Most recipes for custard scream "dessert" at first glance. Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger, the chefs at the newly opened Catbird Seat in Nashville, Tennessee, though, think custard is more alluring as a predinner snack. Sweetened slightly with maple syrup (Anderson prefers a bourbon-aged version) and infused with the woody flavor of thyme, the custards are served alongside a thin shard of bacon. This custard craftily straddles the line between sweet and savory. At the Catbird Seat, the custards are served in hollowed-out eggshells, but they are as delicious served in traditional ramekins.
Maple Thyme Custard
Recipe adapted from Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger, The Catbird Seat, Nashville TN
Yield: 12 ramekins
Cook Time: 45 minutes
6 thinly sliced bacon strips, cut into 3-inch strips
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup maple syrup, plus more to serve
4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more to garnish
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
Truffle oil to taste (optional)
Pine extract to taste (optional)
1. Make the bacon chips: Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a sheet pan with the bacon slices and set another sheet pan over the top to weight down the bacon. Bake for 15 minutes or until crisp. Set aside to cool. Lower the oven to 300°.
2. Make the custards: In a medium saucepot set over medium-high heat, combine the heavy cream, milk and maple syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the syrup is completely dissolved. Add the thyme sprigs, remove the pot from the heat and set aside to steep for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole eggs and the yolks. Remove the thyme sprigs from the cream mixture and slowly whisk the warm cream into the egg mixture. Add a drop or two of truffle oil and pine extract, if using. Pour the custard into 12 six-ounce ramekins and bake until the custard is set, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool. Serve with maple syrup, bacon chips and fresh thyme.