Cooking, Cooking & Eating, Sweet

Saffron Custard

Happy Superbowl everybody! If anybody cares about my prediction for the big game, here it is: the Boston Bruins are going to beat the New York Knicks, 5-3 in double overtime.

I kid, I kid. The truth of the matter is that I know nothing about football. I don’t know who the players are. And aside from the Cowboys and the Raiders, I’d be hard pressed to name a team. But I respect that you (dear readers!) do care about these things. And I will refrain from mocking you for it. I myself love baseball. And I have often felt the sting of barbs aimed at its hallowed (if slightly slow-paced) traditions.

Meanwhile, while I don’t know football, this whole Superbowl thing has gotten me thinking about food. Not game-time munchies. Wings aren’t really my thing. But the spirit of game-time munchies: comfort food.

Since I got back from my academic foray earlier this week, I have not quite felt myself. I’ve been run down, listless. I’ve had little attention span, and even less of a desire to cook. And so I thought to myself: what better way to get back into the swing of things than by making one of those dishes from my childhood that made me feel loved, or well-taken-care-of, or something like that.

It’s not quite nachos, or pork rinds, or those little sliders that were so popular a couple of years ago as the big game approached. But it may be the dessert equivalent thereof. And it is certainly the closest that I can come to it.

Today’s experiment (as the MST3K folks so aptly put it), is custard. My mother’s custard, when I was a kid, was done with nutmeg, and a layer of caramel on the bottom. But I can’t leave well enough alone. And I do so love the flavor of saffron. And so that is what I’m making here. Saffron custard.

2 cups Milk
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of Saffron (about 15 strands)

Preheat your oven to 300F, and boil a liter of water in a kettle. In a large baking dish, arrange five small ramekins.

Over a low flame, heat the milk and saffron together for about 10 minutes, until it comes to a low simmer (about 180F), then turn off the flame, and allow the saffron to steep for another 10 minutes. While it is steeping, add your eggs and egg yolks to a separate bowl, and beat lightly.

When the saffron has steeped, add the sugar to the milk, and heat again over a low flame, just until the sugar is dissolved and the milk is steaming. Pour the milk-sugar mixture through a sieve, onto the eggs, beating vigorously with a whisk to make sure that the eggs don’t curdle. Pour the mixture again through a sieve into a four-cup beaker (this time to make sure that any curdled bits are strained out). And then pour the mixture, in even quantities, into your ramekins.

Into the baking dish, pour the boiling water, making sure that it comes no more than halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Then place the baking dish into the oven and cook for 55-60 minutes, until the center of each custard cup is just a bit jiggly.

Chill thoroughly, and serve with crushed pistachios.