parmesan pudding: for the haters and lovers ::::
It is an irrefutable fact that Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is one of the greatest foods ever. Before its lengthy two year aging process, the only addition to grass fed cow’s milk is salt. That’s it! What power it has to enhance the cheese’s flavor: sharp, but nutty, sometimes fruity, and the ever-sought after umami.
What better way to enjoy it but in a pudding. That’s right, pudding. Savory eggy pudding. My interest was piqued when paging through Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Cheese. Pudding. Together. Parmesan cheese. Even better. I spooned some warm custard into small, pretty bowls with a drizzle of basil oil and a few shavings of fresh Parmesan. Immediate comfort food for me.
Only in Bizzarro world could a custard involve so many numbers. In my attempt to get this recipe right the first time, I embarked on a journey in mathematics to ensure proper cooking time with my chosen bakeware. The original recipe called for a 8 x 6-inch pan which I did not have. Since I wanted my pudding to cook properly according to the given directions, I calculated the area of the rectangular pan (Area of rectangle = length x width = 8 x 6 = 48 inches squared) and my circular pan (Area of circle = π r squared = 3.14 x 3.5 = 38 inches squared.) To be even more anal retentive and complete, I also wanted to calculate the volume of fluid in the rectangle (technically a cube since it’s three dimensional) and of a cylinder. Since I could not measure how much liquid I had in the rectangular pan as I didn’t have the pan, I couldn’t determine height (of the custard).
I could, however, do so in the circular pan. But then what? I’d have nothing to compare it to. I referred to the Joy of Baking website for pan size conversions here to estimate cook time. Since my pan made the custard deeper than in the original recipe’s pan, this would theoretically cause less evaporation and therefore longer cook time. Since the circular pan was smaller by area than the original recipe’s pan, thus making the custard “taller,” I cooked the pudding a little longer (65 minutes instead of the 60 minutes recommended). I did also checked the jiggle before I extended cooking time, to make sure I wasn’t overcooking it.
But wait, another problem: Physics. I hate when recipes say “pour water until halfway up the baking pan.” When I look at the baking dish, I can’t really tell how deep the water is. The reason? Light refraction. It occurs when a light ray changes mediums, say light traveling from air and into water. Because of the change in mediums, the speed of light of the light ray changes, also changing the direction of the light ray, and thus confusing the eye with distortion. If you’re like me and want to truly get halfway up the baking dish with the water, measure it first, make a mark on the dish with something heatproof (a smear of oil or flour?), then pour water to mark. With all of this overthinking, I was pleased with the results. It was perfect and it was the first time I made this dish. Score.
Math and wordplay is what it takes to make and eat this pudding. And I don’t even like to do math! Definitely some Bizarro World going on here.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1¾ cups 2% milk
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1¼ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- kosher salt
- basil oil, for drizzling (recipe to be posted tomorrow)
- Preheat the oven 350 degrees F.
- Heat a medium pot over medium heat for 1 minute, then add butter. When it foams, whisk in the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Cook for 5 minutes, not allowing the flour to brown.
- Slowly pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly to incorporate it. The butter and flour will get pasty at first, but whisk vigorously to make smooth. Cook a few more minutes, when it is warm to the touch (not hot).* Remove pan from heat.
- Whisk eggs and yolk in small bowl. Slowly drizzle the eggs into the cream mixture, whisking continously until combined.
- Stir in the cheese and season with a heaping ½ teaspoon of kosher salt.**
- Pour the mixture into a 7-inch round baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Place dish in a roasting pan and add hot water to pan until halfway up the outside of the baking (custard) dish.***
- Place pan in oven and bake for 65 minutes until the pudding is just set. Take out of pan very carefully. (I found it difficult to pull the dish out of the pan of water because I couldn't get a good grip on it without getting the hot pads wet.)
- Serve with a few fresh shavings of Parmesan and a drizzle of basil oil.