Down East 2013 ©
It’s early November and I have finally gotten around to planting garlic for next year. It’s one of those gorgeous days, leaves blowing, the few final ones that are not piled on the lawn clinging
precariously to the trees. The sun is unusually warm for this time of year and I huddle under the open sky trying to soak up the last meaningful rays.
In the garden there are still leeks, Brussels sprouts, onions, shallots, carrots, and beets. It’s surprising that this many crops can hold on until November, an encouraging sign that growing seasons are lasting longer than they used to. And, despite the terrifying realities of global warming, I couldn’t be happier. It’s always hard to say goodbye to the garden, and give in to the coming darkness and cold. But right now, surrounded by these gorgeous root vegetables that
thrive despite the ever-increasing cold nights, I am ready to believe in cycles and seasons and changing temperatures. What choice do I really have?
The earth is still soft enough to dig easily and the moist, earthy scent is a good one. I pile on some good compost and make several rows. My lower back starts to protest, but I simply tell it to be
quiet. It’s November and there's plenty of time in the coming season for sitting around and being good to one’s lower back. Fresh garlic late next summer is worth the ache. Totally worth it.
I’m planting three varieties this year that a friend brought me from the Common Ground Fair this past September. There is German, Russian, and Phillips. I separate the firm cloves from the garlic heads, and push them, root side down, into the cool earth. I cover them up well, like patting a child beneath their favorite quilt, and wish them a good winter. “See you in the spring,” I tell them, wondering at my sanity.
I have already harvested last years’ crop and been using the pungent, way-stronger-than-store-bought cloves in my cooking nearly every day. I make my ritual vinaigrette for our salad every night by crushing a clove with some good sea salt in the bottom of our well-worn wooden bowl. I add a tablespoon of sharp mustard and a generous grinding of pepper to the crushed garlic and then whisk in some good olive oil and wine vinegar.
I’m saving a good bit of the garlic for Thanksgiving because what’s a turkey if not seasoned liberally with good fresh garden garlic? I’ll roast it and add it to my mashed potatoes and add some to the stuffing. I’ll roast a whole head to “smear” into the turkey gravy. Roasting garlic mellows it out and causes it to become sweet. Not to mention that there’s no better way to make your kitchen smell like a place everyone wants to be.
But one of my favorite new ways to showcase garden garlic is Roasted Garlic, Herb, and Parmesan Custard. This is a rich, bursting-with-flavor dish that can be served as a main course with a good winter salad and crusty bread, or as a side dish to any type of fish, meat, or poultry. I may make it for Thanksgiving, but it might just get lost in that gloriously rich feast. Try it with really fresh local garlic. Your idea of what constitutes a custard is about to change. For the better.
Roasted Garlic, Herb, and Parmesan Custard
This recipes come from my brand new book, Stonewall Kitchen Winter Celebrations (by Jonathan King, Jim Stott and Kathy Gunst, Chronicle Books, 2009). It’s just the sort of side dish or first course you crave during the holidays — something with a large “Wow” factor that requires very little time or effort. These savory custards have a silky, creamy texture with the rich taste of roasted garlic, herbs, and cheese. They are a perfect accompaniment to roast beef, lamb, or
poultry, or can be served as a first course or on top of an assortment of mixed greens.
The custard can be made ahead of time and kept, covered, in the refrigerator for several hours. To reheat, carefully wrap the custards in foil and heat in a 350 degree oven for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until warm.
Olive or canola oil spray for the muffin tray
1 head garlic, with 1/4-inch cut off the top to just expose the cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup low fat milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 6 muffin tins with the oil, making sure to grease the bottom and sides of the tin.
Place the garlic in a small ovenproof skillet and pour the oil on top. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the garlic, or until the cloves feel soft when you gently press them. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes. Squeeze the cloves out of the skin.
In the container of a food processor, pulse the garlic until almost smooth. Add the eggs, egg yolk, herbs, salt, and pepper and process until well blended. With the motor still running, add the cream and milk and blend until smooth. Add the cheese and blend another 30 seconds.
Bring a pot of water to boil.
Place the prepared muffin tin into a shallow roasting pan. Divide the custard mixture into the prepared muffin tin. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come almost half way up the sides of the muffin tin. Loosely cover with foil. Roast the custard about 25 minutes, or until the centers feel firm to the touch. Remove the muffin tin from the oven and let the custards cool down for a few minutes. Use a flat kitchen knife to loosen the custard from the side and bottom of the tin. Place a large plate over the tin and carefully invert to release the custards. Serve warm or at room temperature.