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of course we need more ramekins!
On a bit of a baking tear this past week, I made my way thru three recipes in a new cookbook, all yummy and only one slight whoops. A recipe I had eyed for a long while was for a Green Tea (matcha) cake with matcha-lime buttercream. My excuse finally arrived, to make it for a friend’s birthday, and the next afternoon, try the oolong tea-chocolate loaf and almond Friands for a Friday night gathering of friends. The last item left me with 6 egg yolks and no plan (also a few tablespoons of lemon-verbena syrup!).

It is not as tho eggs are hugely expensive (tho when not buying eggs from friends or family with backyard chickens, I DO buy cage-free and organic whenever possible), but…the idea of tossing them seemed uncomfortable. Usually one has spare egg whites – immediately those lead off in some other direction. But six yolks?? And with no other eggs left after this baking run, I was coming up with silly or desperate ideas (a thin omelet roll, maybe with fried rice?).

Approaching dinner time on a Saturday evening with no real plan and not enough inspiration to start pulling cookbooks open, I turned to Mark Bittman’s  How to Cook Everything for iPhone® app and searched for recipes using egg yolks! Presto chango, something I had most ingredients on hand for. Of course his recipe was actually more restrained, calling for 2 whole eggs and 2 additional yolks, but I decided the volume would be close, and in custard, it was the yolk that was going to do the magic.  His recipe also called for shiitake, cremini, or button mushrooms tho what I had on hand was a selection of Maitake and Bunashimeji (Brown Beech). These are carried at several Asian markets nearby, grown in San Marcos by Hokto Kinoko, and I gently sautéed them in butter for this recipe.  I used half and half for the custard with fresh thyme, from what the deer and rabbits have left of our herb garden.

The result was a wonderfully silky custard with delicate mushroom flavour and a hint of heat (I was liberal with the cayenne). Easier than a clafouti (and MB has made those my go-to desert in fruit season)!

Note: I used 4 large ramekins (8 oz. capacity, about 3/4 full) as the mains for dinner, but smaller ramekins would work for a first course.

Mark Bittman’s Baked Mushroom Custard

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 packages Bunashimeji + 1 package Maitake mushrooms (about 10 ounces total, before trimming off bottom)
  • 2 cups half‐and‐half (or cream)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 6 yolks
  • generous pinch cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300° and grease ramekins with butter (4 – 6, depending on size).

Sauté the shallot in a skillet over medium heat with butter until softened but before brown, adding the mushrooms and cooking until they are tender and beginning to show colour. Lowering the heat, add in the half and half and thyme, and heat gently until the mushroom-cream mixture begins to give off steam. Remove from heat and remove the sprig of thyme.

Whisk egg yolks together in a medium bowl with the salt and cayenne, then slowly ladle in the mushroom-cream mixture, whisking the entire time so as not to curdle or cook the eggs. Ladle in ramekins or a 1 quart souffle dish.  Place in baking pan, then fill pan with boiling water about halfway up the ramekins. Bake until nearly set, about 30-40 minutes. Cream will set faster than half and half (or milk).

Serve warm or cool. If you have leftover servings, refrigerate and serve cold the next day – makes an excellent breakfast! I do not suggest reheating.

Many thanks to Mark Bittman – once again he saved our dinner with way more elegance than I would have come up with, and the iPhone app is always with me, even when I am grocery shopping with more planning, time or options. I confess to using the app more than the book – tho when I open it I find myself reading whole chapters.