and deep enough to hold water half way up the sides of the ramekins without spilling over.
A steamer large enough to accommodate the broccoli
Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter the insides of the ramekins, being sure to get the entire thing, especially where the bottom and side meet. Bring 4-5 cups of water to the boil and turn off. Doing this in a teapot is best, as you will be pouring this around the ramekins with the flan in them in the baking dish, and the spout makes it much easier. Bring a pot of water with the steamer in it to a boil. The water should not touch the bottom of the steamer. Place the garlic in the bottom of the steamer, and then put the broccoli on top of that. Place the lid on and steam for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the steamer with the broccoli from the pot and set aside, allowing the broccoli to cool a little. Crack the eggs into a non-reactive bowl, and whisk well. Add the 2/3rds cup milk and season with salt and pepper and herbs of your choice. Whisk to combine well. Place the broccoli and garlic into a food processor or blender with the remaining 1/3rd cup milk and process until pureed. Check to see that the broccoli is not very hot. If it isn’t, it is time to add the custard base. (If it is still very hot, allow to cool a little more.) Add the egg and milk mixture and whir and process until entirely incorporated. If using the sugar, add it in now with the motor running. Place the empty ramekins into the baking dish. Carefully pour the mixture into the ramekins. There should be just enough to come to the lower inside rim of each ramekin. Get a piece of foil ready that is just large enough to cover the four ramekins together. When the mixture is distributed evenly, open the oven, and pull out a shelf from the middle of the oven. Transfer the baking dish to this shelf, be careful not to spill the custard. Once the dish is on the shelf, carefully pour the hot water into a corner of the dish until the water comes ½ to 2/3rds of the way up the side of the ramekins. Place the foil over the ramekins and carefully slide the shelf into the oven and close the door. Bake for roughly 35 minutes. (Check after 25.) The custard should be set all the way through-when you jiggle the ramekin the center of the custard should not look like it is jiggling also, although the entire thing may move a little in the cup. Also, insert a toothpick and when you pull it out it should come out clean. When done, remove the ramekins from the pan in the oven to a plate and then transfer them to a counter to dry off and cool a little. After 3-4 minutes, pick up a ramekin with a hot pad or towel and run a thin sharp knife around the edge to loosen it. Place a plate over the ramekin and invert the plate, holding the ramekin to the surface of the plate. Set the plate on the table and give the ramekin a tap or two with the heel of a knife. Carefully lift away the ramekin and you should have a nice round flan on the plate. Garnish as you choose and serve hot.
Chef’s Notes and Tips:
*You can make this dish without the sugar and it is fine. I think the addition of a little sugar brings some nuance to the dish, helping to play up the earthiness of the broccoli, but also bring out the sweetness that broccoli has. Also, because people expect a flan to be sweet, the dish may seem flat to some palates without a hint of sugar.
This dish lends itself to additions and variations. You could add a sauté of mushrooms and leeks, and even a little cheese if you wish. Sautéed oyster mushrooms and leeks would be nice with a little soy sauce and ginger added to the custard. Try seasoning the broccoli with cumin and saucing it with the Curried Carrot Sauce. Make the sauce with sage leaves fried in the carrot pan first and then use the fried leaves for garnish at the end, seasoning the broccoli with Herbes de Provence or some coriander and cumin for a Southwestern take. This recipe would work with cauliflower also.
Source: Chef Andrew E Cohen
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