As we packed our home to get the floors done and walls painted, I put some books into storage and others into cabinets to keep them safe. This process reminded me how what I see depends more on my state of mind than what is there to be seen. Whether it is just noticing the lines of a building that has been on my running path as long as it has been my running path or, in this case, noticing a recipe in a book that I have been sussing out for ages, but had not been able to find, it is good to remember that sometimes things are hidden in plain sight. The recipe that I found was a custard made of foie and the book was one of the books that I look through most, The Art of Living According to Joe Beef.
It is not that I have foie gras, or even foie gras ends, hanging around the house looking to be used, but I found the idea of a savory custard made from the last of a rich, fatty piece of charcuterie to be an interesting idea and a good way to stretch a bit of treasures that I have sitting in my fridge. I had some of that treasure in mind as well in some nduja from meat stars, Good Food award winners and all-around great guys, Craig Deihl and Bob Cook of Cypress in Charleston. I had enough for me, but not quite enough to share. For a quick picnic lunch for two, on the floor no less since the furniture was gone, I thought that the spicy, spreadable sausage had a very similar softness in texture and richness to whipped goose liver, and because of that thought that a custard application might be not far off.
Now, I am a home cook. I may be adventurous, but I am just a basic home cook with home cook skills and a home cook kitchen. When I was making enough ice cream to feed an army, I was making a custard base on the regular, but I never took the actual step of making baked custard, so this was kind of a guess. I knew that the ratio should be 2 parts liquid for each part egg by weight (Ruhlman’s Ratio app in invaluable and possibly the most underrated, or at least underdiscussed, food app around). Based on how I was adding a solid, of which I would lose some in the straining process, I opted for a slightly higher ratio.
Three ingredients. You could add more, but why would you? Simply heat the nduja and custard until your pan holds a bright orange, plasma-textured custard base, then add it to an egg in the blender. Pureed the mixture, making sure to keep the lid on. Scrape the custard from the blender jar through a strainer into a bowl, the scrape the bowl into an oven safe jar or cup. Cook the custard in a bain-marie until it sets then chill it.
The punch-you-in-the-throat heat of the nduja paired with the smooth, custardy texture was a great juxtaposition. You almost expect the heat to be less, but it is not. The slightly sour taste from the early fermentation becomes more present in the custard and takes on, with the dairy and egg, almost like a balls-out fantastic cheesiness. The heat is still all there though. We ate the custard with some slightly bitter, baby greens dressed in smoked rye vinegar and tinned sardines. I like the flavor of nduja when paired with strongly flavored sea creatures and seem to always have a tin of sardines or mackerel at the ready.
It seems, if by not looking, I was able to find my custard path much easier than when I was searching for a way to whip non-foie savory foods into a custard. Being a presser by nature, I am seemingly pushing at most moments, taking the foot off of the gas is not easy, but the benefits are clear in this instance since sometimes that focus keeps you from seeing what you need to.
- 3 oz. nduja
- 3 oz. heavy cream
- 1 egg
Step one: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a sauce pan, heat nduja and heavy cream until nduja melts in the cream and they are homogeneously orange.
Step two: Combine in a blender with an egg and puree. Strain mixture through a sieve in a bowl. Put a tea kettle on with some water.
Step three: Pour into an oven safe cup/jar or if you want to be fancy into a parbaked Quiche crust. Place kitchen towel into a roasting pan or casserole.
Step four: Place cup(s) of nduja mixture on the kitchen towel and place in preheated oven. Pour hot water into roasting pan/casserole until it comes 50-75% of the way up the side of cup.
Step five: Cook until just set (30-45 minutes). Remove from oven and bain-marie. Once cooled to room temperature, cover and chill in the fridge.