Corn Custard with Greens and Country Ham
Holly Hill Inn, Midway, KY
With its green, pink, and yellow contrasts, this dish is very pretty, and the play of bitter greens, salty ham, and sweet, rich corn custard is delicious. Because we tested the recipe in the dead of winter, we were forced to make do with frozen corn. Frankly, we were skeptical. But even with frozen corn, the dish had us licking our lips. Ouita Michel, by the way, advises that if frozen is the only option, be sure to use white shoe peg corn. If you prefer, the custard can be baked in a single glass dish rather than individual ramekins. And you can vary the apple cider gastrique with a little salt, sugar, or bourbon; the finished syrup will keep in the refrigerator, she says, for "a long time." Any extra can be used as the base for a salad dressing.
- 1 quart fresh apple cider
- 1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar
- 3 cups corn, about 9 ears corn, or 1-pound frozen white shoe peg corn
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 tablespoon suger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/3 pound thinly shaved country ham
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil, or more
- 2 bunches turnip, mustard, or collard greens or kale, shredded
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
To make the apple cider gastrique, combine the cider and the vinegar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook the liquid at a rapid simmer until it is slightly thickened and has reduced to about 3/4 cup. This will take an hour or longer.
To make the corn custard, put a kettle on to boil to use for a bain-marie (water bath). Butter 6 to 8 individual, 4-ounce ramekins.
If using fresh corn, scrape the kernels off the cobs, "milking" the ears with the back of your knife. Set aside. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the milk, cream, butter, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the corn and its "milk" and stir to combine. Pour the corn mixture into the prepared ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking dish. Pour hot water in the baking dish about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 45 minutes or longer, until the eggs are set and a knife inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean. Remove the custards from the bain-marie.
To make the salad greens, heat the peanut oil in a large sauté pan. Add the greens and sauté until very tender and wilted, at least 20 minutes. They will cook down quite a bit. Season with salt and pepper and toss with several large spoonfuls of the warm apple cider gastrique.
To serve, divide the greens up among 6 to 8 plates. Turn the warm custards out over the greens. Drape each plate with some ham. Drizzle with additional gastrique.