- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One of my culinary assistants was especially excited about some savory little custards I asked her to test recently. When I sent her the recipe for Parmesan flans, I had envisioned them as a first course to begin a fall dinner, but when her critique came back, she mentioned that she had served them (with great success) as brunch fare.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of that myself. The minute I read her note, I could see how well these special flans would work as the centerpiece of a weekend brunch.

Eggs, creme fraiche and half-and-half give the custards their silken, smooth texture, while freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, rosemary and a pinch of cayenne pepper provide subtle but distinctive flavorings.

The flans take just a few minutes to assemble, then are baked in a water bath for a little more than half an hour. They can be served as soon as they come out of the oven, or they can be cooked a day ahead and reheated when needed.

As a garnish, I used some extra Parmigiano-Reggiano to make thin little crisps. I simply mixed grated cheese with a touch of flour and rosemary, then quickly added spoonfuls of this mixture to a hot skillet where the cheese melted and turned golden and crunchy.

Served in individual ramekins with a Parmesan crisp and a rosemary sprig tucked into the center of each, these delectable creations are a stylish entree for a midmorning get-together. They are essentially quiches without the crusts and much easier to prepare because there’s no dough.

I am planning to serve these custards to overnight company scheduled for a visit soon. As sides, I’ll add a platter of sliced prosciutto and an arugula salad tossed in a red wine dressing, along with a bowl of fresh fruit for dessert. Oh, and eventually I’ll get around to using the flans to begin an autumn dinner party, but first they’re making an appearance at brunch.

Savory Parmesan flans with Parmesan crisps

Butter for greasing the ramekins

4 large eggs

1 cup creme fraiche

1 cups half-and-half

3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Generous pinch (1/16 teaspoon) cayenne pepper

Water Parmesan crisps (Recipe follows)

6 fresh rosemary sprigs

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 6 -cup ramekins, souffles or custard cups. Place ramekins in a baking pan large enough to hold them in a single layer.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, creme fraiche, half-and-half, cheese, rosemary, salt and cayenne pepper until well mixed. Transfer the cream mixture to a 4-cup or larger measuring cup with a spout and pour it into the ramekins, filling them almost to the top.

Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to come half way up sides of ramekins. Carefully place the pan in the oven. Bake until flans are set and a small, sharp knife or tester inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

Using potholders, remove the ramekins from the pan to a cooling rack for 5 minutes. (The flans can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and reheat, uncovered, on a baking sheet in a preheated 350 degree oven, about 15 minutes.) To serve, place a flan on each of 6 salad plates. Tuck a Parmesan crisp upright into the center of each flan and garnish with a rosemary sprig. Makes 6 servings.


3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 tablespoon flour

teaspoon dried crushed rosemary

Olive oil

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Mix cheese, flour and dried rosemary in a mixing bowl. Place a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon oil, or just enough to coat the bottom. Heat until oil is hot enough that a drop of water sprinkled in the pan pops and splatters.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the pan, then, with the back of the spoon, flatten the mixture into an even, thin layer. It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle.

Cook in batches of 2 to 3, watching carefully until the cheese bubbles and melts and just begins to turn a golden color, 45 to 60 seconds. With a metal spatula, carefully flip over each round and cook 15 to 20 seconds or until just beginning to crisp up on the edges. Remove crisps to baking sheet.

Continue until all the cheese mixture is used, adding more oil if needed and lowering heat slightly if the crisps begin to cook too fast. You should get 10 to 12 crisps, but don’t worry if you have trouble with the first 2 or 3. You’ll have plenty to serve and quickly will get the hang of it. (Crisps can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover loosely with foil and leave at cool room temperature.)

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of “Big Book of Backyard Cooking” (Chronicle Books).


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide