- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Looking at the calendar a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see that Easter arrives Sunday, earlier than usual this year. Since our son and his

wife and their two young children spend this holiday with us, I have been busy trying to figure out a menu for this special day while my husband has been absorbed with plans for the egg hunt.

Because we live in New England, he’s keeping his fingers crossed that there will be little snow in our yard, or else the hunt will have to be moved indoors.

After I decided on roast salmon as our main course, I was thinking about side dishes when I remembered a fabulous cauliflower flan that I tasted several months ago in New York at Ouest, a celebrated upper West Side spot.

A savory cauliflower custard garnished with bits of lobster and sauteed chanterelles was a sublime first course.

Although I took notes at the restaurant, I had not gotten around to preparing the flan at home. Now, here was my chance. I would use it as an accompaniment, omitting the lobster and mushrooms.

After several tries, my version was close to that of the Big Apple.

These flans do not take long to assemble. Cooked cauliflower florets are pureed until almost smooth, then combined with a savory custard mixture seasoned with Parmesan cheese and some nutmeg and cayenne.

Baked about 35 minutes until set, the flans can be served when they come out of the oven, or they can be prepared a day ahead and reheated. A single recipe serves 4, but can be doubled easily.

The flans would make a fine garnish to such Easter classics as baked ham or roasted leg of lamb. Or, serve them at an Easter brunch along with smoked trout or salmon and a green salad. At our table, they will be paired with sugar snap peas to garnish the roasted salmon fillets.

Cauliflower and Parmesan flans

About 2 to 3 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened for greasing the ramekins

2 cups cauliflower florets, about 8 ounces

2 large eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup whole milk

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 teaspoons extra for garnish, divided

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon chopped parsley for garnish

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 6-ounce ramekins or souffles. Cover the bottom of each with a parchment circle cut to fit and butter the parchment. Place ramekins in a baking pan large enough to hold them comfortably.

Fill a medium saucepan two-thirds full with lightly salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add cauliflower florets and cook until very tender when pierced with a knife, about 10 minutes.

Drain the florets well in a colander and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Puree the cooked florets in a food processor until almost smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, salt, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Add cauliflower puree and whisk well to combine. Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins. Pour enough boiling water into the baking pan to come half way up sides of ramekins.

Carefully place pan in the oven. Bake until flans are set and a small sharp knife or tester inserted into the centers 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.

Run a sharp knife around the inside edges of the ramekins. Unmold onto a flat work surface and peel off parchment paper. Sprinkle each flan with some remaining Parmesan cheese and some parsley. Makes 4 servings.

Note: If you aren’t certain what size your ramekins are, you can measure them by filling them to the top with water. Six-ounce ones will take 3/4 cup water, 4- ounce ones ½ cup and so on.


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