A Parmesan custard with anchovy toast from Rowley Leigh. We have taken issue with some of Leigh’s columns in the Weekend FT, do not consider his cookbook particularly accessible and have found that Le Café Anglais, his restaurant improbably located in what once was Whiteley’s department store in the Bayswater section of London, does not always run too smoothly. The food, however, has been good, and we are indebted to Leigh for a number of favorite, if not necessarily British, recipes. This one does strike us as quintessentially British even if it must be considered Leigh’s own. We consider it a tour de force and, apparently, so do lots of other people; he says it is a favorite at Le Café. You will need eight little pots that hold about 3 ounces apiece.
Eight little starters.
For the sandwiches:
-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-8 thin slices of toast with the crusts removed
For the custard:
-1 ¼ cups heavy cream
-1 ¼ cups milk
-4 oz finely grated Parmesan
-butter for greasing
-4 egg yolks
-white pepper (see the Notes)
-another Tablespoon Parmesan
Make the sandwiches:
- Mash anchovies together with the butter and spread the anchovy butter over half of the toast; cover with the other half and cut each sandwich into four thin strips suitable for dunking in the custard pots.
Make the custard:
- Whisk together the cream, milk and first tranche of Parmesan.
- Gently heat the mixture in a double boiler until the cheese has melted and merged with the liquid.
- Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- Butter the 8 little pots.
Preheat the oven to 300°.
- Whisk the yolks, cayenne, salt and white pepper into the cooled mixture and pour the custard into the pots.
- Put the pots in an ovenproof dish or pan of boiling water that rises halfway up the sides of the pots and cover them with silicone (better) or parchment paper.
- Bake the pots until barely set, for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the pots and brown them slightly under the broiler.
- Serve with the toast.
- If you have a little more patience and a panini or pancake press, or cast iron skillet and flat, heavy object, you can make more elegant soldiers by spreading the anchovy butter onto bread rather than toast, buttering the outside of the sandwiches, and grilling rather than toasting the bread.
- Anchovy paste is said to be made from an inferior grade of the little fermented fish, but the difference is difficult for most of us to tell. If paste is what you have on hand, use it.
- Alternatively the thinnest film of Gentleman’s Relish, patum peperium, which comes in festive little plastic pots suitable for reuse as spice carriers, would give your anchovy toast an authentic nineteenth century tinge.