Parmesan Custards with Fava Bean Purée


These delicate but decadent parmesan custards, drizzled with an emerald purée of fresh baby fava beans, make an outstanding first course or elegant luncheon. The rich, cheesy custards are balanced by the earthy, herbaceous flavor of the fava beans. To show off the sauce and your presentation, invert the cheese custards onto individual plates. This dish is best served warm, but the custards are remarkably durable and can be reheated in the microwave the next day, if you have any left over.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup shelled baby favabeans (skins removed)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus more for greasing ramekins)
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  Salt and white pepper (to taste)
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg white


Melt the butter in a small skillet or saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic, fava beans, chicken stock, and salt. Simmer over low heat until the beans are soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Don't allow the beans to cook too rapidly or too long, otherwise they'll lose their bright color. Add water to the pan if necessary to prevent the beans from drying out and sticking to the pan.

Drain the liquid from the beans, if any, and reserve. Purée the mixture in a blender until smooth, adding the reserved cooking liquid (or water) as needed to thin the sauce a bit. Stir in the lemon juice and season with more salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Set aside. The purée can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, covered. Reheat gently before serving.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Fill a baking pan with hot water to create a bain-marie. The ramekins should fit comfortably in the pan, and the level of the water should come two-thirds up the sides of the ramekins. Put the bain-marie in the oven without the ramekins, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. The water in the bain-marie will heat as the oven warms to temperature. Generously butter six 1/2-cup ramekins and set aside.

Place the milk in a small saucepan and bring to the start of a simmer over low heat. In another medium-size pan, melt the 2-1/2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, to form a roux, about 3 minutes. Don't allow the roux to color. Slowly whisk in the warm milk, and cook the sauce, stiffing frequently, until it thickens enough to coat a spoon, 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the cheese and cook until it melts. Remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a large mixing bowl and let it cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and whisk until blended. In another clean, dry bowl, beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks. Add the yolks to the sauce and stir to blend. Fold the egg white into the sauce.

Divide the custard among the prepared ramekins. Carefully place the ramekins into the hot water bath. Cook until the custards are set in the middle and the tops are puffed and cracked, 20 to 25 minutes.

Carefully remove the ramekins from the bain-marie and let them cool for 3 or 4 minutes. To unmold the custards, run a thin knife around the edges of the ramekin. Place a clean plate atop each ramekin, then invert both together. Gently remove the ramekin. If the fava bean purée has cooled, gently warm it over low heat. Spoon some of the sauce around each custard and serve immediately.


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